Self Starters: Disruptive Entrepreneurs at DCWEEK 2011 Core Conference

The Disruptive Entrepreneur session was one of the sessions outside of the Mobile track at the DCWEEK Core Conference that I attended because it caught my interest (Music & Politics). This session allowed two presenters to come and talk about their endeavor. The first speaker on the stage was Ruha Devanesan of PeaceTones, who through video and a presentation introduced PeaceTones, a non profit dedicated to working with musicians in developing countries.

PeaceTones gives workshops to musicians about music contracts, how to protect their intellectual property, social media marketing basics, and basic promotion. PeaceTones then organizes a contest amongs the trainees and the winner, by popular vote on Facebook, is given a recording contract, flown to the US to record a professional album, and tour. 90% of the profit from the album digital sales are returned to the artist, of which he must give a certain amount back to a social project in the community from which he is issued. Ruha gave the example of previous PeaceTones projects in Recife, Brazil, where the winning kids decided to invest back in a recording studio in their favela, and of musicians in Balan, Haiti, who invested back in a maternal clinic in their hometown.

The latest winner of the PeaceTones contest in Haiti is named Wanito, and through him, Ruha explained of the quandaries artists are currently faced with concerning piracy. One of Wanito’s most watched videos on Youtube came from an anonymous user who made a bootleg video out of one of his songs. Once informed of his rights, Wanito decided to let the video be, as a form of free promotion. Peacetones relies on a lot of new technologies to allow it to operate. For example, it used Kickstarter to raise funds for Wanito’s album, and prefers digital distribution of its music, as an environmentally friendly and cost effective distribution channel. Since iTunes is not available worlwide, PeaceTones also relies on Bandcamp to make its music available worldwide and marketing and promotion is mostly handled by volunteers who started campus programs at UMass for examples. This was a very inspiring example in disruptive entrepreneurship with a social good tip and I encourage you to visit the site, and as Ruha mentioned, purchase the music only if you actually do enjoy it, not as a form of charity.

Next up was Jonathan Gosier of Appfrica, an entrepreneur from DC who started his talent incubator in Uganda and is now back in the DC area with a new venture called MetaLayer, which he refers to as the InfoState of Africa. Jonathan showed many examples of data visualization (Country codes of Africa), which is his forte, and explained of MetaLayer wants to be known as the “Photoshop of Data”. Gosier explained that through its capabilities, MetaLayer wants to enable users to tell a story through data. He gave a demo of the dashboard by using Twitter feeds and sentiment analysis algoritm. Gosier covered many data related topics in his talk, giving example of companies that offer predictive technologies, how predictive technology can be used to visualize data and the dangers of relying to much on data. He predicted though that the future of data would come from extracting information from non-networked objects, which is known as The Internet of Things. Gosier ended his presentation with a introduction of the Apps4Africa challenge, sponsored by the state department, which allows African developers to compete on apps dealing with climate change for prizes going up to $20,000.

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