Toby Shapshak

Toby Shapshak writes and speaks about how technology has fundamentally changed how we work and play, especially since the Covid-19 lockdown dramatically changed the world.

He is the editor-in-chief of Stuff Studios and a small business owner who has weathered the worst economic storm of this century.

A senior contributor to Forbes on innovation, he also writes a weekly column for the Financial Mail and Daily Maverick and he has been featured in the New York Times..

But his passion for more than ten years has been how “innovation is better in Africa”. His TED Global talk on how Africa is solving real problems has had over 1,5-million views. He believes Africa is a mobile-driven continent, about which he has written for CNN, The Guardian in London, Quartz, and Forbes. He is writing a book on innovation in Africa, looking at how the problems Africa is solving for itself will benefit the rest of the world.

When Covid struck South Africa, some of the first casualties were media houses. News24, Caxton, and Associated Media all closed their magazine divisions, shutting down 15 titles and putting 800 journalists out of work.
Shapshak and his business partner Sally Hudson found themselves fighting to keep Stuff from being sunk in the catastrophic 2020 pandemic-induced lockdown. However, not only did Stuff survive, but it thrived – moving from mostly print revenue to mostly digital – and making a profit for both Covid years. Media organisations have approached Shapshak to help them with the same digital resilience strategy.

Having reported on startups for over a decade, Shapshak’s own startup – a native news service for mobile phones has also blossomed and now has more monthly traffic than the Mail & Guardian.

The media often says Facebook and Google are the biggest threat to our industry. But they are wrong says Toby. “The largest risk to our revenue – the real biggest hazard – is that management doesn’t understand digital and you can apply that across all industries; the rapid digitisation of just about everything has forever changed how we work and live.

Shapshak’s latest talk investigates clear-headed problem solving, seeing the hidden (or obvious) opportunities and how to think differently in order to tackle them. It includes examples from South Africa and the rest of the world and highlights the innumerable success stories of how people have adapted to this once-in-a-century crisis.

He has spoken at numerous conferences about innovation in Africa, including TED Global in Edinburgh, four times at the South by South West (SxSW) conference in Austin, Texas; at Intel’s IDF conference in San Francisco; The Guardian newspaper’s Activate: Johannesburg; Germany’s Zukunftskongress (Future Congress), Sweden’s The Conference, AfricaCom in Cape Town, TEDxGateway in Mumbai, the GSMA’s Mobile 360 in Kigali, Pivot East in Nairobi, and Tech4Africa in Johannesburg.

Toby was named in GQ’s top 30 men in media and the Mail & Guardian newspaper’s 300 influential young South Africans list and has won the ICT Journalist of the Year.

GQ said he “has become the most high-profile technology journalist in the country” while the M&G wrote: “Toby Shapshak is all things tech… he reigns supreme as the major talking head for everything and anything tech.”

He has interviewed a range of tech industry luminaries, including Bill Gates and Apple co-founders Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak.

Toby Shapshak has been writing about innovation, telecoms and the internet – and the impact it has on our lives – for more than 20 years.