In December of 2015, Hypercube, a technology and innovation hub in Zimbabwe announced that it will be shutting down barely a year after opening its doors citing "local economic challenges" and challenges with raising funding as the main reasons for shutting down.
It has since emerged recently in 2017, thanks to an audit report by Simao Nyaboko, that Hypercube's management were allegedly involved in mismanagement of funds which resulted in the hub shutting down.
Below is the summary of the report as written by Simao Nyaboko.
I the undersigned was designated by a group called Hypercube Hub Working Group to conduct an audit of the defunct Hypercube Hub as well as to devise a recovery plan for the same. My findings are contained in a 201 page report entitled Hypercube Hub Audit and Recovery Plan. The initial information that served as a basis for this audit and recovery plan was provided by Hypercube Hub Working Group, Hypercube Community and other interested parties.
The audit was initiated on 06 January 2017 and concluded on 10 March 2017. The audit was delayed for a period of three weeks as per earlier announcement. All witnesses and persons named in the report were given ample opportunity to make any contributions to this report. In addition a sizeable and reasonable amount of documents or data on Hypercube Hub generated between 13 May 2013 to 10 March 2017 was reviewed.
A brief summary of my report is available hereunder for the general public. The full report is available as a strategic document to Hypercube Community members. This report has been formulated to help the Hypercube Working Group and the broader Hypercube Community to address specific key issues in their efforts to revive Hypercube Hub. It is also the aim of the report to sharpen vision, reduce feelings of conflict, enliven the desire for teamwork, increase accountability, magnify the capacity to achieve results, and deepen satisfaction and happiness for everyone who is going to be involved with the new Hypercube Hub.
Findings of Fact
On 13 May 2013, a team of three funding partners namely, Hivos – People Unlimited, US Embassy – Harare and Indigo Trust put out a call for proposals for anyone interested in setting up what would be Zimbabwe first tech hub.
A team called Hypercube Technology Trust consisting of five co-founders was identified and selected by the above funding partners ahead of six other applicants and was given the mandate to set up Zimbabwe first tech hub.
According to the funding partners Hypercube was selected ahead of the other six applicants because the team had a financially sustainable, socially responsible and sufficiently inclusive business plan.
On 30th August 2013 the Hypercube co-founders Rineshkumar Ashokkumar Desai [10th February 1976], Munyaradzi Michael Chiura [20th December 1975], Tapfumanei Ngonidzashe Murove [20th March 1986], Sir Nigel or Patience Tinashe Nigel Mugamu [2nd January 1978], Nicola Michelle Kershaw [6th April 1976] appeared before a notary public and legal practioner, practicing in the City of Harare Zimbabwe and declared their desire to establish Hypercube Technology Trust inorder to pursue the objects more fully described hereunder; and
Objects of the Trust
The main object of the Trust is to operate on a non-profit making basis in building and mobilizing the capacity for innovation and technological development in Zimbabwe which benefits all citizens directly or indirectly. Consistent with the aforesaid main objective of the Trust, it was the further objective of the Trust.
To assist in the undertaking any other lawful activities that enhances the development of capacity and technology.
To provide tools, resources, and training which are necessary for the establishment of a thriving technology ecosystem in Zimbabwe
To address the issue of unemployment by supporting job creation through entrepreneurship, and by providing entrepreneurs with the necessary business skills and training.
To encourage gender equality and increased female participation in the technology sector.
To build local, regional and global partnerships which encourage collaboration in technological development.
To assist entrepreneurs in sourcing funds and other support from local, regional and global organizations.
To assist the nation in meeting the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the International Telecom Union’s World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) targets signed in Tunis, Tunisia in November 2005.
To purchase and or acquire movable and immovable properties so as to achieve the objectives of the Trust herein provided and for administration.
To invest the assets of the Trusts Fund in such a manner as the Trustees shall deem fit
To engage in all activities, generally, which are incidental to any of the aforegoing specified objectives of the Trust or which the Trustees from time to time consider will serve to promote the main or any of the further objectives of the Trust
Hypercube Technology Trust and Hypercube organizational structure was as follows;
Rinesh Desai – Chairperson
Munya Chiura – Vice Chairperson
Nikki Kershaw – Secretary
Nigel Mugamu, also known as Sir Nigel – Treasurer
Taps Murove – Operations Manager
Irene Chikumbo – Community Manager
On 18 September 2013 Indiego Trust awarded 30 000 to Hypercube Technology Trust towards the core costs of establishing Hypercube Hub and supporting programmes coming from it.
