New pastures, new startup

I’ve resigned as Head of 20FourLabs to focus on building a new Cape Town and Joburg-based startup. I joined in 2008 from the Mail & Guardian Online, initially as the GM of Publishing and then went on to set up Labs.

I’m going to miss and the Labrats. My resignation is as a result of a long-standing need to go on my own and start my own thing. I’ve lost count how many times people have asked me “why aren’t you on your own?” — so I’ve decided to finally take the hint 🙂

20FourLabs has been a special experience. Probably the most recent highlight for all of us was scooping the continent-wide Nokia Innovators Competition for our Afridoctor app — one of those ideas sourced organically from within the division and then the sizable award money split amongst staff. There are now some plans afoot to take the app to the next level, but to top it all off — it’s a mobile app that potentially can make a real difference to millions of lives.

I feel I can write a book about starting and running what is essentially an entrepreneurally-minded division in a corporate setting. We got some things right, many things wrong too. This is not a particularly new phenomenon: These types of Labs’ initiatives are popping up all over the world in big corporates under various guises and names, but all have the same goal at heart: build quickly, build cheaply, cut the complication, cut the crap, go for simplicity. As companies get big, controls and processes are necessary to manage complexity. Although necessary, they often can work against innovation and add cost to innovation, which in turn reduces appetite for risk. So it’s question of working out: For which projects do you change these rules and at what stage in their lifecycle?

We also know the barrier to-entry, particularly when it comes to online business and online publishing, is plummeting. We just don’t have the distribution and production costs in an online environment that traditional businesses face. It means that garage start-ups have the potential to go big, quickly and on a shoestring. A low-cost startup can make it huge, and to some extent has the same opportunities as a resource-endowed giant. That’s the theory. Of course it doesn’t always work out like that. The benefit of being part of a multinational group is being part of a big, influential human and resource-rich product network. The entrepreneur-corporate partnerships are often the partnerships that flourish.

It’s been an amazing experience — and I thank JP Farinha, CEO, for continuing to give us the room to experiment and for showing faith in the division. I enjoyed working with the exco — notable for meetings filled with robust discussion and debate. I’ve also enjoyed the “hands on” approach and the several ops meetings we’ve had with the Naspers and Media24 executive, including Koos Bekker, Antonie Roux, and Francois Groepe and co. I’m pretty sure I did the first ever Prezi presentation for one of these meetings too 🙂

Silicon Cape
Being part of the Silicon Cape also played its part in pushing me to make this move and forge my own destiny. We don’t need to look far to see how many inspiring entrepreneurs there are here — and I get a real sense that it’s a sector that is starting to take off. We’ve been a bit behind. We’ve been shackled by poor broadband that underachieves when stacked up against the middle-income weight of the country’s economy and many world-leading industries here. But this is starting to change…

Kevin Cupido, the Labs’ Ops Manager, now takes over as the acting head of a division of some of the most talented people I know. There are more than 30 product managers and developers that make up the division, which also includes the guys at Blueworld. Labs now has more than 20 projects on the go — probably a bit too many — but we just couldn’t help ourselves :-).

Imminent launches include a new Air-based desktop content-sharing app — championed by Blueworld — which has become a remarkable workshopped evolution in content-sharing, from what was initially conceived as a basic RSS reader. Other projects include Utterbuzz, a Twitter aggregator, the new,, mobile sites and Letterdash — and some more. The current products are being optimised and expanded, including Afridoctor, and the various mobile applications we built. I’m sad not to see the fruition of the Hub, which is coming along nicely, but it’s in extremely good hands and evolving in a unique direction.

Creative Spark and
And so after, I’ll be dedicating my time to establishing a relatively new venture, Creative Spark — a new digital agency and consultancy based in Cape Town and Joburg. More will be revealed about the venture and the people involved when appropriate. I’ll also be taking some time to focus on the various companies and ventures I have interests in.

