Sam Cook and Judy Dlamini speak to the founders of 38.co.za
Christo Crampton is a 24-year old local who’s definitely going places. While studying at Rhodes two years ago he was able to do what many aspire to do – start his own business. Crampton co-founded and now owns and manages the 38.co.za site. This party-pic network is based in Grahamstown and has photographers in 12 areas, including London and Zimbabwe. 38 co-founder Colin Cloete is a second-year at Rhodes and is also, as of this year, in charge of marketing and public relations of 38.
Q: Why did you guys start 38?
A: Christo: It actually almost started by mistake. My friend was doing a PDM (now a PDEM – Post-graduate Degree in Enterprise Management) project, and he was looking to do something. I did web development and stuff, so I actually think we made this site as an example site of stuff which we could do. We took photos at a DemSoc (which is now RafSoc),
and it was quite popular, so we just carried on doing it, and it just sort of gained momentum as we’ve gone along.
Q: How did you decide on the name?
A: Christo: The name of my digs at the time – 38 New Street, right across from The Rat.
Q: How did you get the business up and running, being a student at the time?
A: Christo: Luckily the costs aren’t that high and it’s all sort of grown on its own momentum. To start off with it was just us who took the photos, then all of our photographers were volunteers, so we never really had any expenses except for our hosting.
Q: How do you recruit your photographers?
A: Christo: Most of them actually just approach us. We generally take on a lot of people, but they don’t necessarily all work on one night, so it is sort of a “many hands make light work” approach, which seems to work quite well. I know, and I think Thunda people often find this as well, if you have to take photos like every time you go out, you get over it, you
know? Whereas with our photographers, it’s more of a fun thing which they can do when they feel like it, as opposed to a job.
Q: How do you feel about competition with Thunda?
A: Christo: It comes with the territory I guess. They’re pretty good at what they do, but I think we’re better and we’re going to be even bigger.
Colin: We’re not as big as they are, but where we are big, we are definitely more popular than them. Just because of the way we run our photographers, we let them have more fun.
Christo: And we also like to try and cover not just the clubs – we do 21sts and society things. It makes it more personal. I think they are kind of the big corporates.
Colin: We’re like the “home sweet home” type of guys. We’ve got more character.
Q: What is your company policy towards people’s privacy?
A: Christo: People can remove photos if they want to, they just need to email me and I’ll take it off. We try only take, and obviously not always, posed and permissionbased photos, not randoms. At the end of the day, it’s a service to the people that are looking for photos. If people don’t like the photos and they want them off, they must just ask – we don’t want to make people unhappy.
Q: Is it exciting, being the owner of your own company?
A: Christo: It’s very exciting. That’s the main reason we keep doing it, or I keep doing it. There’s a lot of new things coming up and its such a vibrant thing. There are always new
branches and people involved, and opportunities. And sometimes it gets a bit much and you get a little bit over it, but then something new and exciting comes up and it’s all worth
Q: How do you manage to co-ordinate so many photographers in different cities?
A: Christo: It’s quite tricky, and again it’s that “many hands make light work”. We communicate with a lot of them through instant messengers, and I’m online most times if they have questions. We have an uploader, so they just upload through the web. We’ve got a whole interface for the photographers, for booking events to take photos at, letting me know what’s happening and things like that. It has also become streamlined as it has gone along, and it’s getting quite slick now. The next stage which we’re going to is actually putting our photographers in direct contact with the owners of the clubs, so if a club has an event or a promoter has an event, they can post on the site and it will automatically inform the photographers in that area.
Q: What do you think of facebook and the rumour that it was to be banned at Rhodes?
A: Christo: Well, I think that facebook’s amazing, and on the new version that we’re working with, we’re going to be integrating a lot of stuff with facebook – you’ll be able to click
a button and put photos straight onto facebook; you’ll be able to have your own galleries on 38 and synchronise them with your galleries on facebook. Basically, the Internet is becoming a lot more intertangled and there are all these services and things which facebook offer. I think where we fit in is that we specialise in photography, and I think one of strengths that we have is that we offer a physical service as well as a virtual service. A while back, myspace would have been the flavour of the day, and now facebook comes along and no one knows about it. But as long as you’ve got a tangible service to offer, which we do (our photographers taking photos for people), you have something a bit more certain.
Q: How do you feel about Rhodes wanting to limit student access to sites like 38 and facebook?
A: Christo: I understand where Rhodes is coming from. I work in an IT company myself and bandwidth is a big issue in South Africa. But at the same time I don’t think a top university in South Africa should be limiting access to things like that. Traditionally, universities (and in particular Rhodes University) are the forerunners of technology and Internet and things like that; in America the varsities are incredibly online, some of them are run through facebook. I think it’s something which students should have.
Q: And the ‘Save 38 and facebook’ party, what do you hope to achieve with that?
A: Christo: Basically we want to achieve two things with that, the first thing is to raise money to help Rhodes out. It’ll be a drop in the ocean but it’s what we can do. And the second thing is to build awareness to the issue, and maybe if we make a contribution it will inspire bigger companies to make a more valuable contribution.
Colin: Just trying to raise funds, even though it’s a small amount, to contribute towards extra bandwidth. We realise that there’s a problem, and we’re going to try and do something about it.
Q: What do you hope to achieve with 38 in the future?
A: Christo: Often it goes so fast that you struggle to look that far ahead. We are working on a new version of the site now, which I’m pretty excited about, which we should be releasing within a few months. And obviously I like to see the same sort of success that something like facebook gets, but I wouldn’t bank on it. I’d like it to be a household name in South Africa I guess, and maybe eventually the world.
Off the point
1. Sandals and socks (farmer style) or male skinny jeans?
Christo: Sandals with socks (farmer style)
2. Favourite actress?
Colin: Kate Beckinsale
3. Prized kitchen utensil?
Christo: Frying pan
4. Three people (dead or alive) you would like to meet
Colin: Nelson Mandela, Richard Branson, Muhammad Ali
5. Quote of the day?
Christo: “Dream like you will live forever and live like you will die tomorrow!”