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How a Local Startup is Re-Imagining Online Video (You should be part of it too)

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The Big Eyese team
The Big Eyes Team

In February Three startups emerged from British Council’s Culture Shift Challenge. One of them, Bigeyes , walked away with 2nd place,  £1500 in cash, mentorship, and internet sponsorship. With that they promised to revolutionaries the way we share and consume online video locally.  While this may all sounds wonderful, in a world where Youtube calls home,  it really didn’t make sense how a £1500 dollar startup could “revolutionaries” online video, let alone pay rent for a year.

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In Zimbabwe only 4.6million people are said to be on the Internet, most of which exclusively access it from their mobile phones at 2G speeds, forget about doing online video ‘revolutionarily’, doing online video at all is absurd enough a concept for a startup in Zimbabwe. If what makes it difficult is not the expensive bandwidth or the slow speeds internet users have to suffer, it most certainly is the fact that there isn’t a lot of local video content out there to showcase. Yet, by some logic, Bigeyes continues to promise us an online local video revolution. Oh…kay?

Fast-forward seven months to today, Bigeyes is still alive and in business.  On 8 May this year they launched a Facebook  page  where, it appears, their operations are currently based. Judging by the name of the Facebook page “bigeyes.co.zw” and the fact that the domain of the same name has been registered with ZISPA (the .co.zw dudes), a website might be coming soon. In July they posted their first video – a 20 second clip of a guy dancing in public. Today, two months later, they have posted twenty-six videos  – most of which are local – and they have earned over 100 likes. Meh! You say? Well take a look.

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By the end of that video I was crying REVOLUTION!!!. Big eyes are onto something here, and I hope they realize it.  The video above is of an impromptu interview of a cyclist and his heavily pimped-out bicycle by some random person. I think this is what local content is all about. Here, I’ll break it down. It seems Bigeyes may have just Baba-Jukwarised Online Video in a way that if we choose to, could bring on a local online-video entertainment revolution that is more accessible and well… truly local.

Local Content is not the problem
During their pitch at Cultureshift, Bigeyes constantly highlighted the fact that content is not really the issue here, its sharing of that content. Come to think of it, they could be right. Today at least 8 million mobile phones are out there, most of which have a video camera conveniently built-in. That, combined with the shock, awe and hilarity a Zimbabwean often encounters in an average day, gives us all the content we’ll really ever need.  From secretly filmed chaos-mongering ‘politicians’ doing their thing, to that drunk old madala in the blue overalls breaking into a hilarious song and dance routine, or even the rare footage of the birth of a miracle-baby, we are spoilt for choice when it comes to local content. However, once someone has that precious video on their mobile phone, how do they make it viral?  The answer, thanks to Bigeyes, now seems to be really simple, but before I continue, what’s with the guys in this next video?

Using the tools that locals love in a simple way

Like me, you might have wondered why Bigeyes were using Facebook instead of Youtube as their base of operation, it now seems all too obvious.  Getting a local video viral on Youtube – however tempting and ideal – is very difficult in Zimbabwe because not too many locals use Youtube. But on Facebook, land of ‘Ward 21 Kumapenzi’ (as distasteful and crude as it is) anything can go viral, especially local content.

Many local content creators have found fame on Facebook, ask one Mr Jukwa if you can find him, he/she/it/they’ll  tell you all about it. It’s fame that‘s the major incentive for people to create and share content these days.  Fame, once  its gotten, is fairly easy to monetize. Bigeyes appears to have all the ingredients they’ll need to be the first practical local crowd-sourced online home for local video. To get a video on their platform you simply need to capture some footage and send it to Bigeyes as a direct message on Facebook, that’s  it. These guys are also promising some sought of Whatsapp integration, whaaa!?

While this is a big opportunity, it’s still yet to be seen if Bigeyes will do with it, what we have imagined here. Who knows, maybe they have an even bigger revolution to wage and a much more intriguing method to the madness.  Unlike a full on revolution, so far however, it all appears like a bush war being secretly fought deep within the trenches of the Internet. In the mean time, for locals, this is an ideal opportunity to stop matter-of-factly explaining why this idea will fail, break out our camera phones and start creating some online video drama and excitement we can all enjoy and make viral.  Just saying.

Next I’ll sit down and have an interview with the Bigeyes team. Leave your questions for them together with your comments below.

Disclosure: LSM Kabweza, editor of Techzim, is one of the Big Eyes advisors, something that carried over from his involvement helping organise the Culture Shift Challenge.


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15 thoughts on “How a Local Startup is Re-Imagining Online Video (You should be part of it too)

  1. I thought they were working on a video compression algorithm or something along those lines, i dont see the revolution , maybe i should read again. Love the vids though, we need more of those. Market would include all Zimbos living outside the country

    1. You don’t see the revolution yet you do like the videos and you would want more videos like this? Algorithms don’t make revolutions or innovation, meeting needs in new ways does. Here is something useful you can do to make sure you can get more videos like this (seeing that you like them), like Big eye’s page and contribute your own videos. Telling us that the “Market would include all Zimbos living outside the country” clearly doesn’t help anyone, we all know that.

