South Africa’s multi-billion-rand creative industry is about to receive a major shake-up with the launch of Untapped Culture, the country’s first “LinkedIn for creatives” – an online platform that connects a network of industry professionals, and builds credibility in return.
Founded by three University of Cape Town (UCT) Commerce students, Dean Adams, Darshil Ramchander and Sabir Buxsoo, Untapped Culture is an online platform that gives creative professionals a way to share their work with a vast audience.
Since a portfolio of work is essential for anyone in the creative industry, including models, photographers and fashion designers, Untapped Culture is the perfect resource, said Adams.
The platform, which is open to all creative professionals, acts as a digital portfolio and allows users to upload their CVs and examples of past work in a portfolio format. It also serves as an online directory for anyone in the rest of South Africa seeking a creative professional.
“Professionals in banking, finance and even in [corporate organisations] have LinkedIn accounts. It tracks their industry experience well,” Ramchander said.
But that does not work in the creative sphere.
“If you’re a creative, a portfolio defines what you do, and people need to see it to draw their own conclusions. That’s where Untapped Culture comes in to help: we want it to be the stamp of authority for creatives in the country.”
“If you’re a creative, a portfolio of work defines what you do, and people need to see it to draw their own conclusions. That’s where Untapped Culture comes in to help.”
In the past, creatives relied on word of mouth to spread information about their service offering, reputation and work ethic. But those days are gone, Adams said.
Now, potential creative partners or future employers can simply click on a user’s Untapped profile and view their work online.
The platform even offers a recommendation function that allows clients and former creative partners to post comments that relate to their experience with the creative.
He describes the platform as limitless, affording users the opportunity to connect with thousands of niche industry professionals, “not just four or five”.
Adams said collaboration is another key focus area, since networking and sharing ideas is crucial for creative industry professionals. Untapped Culture provides users with the opportunity to connect and interact with a vast audience at the click of a button and, when necessary, draw in the skills needed for a specific job.
“With this platform we really want to create an inclusive environment where everyone can play a part in career development. It’s also an excellent platform to build and grow solid reputations in the industry,” he said.
Paying it forward
Plans to give back to creatives from lower-income areas are in the pipeline. One such plan, according to Adams, is a crowd-funding component.
He explained that if a young film-maker with an excellent written story has little financial backing for production, the crowd-funding component will extend a virtual hand to the Untapped community. These contributions could ultimately make the project a reality.
Once the Untapped business is financially stable, with a good economic outlook, building portfolios for children from disadvantaged schools with creative talents will be a priority.
The plan is simple – Untapped Culture will select a few schools, provide each school with a camera and ask the arts and culture teachers to identify children who display outstanding creative potential in their practical work. This work will be photographed and sent to the Untapped team, who will review the images and select the best ones to form part of the child’s Untapped profile.
“This is the type of inclusive environment we are trying to create. It will give kids from disadvantaged backgrounds the opportunity to be part of big network of people who will see their talents and develop a desire to work with them. We don’t want them to be excluded from the creative community,” Adams said.
“This is the type of inclusive environment we are trying to create. It will give kids from disadvantaged backgrounds the opportunity to be part of a big network …”
The good news
Ramchander said users get 2GB of storage space free, which he describes as “significant” for picture uploads for models and photographers especially. For higher-end users who need to upload large videos, there’s a nominal monthly cost involved.
In the long run, he said, Untapped Culture would also love to work with design firms and creative agencies to assist them with recruiting the best candidates for available positions in their respective businesses. These candidates would be selected from Untapped Culture’s network of users.
That’s the long-term plan. But right now, the team’s key focus is establishing a solid brand and growing creative professionals’ reputations through their platform.
“Access to opportunities is a big problem in South Africa,” Ramchander said.
“We really want to change that for creatives. We see our start-up as a medium that provides opportunities for people in creative spaces; we want to help them build that network.”
By Niémah Davids. Photo Michael Hammond
Source University of Cape Town
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