Tom Jackson on leaving HumanIPO and starting Disrupt Africa

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Tom Jackson, former HumanIPO managing editor

Last week, just a few days into the new year, HumanIPO, one of the few blogs focusing on the wider Africa, announced it was shutting down. It’s supposed to shut down today actually unless someone has bought it. When we posted an article on it, we sought comment from the blog as well as from former managing editor Tom Jackson, who is now operating his own media company with Disrupt Africa. Jackson is still mentioned as ME on the HumanIPO about page but he told us he left the startup back in July 2014.

We asked Jackson a couple of questions about HumanIPO and his new venture. One thing he pointed out in correction was that the assumption we have held all along that HumanIPO is an 88mph project, is incorrect. Read that here in his full response:

– Obviously I cannot comment on any ins and outs as to why HumanIPO is shutting down, having not worked for the company or had anything to do with it since July 2014, when I left to launch Disrupt Africa. I believe they themselves give the reasons in their statement on the matter. What I can say is that, for a couple of years at least, HumanIPO provided the most comprehensive overview of the African tech space available anywhere else – whether you were interested in startups, telecoms, broadcasting, gadgets, or whatever. Therefore its closure is hugely sad and a great loss to anybody – whether an insider or an outsider – looking to gain broad insights into the exciting African tech space.

– The site’s closure does obviously highlight some key difficulties in launching an online media venture. These difficulties exist worldwide, where there is still no standard business plan for an online news site, but they are exacerbated in Africa. Online advertising is still in its infancy, and online audiences are still not as high as they could be (though this will change). Companies cannot rely solely on advertising to survive (though there may be some exceptions), and multi-pronged business models are necessary in order to reach profitability. It is also a long-term play. Though I know that HumanIPO did obtain a number of sizeable advertising campaigns and was at one point the largest website of its type (pan-African tech) on the continent, it evidently was not enough. Perhaps it was a couple of years ahead of its time.

– The new venture, Disrupt Africa, is the one-stop shop for all news related to the tech startup, hub and investment ecosystem in Africa. Compared to the broadness of HumanIPO’s coverage, myself and co-founder Gabriella Mulligan have gone a lot more narrow with this site, taking one sector and covering and analysing it in details. For too long, considering the exciting developments in Africa’s tech startup and innovation ecosystem, the continent and those interested in it have lacked an all-encompassing, pan-African resource. Disrupt Africa provides this where others have not, whether you are a founder looking for an accelerator programme or advice, a young African wanting to start your own business, or an investor looking for opportunities and exciting companies within the continent. Growth thus far has been excellent and we are set for an exciting 2015, diversifying our coverage across the continent and hopefully becoming the online hub of everything that is awesome about African startups.

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– Final point – HumanIPO was not an 88mph-funded company, this needs to be made clear. It was – and is – owned 100 per cent by Kresten Buch. You may also want to point out in the article that the site is still available for sale, and would be an interesting opportunity for anybody wanting a ready-made news portal with both audience and reputation. Disrupt Africa, however, is 100 per cent self-funded and owned by myself and Gabriella.



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