      1. Do you know dandaro tv, or hezvo tv and a whole multitude of youtube channels that have such kinds of videos. If you are happy with calling it a revolution go ahead, I dont see it, mainly because there is still a bandwidth issue so in my opinion that is the problem and it requires a revolutionary compression algorithm. The reason why I mentioned the diaspora market is because it wasn’t mentioned in the article and I think its worth mentioning. Dont get me wrong i think their venture is worth while but to call it a revolution is misleading , for some at least. Musanditukewo because i have a different point of view from yours, I see where you are coming from , try to see where i’m coming from without patronising me.

      2. Algorithms and compression dont make revolutions? h264 and vp8 are the reason you can even stream video to your device without needing a two megabit or other huge link and they arent revolutionary? the tech youtube, netflix, facebook video etc are built on isnt revolution but the channel some guy creates on the services using the codec is the revolutionary one? Please people can we be serious. It isnt being a hater or pulling people down when you tell them they need to do more, its helping build them so they create something really meaningful. How many of these ‘cool’ startups have really done anything apart from use web templates, create youtube channels, skin existing applications etc? We need to create something original that can compete on the world stage and that takes time, risk taking and doing things that are challenging. Giving each other props for doing nothing is what holds us back and I dont think this kind of reporting is doing us any favours, lowering our targets and insulting us by saying this is what Zimbabwe should aspire to do, open a channel on someone elses service and call it a day.

  2. Great initiative. I really like these guys but they are running in slow motion. My Thoughts – Running your entire operation on facebook limits the scope of their reach…without a website, twitter, stumbleupon, youtube or vimeo presence you are going nowhere. We are in the same industry. A facebook page alone wont cut it.. Bandwidth is a huge issue. It takes about 10min to play a 5 min video worse if you are on the Econet bundles. The content has to be structured humans are wired that way. We all come to techzim bcoz we are going to get tech news …not sports it cant all be mambo jambo. If their last GREAT video was in July there is a problem, they are going backwards. 72 hrs of footage are uploaded on to youtube every minute….you are not competing with Dandaro, you are competing with CNN & BBC. They cant make all the content on their own, they have to tap the market of content provider already there, no use in reinventing the wheel. If its all random clips that they make without a specific target market that’s another choke hold. There is a plethora of that content on facebook. The question is not just generating content but how you organize the content that you would have created. And how you engage users in a unique way. Anyone can make a video with their phones and put it on youtube. Its how you build a consistent interest in a particular genre, a particular segment that you choose.

    1. We are not looking at a particular genre we are actually trying to demistify that, we want to comment on social issues using video that Gogo in Chiredzi and Taf in Mt pleasant can both watch and comment on for laughs, reflection, memories or even development. And yes agreeing that our operations have been a bit slow, but once we finalise on a few strings, we will be the go toarchive of videos that Zimbabweans at large want to watch, research and just share.

  3. Thank you all for your comments, On behalf of Bigeyez.co.zw, a lot has been happening under the carpet that you may not be aware of.

    1. To date, we have posted 76 videos, all of different genres as we do not cater for just a certain audience.Our main thrust is social commentary through the use of video and we want to make it available to every Zimbabwean. We also wanted to do away with the issues of bandwidth and internet access problems in Zimbabwe. We have come up with viable prototypes which we are still finalising, and have been engaging with different stake holders on how best we can deliver to Zimbabwe and abroad our own home-brewed content. We started off the journey on Facebook to see how the response was and it has been nothing less than amazing, to those who have not been a part of our journey, you may be missing out. We have about 9000 visits a week, stats of which are available to anyone upon request, and over 250 likes. Revolution is only celebrated on innovation and achievement and we have not got there yet, but we had a good start and tremendous support from Zimbabwe’s film lovers who just want to watch videos and share them. We are not in anyway trying to be like Dandaro or Hezvo or any other Zimbabwean platform that is sharing videos. Ours is needs driven and we are seeing to it that people’s needs are met.That’s why most will realise our videos are not even conscious of quality, or any other thing that our fellow Zimbabwean platforms are showcasing. They are doing well and meeting needs, each in their unique way.Thank you.

  4. Brilliant guys, keep up the good work. I hope you get the support on positive projects like this. Personally I hate reading a book, but if you give me the movie/ or vid I’ll take my time to try and watch it. Try and have in there social stuff like the HOW TO DO MANUAL VIDEO of maybe how to make maheu or kuteva mariva. Such interests make BIGEYES bigger. Keep it up. Blah Itai you seem to be a hater, appreciate. WHAT R U ON?

    1. If being honest and accurate at qualifying a venture as a failure makes me a “hater” I could wear the tag. Proudly. Call me when the venture falls apart and I will give you a long lecture why. It could be a little complicated to explain to you at the moment.

  5. I might be slow coz i still am missing the revolution. If one goes by the direction that the article forst took, i.e pointing put slow connetions and bandwidth challenges, one would have thought that the revo would be in that direction. Could someone from bigeyes please enlighten me with what they are trying to do?

  6. Guys create your own traffic and start earning from adverts its that easy then everyone follows get in touch

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