Also watch out for the launch of Memeburn, a new resource on tech trends, innovation and startup news covering the emerging market sector worldwide. It’s aimed unashamedly at the tech elite and those interested in innovation — think of it as a Mashable/Techcrunch for emerging market tech. It’s been the result of many nights and there are some industry leaders associated with it, including some big international names — again which will be revealed at an appropriate time.

Lastly, I want to say thank you to everyone at, Media24, MIH and Naspers for some great working relationships and times. It’s been an inspiring time and I’ve worked with some inspiring people. There is no doubt that our paths will cross again and again and again.

Comments (37)

  1. Walter Pike wrote::

    Congratulations Matt!

    Monday, March 1, 2010 at 11:54 pm #
  2. NicP wrote::

    Wish you well and will keep following you on Twitter et al. SA can benefit form knowledge like yours being used in entrepreneurial projects. Eventually we will all benefit

    Tuesday, March 2, 2010 at 12:00 am #
  3. Cath wrote::

    Congratulations and kudos!

    Tuesday, March 2, 2010 at 12:06 am #
  4. Andrew wrote::

    Nice one. Best of luck with your new projects.

    Tuesday, March 2, 2010 at 12:14 am #
  5. Vanessa Clark wrote::

    Congrats Matt! Enjoy every minute of it.

    Tuesday, March 2, 2010 at 12:14 am #
  6. Johann Van Tonder wrote::

    Sad to see you go, Mate. Keep well & good luck, sure we’ll be hearing a lot about you.

    Tuesday, March 2, 2010 at 12:18 am #
  7. Nigel Brown wrote::

    Very exciting news Matt, wishing you lots of petrol for the spark !

    Tuesday, March 2, 2010 at 12:28 am #
  8. Gaby wrote::

    Awesome Matt.

    Tuesday, March 2, 2010 at 12:58 am #
  9. Cluckhoff wrote::

    Wishing you all the very best!

    Tuesday, March 2, 2010 at 1:02 am #
  10. George wrote::

    Good for you Matt – best of luck. Can I invest in your startup…

    Tuesday, March 2, 2010 at 1:11 am #
  11. Alan wrote::

    All the best for the future

    Tuesday, March 2, 2010 at 1:19 am #
  12. Jeanette wrote::

    Wishing you all the best with your new venture

    Tuesday, March 2, 2010 at 1:22 am #
  13. joe wrote::

    Good luck.

    That’s a nice compliment to Silicon Cape.

    Tuesday, March 2, 2010 at 1:35 am #
  14. Darren wrote::

    Well done for taking the plunge Matt! Wish you all the best as you take up the new challenges.

    Tuesday, March 2, 2010 at 2:09 am #
  15. rafiq wrote::

    Congrats & Good Luck Matt!

    Tuesday, March 2, 2010 at 2:30 am #
  16. Been asked that same question by Adam Shapiro at Pilotfish when I went to beg him for a job in 2004.. I took the hint 2 years later..

    You won’t regret it. Entrepreneurial types need to take the plunge.. I’m not sure we want to live to wonder “what if”.. hence.

    And remember.. there are many people behind you. Don’t be afraid to turn around and ask for a “hupstootjie” every now and then.

    Now go and change the world.

    Tuesday, March 2, 2010 at 2:37 am #
  17. Dave wrote::

    Matt, you’re going to absolutely rock the agency and tech-news space here. Let’s show dem that #SiliconCape is World Class. Keep innovating!

    Tuesday, March 2, 2010 at 2:37 am #
  18. Dude, this is great news! For some time i’ve seen you as some sort of “greatest golfer not to win a major”. You have more than enough knowledge and street cred to go at it by yourself, honestly!

    Big up Buckie!

    Tuesday, March 2, 2010 at 2:38 am #
  19. Congrats Matt, been expecting this move for a while now …

    To almost-quote @DaveDuarte – “show dem, show dem Buckie, show dem!”

