The team behind VC4Africa – meet our visual specialist Joshua Wanyama

By Ben White on October 30, 2010

On Monday November 1st VC4Africa will launch its new matchmaking platform. Hard to believe knowing we started with only a Linkedin Group and later a platform on Ning:) In lead to this date we would like to publish a bit more on the ‘process behind the scenes.’ It is actually quite remarkable given we worked with designers from Rotterdam and Nairobi, software teams in Amsterdam and in Cameroon and photographers from Kenya and Ghana!! Not to mention the project team comes from Seattle, Limburg and Santa Fe:)

None of this would have been possible without an incredibly talented and motivated team. This week I will be interviewing different people who worked on the project so you can get an insight into the process. It shows that a project can truly be crowdsourced from across Africa, the US, Europe and elsewhere. We hope the new VC4Africa platform serves to mute the naysayers and shows what’s possible instead.

Today I interview Joshua Wanyama. This guy is busy! He is the co-founder and CEO of Pamoja Media and more recently the brains behind the stock photography site AfricaKnows. Joshua has a lot of strengths but for this project it was his visual insight that made the difference. He is a great photographer and really helped us capture the images we needed to incorporate into the design process. I am excited to see his latest project AfricaKnows take off and this is exactly the kind of entrepreneur (and brilliant ideas) we aim to support at VC4Africa.

What was the draw for you to help VC4Africa launch?

I first encountered the VC4Africa website in 2008 as it started out on the Ning platform. When the opportunity to work on it arose, I took it as we share similar visions for Africa. So hopefully my involvement in the development also translates in a small way to helping the organization achieve its vision.

How did the process work for you, what made it different and how was it working with a design from Rotterdam?

The process was great. I was part of the design team with a wonderful designer Gaudi Hoedaya. It was my first full co-creation project spanning two continents. At first I was tentative on whether success was possible. But once we begun work, I knew we had a great process in hand and a good chance of bringing this site to fruition.

Can you talk a bit about the creative process and exchange with Gaudi?

We divided work along clear lines. Gaudi would work on the logo for VC4Africa and also develop the stationery material for the organization. Gaudi also designed the homepage and two internal pages of the site. I worked on the visual elements that would be considered for the brand including logo, images, colors and word play. This was to be the source of inspiration for Gaudi. I also finalized the site design and flow for each section within the site.

How did you come with those collages of images for example?

I started out by first exploring the words that kept coming up as we talked about the project. From these words, I picked 8 themes to explore. Once they were selected, I then found images and illustrations that would reflect these themes. I then explained the research and some key thoughts that Gaudi should consider while working on the logo. Once I forwarded him the collages, the rest was history.

What are the main ideas behind the design and the new site from your side?

We needed to highlight that a project of this magnitude can produce great results from combining varied geographic regions and experiences to deliver a project that was both dynamic and an embodiment of Africa

An African and European designer can actually work together while never having met and still be able to come up with an appropriate solution.

The whole existence of VC4Africa is to be able to give entrepreneurs and wonderful ideas in Africa a chance to grow to become something bigger. This site attempts to make this easier for both people seeking funding, those looking for opportunities to fund and the community to engage and have the best ideas rise to the top. It is my hope that we have achieved this goal.

How do you look at the results?

I think the site is successful from the development standpoint. It is now important the get the community to use it. This will be the final measure to let us know if it is successful or not.

What is for you the strength in this collaborative process?

Different thoughts from different people ensured a wonderful mix of ideas. These ideas in turn gave us a chance to build a good solution that has a really good chance to be great depending on how the community and its use of the different features. Without the various experiences being brought into one melting pot, we might have gotten a more cookie-cutter solution which the new VC4Africa site clearly isn’t.

Anything else you think is interesting to add?

I would love to see more collaborative projects in the future and see how many are successful. Maybe this might encourage technologists within the continent to develop more continental solutions.

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