For my full professional profile, please have a look at my LinkedIn page.
Executive Chairman at Octoco
In early 2020, just before South Africa entered hard lockdown during the COVID pandemic, I started a tiny engineering consultancy with Heinrich de Lange just to share some overheads and clients. Before we knew it, Octoco Consulting grew into a formidable team, serving clients across four continents.
Octoco was originally conceived as an "outsourced CTO company" (hence the name) that provides a combination of technology and business development support to clients who do not have an experienced full-time CEO. Today, Octoco's services range from IoT design and software development, to C-level technology risk management, board advisory services, investment readiness support, and tech due diligence support.
CEO at Fanfire
Through Octoco I've been supporting the Alphawave Group with Innovation Management for a number of years. I led the conception of Scout, from which ByteFuse spun out. Currently I lead Fanfire — a company that uses emerging Web3 technologies to support mainstream businesses outside of what would generally be considered “crypto”.
Fanfire has helped commercialize the “impossible” land art of Strijdom van der Merwe, introduced a new way of collecting fine wine with Vaulted Wine, and has made the creation of new NFT marketplaces affordable and fast with Bodega.
Co-Founder and Director at Custos Media Technologies
In 2013, during my tenure as Associate Professor in Electronic Engineering at Stellenbosch University, we patented a technique to use blockchain bounties directly embedded into media files as a a way to trace the origin of piracy. This turned out to be one of the earliest patents describing a use case for what today would be called NFTs. The patent showed commercial value, and we spun out Custos Media Technologies. When the startup raised sufficient funding I resigned my academic position to lead Custos full-time. I stepped down as CEO in 2020, just before Octoco was founded, but remain Director and technical advisor.
Custos embeds a cryptocurrency secret direct into a media file by using forensic watermarks. For example, the Custos system can be used to hide a secret associated with the identity of a movie reviewer who receives a copy of a film before cinematic release. If the movie “leaks”, any recipient of the pirate film can use the secret to anonymously claim a cryptocurrency bounty, thus revealing the identity of the original infringer, namely the movie reviewer. We successfully applied the same concept to images, e-books, and other types of media as well.
Extra-Ordinary Associate Professor in Industrial Engineering at Stellenbosch University
In 2020 I briefly returned to Stellenbosch University as the Research Chair in the Internet of Things. However, Octoco soon started growing rapidly and we co-founded Fanfire, where I took the helm. It soon became clear that my industry work was not compatible with a full-time academic position, and I resigned my tenure for a second time 🙈.
I retain my ties to academia as Extra-Ordinary Professor, with a strong interest in innovation management and technology transfer. My research supervision includes the Internet of Things and Blockchain applications, and I lecture on these topics as a small part of the Manufacturing Systems 314 module.
Co-Founder of the Media Lab at Stellenbosch University
In 2007, Stellenbosch University was approached by Naspers to drive postgraduate research in the emerging field of “New Media” — what we would today call Social Media and “Web2” technologies. We set up a lab that worked on pre-commercial applied research on topics such as Augmented Reality, Gaming, E-Commerce, Broadband Connectivity, Computer Vision and Machine Learning. The lab itself was run a bit like a startup, and had a very strong focus on tech entrepreneurship.
Today, the lab's alumni hold (sometimes very senior) positions with global leaders like Deepmind, YouTube, SourceGraph, Google and Amazon Web Services.
In 2013, Prof Herman Engelbrecht (my co-director at the Lab), Fred Lutz (then a Master's student in the Lab) and myself invented and patented the core blockchain technology underpinning Custos Media Technologies, which eventually spun out from the Lab.