    Tuesday, March 2, 2010 at 3:17 am #
  20. easyrider wrote::

    Its just strange to see the things highlighted in your blog, almost as if 24labs was or is a success… Flirtaroo not a working well, Utterbuzz has been around forever with so much much hype as the facebook of SA, but it never really took took off, the list goes on so does the Matt PR drum roll….

    Tuesday, March 2, 2010 at 3:44 am #
  21. Basheera Khan wrote::

    Awesome news, Matt – looking forward to the next wave of genius ideas from Creative Spark. 🙂

    Tuesday, March 2, 2010 at 5:44 am #
  22. Allen Baranov wrote::

    Well done on the move.

    It takes a lot of guts and I hope you are successful.


    Tuesday, March 2, 2010 at 6:57 am #
  23. Stefano wrote::


    Tuesday, March 2, 2010 at 7:54 am #
  24. Les wrote::

    Good show Matt, show ’em how it’s done..

    Tuesday, March 2, 2010 at 9:46 am #
  25. Congrats Matt! All the best with the next venture!


    Tuesday, March 2, 2010 at 12:54 pm #
  26. Elan wrote::

    Good luck Matt. We’ve had a long 10 yrs in the corporate wilderness and you have had the balls to step out.

    I hope that watching your success will give me the push I need to do the same.

    I will miss the respected competition and All the best,


    PS – I hope your business skills are better than your bowling 😀 #geekcricket

    Tuesday, March 2, 2010 at 2:58 pm #
  27. Chris M wrote::

    Good move Matt, leave those corporates to do their thing and bring your innovation, intelligence and creativity to the start up zone! 🙂

    Tuesday, March 2, 2010 at 6:04 pm #
  28. congrats boss
    proud of your works …

    Tuesday, March 2, 2010 at 7:53 pm #
  29. Aslam Levy wrote::

    All the best!
    Looking forward to seeing your work at CreativeSpark

    Wednesday, March 3, 2010 at 6:41 am #
  30. Sheraan Amod wrote::

    All the best with the new venture Matt!

    Wednesday, March 3, 2010 at 7:28 am #
  31. matt wrote::

    wow. thanks to everyone for the well wishes and the great messages of support! means alot!

    Wednesday, March 3, 2010 at 3:18 pm #
  32. All the best with your new venure, it will no doubt be a remarkable success. Stay in touch.

    Friday, March 5, 2010 at 7:28 am #
  33. sc wrote::


    Tuesday, March 16, 2010 at 12:14 am #
  34. Peter Walker wrote::

    Great News Matt ….. still not absolutely sure what it is you did at media24 or what exactly you are planning on doing .. but it will surely be a success and make you very happy – what more can anyone want?

    Wednesday, March 17, 2010 at 4:34 am #
  35. Jason Stevens wrote::

    Matt Attack….good luck mate!

    I continue to live vicariously through you dude…you never cease to amaze me!!!

    By the way, don’t you think it’s time for a ‘book’….


    Thursday, March 18, 2010 at 9:05 am #
  36. Ayodeji wrote::

    A big congrats to you Matt 🙂 Good luck with the future…

    Saturday, April 3, 2010 at 11:40 am #
  37. Cathy Brophy wrote::

    That’s brilliant news Matthew! Thanks for the opportunity to assist you at 20FourLabs – look forward doing it again with the new venture! All the very best!

    Thursday, April 15, 2010 at 2:04 am #

Trackbacks/Pingbacks (2)

  1. […] And then another East Londoner (though to be fair he was only born here and I think he might deny it)  is up to interesting things. Matthew Buckland is leaving’s innovation unit,  20FourLabs, to do his own thing. This includes a digital agency and consultancy based in Cape Town and Joburg and launching a new website, Memeburn, — which Matthew describes as “a Mashable/Techcrunch for emerging market tech“. […]

  2. […] The brains behind Memeburn is Matthew Buckland, a well-known figure in the online media industry who recently became self-employed after leaving 20fourLabs which he started after joining Media24 a couple of years […]