Hangman contestants rake in more than R30 million

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Dr Bonex Mwakikunga, who has developed a breathalyser for detecting sugar diabetes levels, has been offered a R21 million funding from the Technology Innovation Agency to develop his patented prototype. Pic by Yolanda van der Stoep.

For anyone who has ever watched Cell C’s reality show, Hangman on e.tv or South Africa’s newest rich-media platform, Black – you’ll quickly find yourself sitting on the edge of your seat as a team of backers drill down to find flaws in the contestants’ tasks. They don’t pull any punches. If anything viewers will be left punch drunk.

“Hangman has far exceeded our expectations. One of our core values is innovation and the show is a natural fit for Cell C.  We are extremely proud of the calibre of innovators this show has produced and know that the success of Hangman will be felt long after the final episode has aired,” says Surie Ramasary, chief executive: Content for Cell C.

But then again innovation, as they say, is not for the weak.  It’s a cutthroat environment that requires a complex set of skills. But it’s also the only way we as a country can leapfrog out of our economic crisis.

“Most innovators are great at coming up with new ideas, but when it comes to business and entrepreneurial skills they often fall far short,” says executive producer Odette Schwegler. “This show seeks to mentor our country’s top inventors into world-class business people.”

And if you look at the results it’s definitely working.  To date, the contestants on the show have raked in in excess of R30 million in business deals, loans and distribution agreements.

“These are people who would have battled to claw their way to even get a meeting with some of the big distribution companies.  Hangman has certainly helped to open doors,” says Schwegler.

Dr Bonex Mwakikunga, who has developed a breathalyser for detecting sugar diabetes levels has scored big.  He has been offered an R21 million funding from the Technology Innovation Agency to develop his patented prototype.

In addition, the value of his product has been picked up by Alco Safe who distributes alcohol breathalysers – they have pledged 1 million in development funding for the device.

“We would assist to save time in providing the expertise, to get from a larger device to a smaller device,” confirmed Rhys Evans of Alco Safe. “We can reduce the development time of the device and the cost of the development.”

Christo Rossouw from Klerksdorp has scored big with distributor Fever Tree who will be testing his products in the market in three big supermarket chains.  The potential is endless.

“If it works on the shelves we’ve committed to adding it to our product line as a giveaway for the next season and then we will take it from there,” says CEO of Fever Tree Gordon Muller.

It’s the leg up that this small town innovator could only have dreamt of before.

Bedfordview based Dr Sean Armstrong has also managed to make giant strides with his Uniclick syringe.  Imvula medical supplies and healthcare logistics placed an order for his syringes – the order is in the pipeline already.  Sean believes that the deal will be worth in the region of R600 000.

“I have been in the healthcare industry for a long time and rarely does one see basic equipment meet great innovation in this way,” says Mark Banfield, an IMvula consultant.

In addition, Sean believes he has secured in the region of R1.1m in deals and tender potential during the course of the show.  But it was cold comfort this week when he was shown the trapdoor by the backers.

Speak to the contestants and most of them have benefitted and grown in some shape or form from their association with the show.  Dean Fegen has signed up a distribution deal in Botswana for Polyhammer and Darren Aitken says the Curban Urge invention has been snapped up by Alpha Pharm with the promise of distribution in 900 of their pharmacies.

But it’s not only contestants who have benefitted.  The show has also opened doors for a number of students, giving them a much-needed foot in the door.

“We have boarded 25 students giving them the opportunity to experience reality television on a team of 60.  It’s a difficult industry to break into and at least if they have the experience, they stand a better chance of securing jobs,” says Schwegler.

Eight of the students have been involved in behind the scenes social media campaigns, transcribing and as assistant content directors.

“I will cherish the humility, warmth and innovation of my colleagues during my time on the production and I will continue to pursue filmmaking,” says student Paxton Setau.

Student Peace Aganbi beams, “I am beyond thrilled to be a part of the team to shine a spotlight on the innovators in South Africa.”

Seventeen film school graduates from Boston Media House and AFDA have volunteered to work with the production team in producing adverts for the three Hangman finalists. AFDA and Boston Media House generously put out a request to their final year students asking them if they wanted to participate in the show.

Three teams were selected comprising two teams from AFDA and another team from Boston Media House. The teams will work with the contestants to produce a broadcast quality advert from conceptualisation to final edit within four days.  It will be an arduous task, but the former film school students are eager and enthusiastic to take part in the reality show and see this as the first step in their journey of fulfilling their ambitions as filmmakers.

“Hangman isn’t just a reality show – it’s been a life-changing experience for a broad spectrum of South Africans.  It’s taught valuable life lessons and it’s put local innovators under the spotlight and given them the chance to thrive,” says Ramasary.

Hangman airs on e.tv on Sundays at 11h50 with a repeat broadcast on Saturdays at 13h00. It also broadcasts on eExtra on Wednesdays at 19h30 with a repeat on Thursdays at 10h00.

The full Hangman series is also available for free, on newly launched entertainment and content platform, black. South Africans, on any network, can download the GETblack Android & iOS apps using a tablet or phone. It will also available on a web interface at www.black.co.za.

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