Between 04 October 2013 and 18 October 2013 Hivos – People Unlimited and Hypercube Technology Trust entered into a 120 000 euro contract for the setting up of a Hypercube Hub space by Hypercube Technology Trust that would facilitate learning and exchange amongst tech community in Zimbabwe.
Result indicators for reporting to Hivos – People Unlimited by Hypercube Hub included 75 active registered members from the Zimbabwean tech community, 8 events relevant to tech/cultural activities with a Zimbabwean focus, 5 innovative mobile/web products for/during hackathons and barcamp-style events and 6 community education and collaboration. Payment details made available by Hivos to Hypercube Technology Trust the remittance schedule;
- 1st Payment of 40 000 euros on 10 October 2013
- 2nd Payment of 30 000 euros on 05 January 2014
- 3rd Payment of 10 000 euros on 11 December 2014
- 4th Payment of 30 000 euros on 01 May 2015
- 5th Payment of 10 000 euros on 30 November 2015
On 26 August 2013 the US Embassy Harare awarded $75 000 to Hypercube Technology Trust. The purpose of the grant was to contribute to the formation of Hypercube Hub to provide a venue for young entrepreneurs to meet, work, exchange ideas and bolster their business and technical skills.
Hypercube Hub was officially launched on 13 November 2013 and opened to the general public in early January 2014.
Hypercube Technology Trust started operation with a healthy bank balance of plus 162 883.89 held at CBZ account # 23647330016 of FCANON type.
The first bank statement requested by Hypercube Technology Trust for the period 01 January 2014 to 02 May 2014 showed an opening balance of 162 883.89 and a closing balance of $ 93 352,20 Recurring expenditure included a monthly salary of $1639,60 that was paid to a one Irene Chikumbo who was the Community Manager and another monthly salary of $1639,60 paid to Taps Murove who was the Operations Manager. Milton Chigume who worked as a caretaker/gardener at the hub was being paid $ 724,99 a month.
A total of 107 tech startups were identified that were either started at Hypercube Hub or whose origins can be traced back to Hypercube Hub.
6000 cups of free coffee were supplied to the Hypercube Community by Hypercube Hub translating to to 90Kgs of sugar, 30 Kgs of ground coffee, 10 Kg powdered milk and 4000 litres of water.
The entrance sign in book registered 2880 visits to the hub and 1330 of these were unique visits.
Hypercube Hub started paid membership in January 2015. The fees were as follows - day pass was pegged at $5 and $50 for one month access in the underground area and $100 per month in the upstairs area. Three rooms were also made available to startups to rent as offices at the hub for a monthly fee of $300 and $400.
Hypercube Technology Trust signed a memorandum of understanding with Techwomen Zimbabwe an initiative created by a group of Zimbabwean who met on a US Department program in Silicon Valley in the United States. Under the memorandum of understanding Hypercube Hub reserved space for Techwomen Zimbabwe core team to train young women and men in the STEM sector.
Hypercube Hub underwent renovations from September to December 2014. During this period the hub was only open to a select few people. A one Rumbidzai Laura Kawadza was contracted to manage the renovations work. The renovations in total included painting the hub inside walls, putting 27 new lights and 11 power points, upgrading the toilet facilities, replacing the kitchen sink or drawers and cutting down one tree. The total cost of the renovations was $ 9 240.
On 16 May 2014 Hypercube Hub, Community Manager, Irene Chikumbo appealed to community members to develop an app that can locate Taps Murove, the Operations Manager at any given time.
A requested bank statement of Hypercube Technology Trust for the period 01 January 2015 to 01 September 2015 shows an opening balance of 49 865.61 and a closing balance of 16 285,82. The statement shows that there are few deposits into the bank as compared to withdrawals.
Bank records shows that Taps Murove who resigned from Hypercube in early January 2015 remained in possession of a ‘VISA Card 4290682071400010 T Murove’ after his resignation that was used to make withdrawals and payments on 09 April 2015, 15 April 2015, 12 January 2015, 19 March 2015 amounting to almost $10,000. The purpose for these withdrawals remain unknown as both Taps and the other co-founders remain tight-lipped.
On 07 July 2015, the UNDP transferred $11 000 into Hypercube Technology Trust account meant for the creation of an Innovation Lab. The money was not used to create an Innovation Lab. A trustee at Hypercube Technology Trust, Rinesh Desai said, “This $11 000 came into the Trust account and disappeared to another project known by Taps Murove”. Taps has to date not yet revealed to me where exactly the money went and for what purposes.
