Building an African YouTube network: one startup’s quest to dominate continental video

Collaboration, not competition, is the key to growing businesses in South Africa. At least, that’s what Andrew Simelane, CEO and co-founder of digital content marketing and media agency Black Nation Media, says. If you want your startup to succeed, find other like-minded entrepreneurs to work with.

The 26-year-old University of Johannesburg PR and Communications graduate from Standerton in Mpumalanga started Black Nation Media in 2010 together with his brother Thulasizwe as a way of getting into the audio visual industry.

“My parents couldn’t afford to pay for an audio visual course I wanted to do at the South African School of Motion Picture Medium and Live Performance (AFDA), so I decided to buy some equipment that would get me started in the industry. That’s when my brother joined me and came up with the idea for Black Nation Media,” says Simelane.

Using their acquired equipment, Simelane, his brother and another business partner, Vukosi Manganyi began producing videos to promote their work and soon began winning clients.

“We create content and use it as a platform for brands to market themselves,” he explains. “Our focus is on YouTube and other online platforms such as Instagram and Twitter. We also have an online publication called Black Nation Magazine, targeted at young black consumers.

“We have grown exponentially over the years, and now have office space in JoziHub. We do content for campaigns, promotions, events and competitions, which is distributed across various digital platforms for desktop and smartphone users.”

The company officially has 11 team members but often works with other young startup owners, most of whom are based at JoziHub, on various projects.

The A Team 2
The Black Nation Media team.

Some of the biggest projects Black Nation Media has worked on are a lookbook for Adidas Originals and music videos for some of the country’s biggest hip hop artists.

Simelane says he believes in leveraging off the services and skills of other companies and offering a service to them in return as the key to the growth and establishment of startups.

One potential model is the huge media industry that’s grown up around YouTube in the US, where independent creatives are recruited to collaborate through channels, like the multi-million dollar Maker Studios. Maker Studios built an online empire, which was recently purchased by Disney, by both producing original videos and encouraging existing YouTube artists to sign up to its label. It’s a similar vision to the one Simelane has for Black Nation in Africa.

“Black Nation Media’s next focus is on collaborating with other YouTube content creators locally and around Africa. The vision is to become the biggest collaborative platform in Africa,” he says.

In 2014, Black Nation Media launched the Johannesburg YouTube Content Creators Network, to create a YouTube community based in the city, with plans to establish a multi-channel network incubator that will host up to 15 members of the network.

“We have formed a few partnerships around the country, one of them is with Creative Nestlings, a company based in Cape Town, which means we get to grow our brand in such places by working with these guys and they can do the same here in Joburg.”

One of Simelane’s other passions is helping young creatives hoping to turn their talents and skills and business by taking them under Black Nation Media’s wing and teaching them the necessary skills.

“I think it’s time creatives knew it’s possible to make money from what we do and make this industry lucrative,” Simelane explains.

As for Black Nation Media’s goals of spreading their reach beyond South Africa, Simelane says there are a few plans already in the pipeline that the company are focusing on.

“We want to capture the African market in the next five years. We’re linking up with a YouTube network in Ghana and we hope by doing that, we get to tap into another market outside South Africa. We’re also in talks with a distribution company in the US which wants to distribute our content to the youth market in the States,” he explains.

“I don’t believe in competition, I think if startups collaborated, we could get a lot more done on this continent, that’s how we function as a company.”

Black Nation Media is on Facebook here and Twitter over here.


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