Your TED in the clouds: Financial Mail


I recently interviewed Charlie Beuthin from Eduze – a content and digital start-up – for the Financial Mail. Below is an extract. You can read the full article here.

CHARLIE Beuthin, CEO of digital media start-up company Eduze, is a self-described “content guy” who taught himself a bit of coding and development.

He’s not the typical tech entrepreneur. SA-born and UK-raised, Beuthin began his career in music marketing and production with major UK record labels, and was later a full-time touring DJ. Thereafter he found himself back in SA in a content-related role for MTV Africa.

“I realised very quickly that there was a real digital disconnect in Africa. Everyone was superexcited about ‘digital Africa’, with headlines telling us it was amazing. But no-one was dealing with the elephant in the room — the telecom companies. There were huge bottlenecks,” he says. Data in SA is expensive, making it the domain of the middle class.

Beuthin began to think about how to deliver rich educational and entertainment content to data-poor people on the continent. Together with co-founder Marko Nieminen (now Eduze’s chief technology officer), he created Cloud in a Box, or Clox. Clox is a little black box packed with content for users to quickly get access to or download through a smartphone, tablet or computer – with no need for data of their own.

The “no data” workaround means Eduze can reach volume Internet users in Africa, rather than targeting the small, affluent segment that has Wi-Fi and data to burn. Arguably, it is this digital infrastructure solution for content distribution that caught the eye of US-based global content player and nonprofit organisation TED (owners of the TED Talks brand). It certainly wasn’t the business case at the time, suggests Beuthin.

“I had forgotten I had e-mailed [TED] to ask about licensing its content. Two months later I got an apologetic e-mail and a request to set up a call.” On the other side of the line was Deron Triff, TED’s head of media distribution. “I told him about us, but also said we were running out of funds, and would soon close, so thanks for the call but we wouldn’t need that content,” continues Beuthin.

“But Deron said: ‘Before you close, let me speak to [TED curator] Chris Anderson and see if this is something he thinks we may want to help you with.’

“Three months of meetings, due diligence and [discussions with] New York lawyers later, we closed the funding round. Now TED is our partner and has the chairmanship of our board, and we have a licensing agreement for its content and partner content.”

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