The blame game started to escalate after a secret meeting on 27 October 2014 attended by Irene Chikumbo, Constantine Nyanzero and Nikki Kershaw and selected Hypercube Community members at Café Nush.
On the first month of paid membership, Hypercube made $1900 through members fees and startup office rentals. The figure decreased in the preceding months as some community members struggled to pay their membership fees or rentals whilst others totally opted out. For example startups like 263Chat despite having attracted more than $40000 euros in funding from Hivos did not pay rentals for the office it rented at Hypercube Hub for a period exceeding more than seven months and these rental arrears were never recovered.
Another surprising startup that failed to pay for the use of Hypercube Hub included the Social Entrepreneurship Bootcamp that was started by yet another co-founder of Hypercube Hub ironically interested in sustainability.
Three trustees and board members at Hypercube Technology Trust resigned in the year 2015. No new trustees were coopted into the trust after their resignation as per trust deed. Section 6.3 of the trust deed “provided that there shall at all times be at least 3 trustees”. The trustees or board members who resigned were Taps Murove in January 2015, Sir Nigel or Nigel Mugamu in August 2015, and Nikki Kershaw. The resigned trustees were on record saying that they are resigning to give way for fresh blood.
On 09 November 2015, Hivos terminated the contract it entered with Hypercube Technology Trust citing a number of anomalies. In addition Hypercube Technology Trust was placed by Hivos on a blacklist. Under the contract Hivos had a right to terminate the contract if:
- Hypercube Technology Trust misuses funds and /or is engaged in fraudulent actions;
- Hypercube Technology Trust is engaged in corrupt practices;
- Hypercube Technology Trust is engaged in child labor according to the definitions of the International Labour Organisation;
- Hypercube Technology Trust violates prevailing labour laws;
- Hypercube Technology Trust violates prevailing environmental laws;
- Hypercube Technology Trust tolerates discrimination or sexual harassment within the organization;
- Hypercube Technology Trust is no longer able or willing to implement the contract in accordance with the application;
- Hypercube Technology Trust does not submit mandatory reports within eight months;
- Hypercube Technology Trust transfers the implementation of the activities to another agency within the prior consent of Hivos.
Hypercube Hub successfully hosted 35 events related to entrepreneurship, mentorship, motivation and STEM. Some of these events helped to galvanize the tech community in Zimbabwe. The hub also enabled entrepreneurs to invent, prototype, develop and experiment with emerging trends.
There is one chapter in my report that is devoted to the events hosted at Hypercube and the hub successes.
At the time of its closure Hypercube Hub owned more than 96 assets worth $40 000.
Hypercube Technology Trust was dissolved on 31 December 2015 by a unanimous resolution by two remaining known trustees of Hypercube Technology Trust namely Rinesh Desai and Munyaradzi Chiura ‘as provided for in the Trust Deed’. The assets and liabilities of the Trust were dealt with by the remaining trustees in ‘their discretion as similarly provided for in terms of the trust objects.
// Finding of Facts truncated//
When the team of funding partners gave Hypercube Hub the mandate to establish Zimbabwe first tech hub, its likely the criteria used was to find people with the skills and competencies needed to establish the hub rather than considering the personal fit of the team members.
Based on all information I reviewed and interviews conducted I think one co-founder at Hypercube Technology Trust self-betrayed himself and began to see the hub in a way that justified his self-betrayal, making the co-founder view of reality to become twisted hence entering the box. By being in the box the co-founder failed to focus on results and provoked his or her co-founders to fail to focus on results as well. Collusion spread far and wide, and this resulted with co-founder positioning themselves against co-founder, volunteer against volunteer, community member against community member. People who had come together to help the hub succeed actually ended up delighting in each other’s failures and resenting each other’s successes.
Whenever people associate and work together, there are fondness and distaste, expectation and doubt regarding the co-operation, undiscovered ‘skeletons in the closet, unspoken hurt feelings, self-promotion and impression management, hidden agendas, and political behavior that has the potential of undermining the achievement of a project. In short when humans co-operate, they face human problems. That said I recommend the Hypercube Hub Working Group to undergo a lengthy team building process that involve ‘forming, storming, norming and performing’ as outlined in my recovery plan if the working group is to successful revive Hypercube Hub.
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15 March 2017