Ndaba Mandela, founder of the Africa Rising foundation, the grandson of one of the world’s most beloved statesmen who met with his friend Matthew Michelsen, CEO and founder of Backplane, a Palo Alto-based startup that has $5.8 million in venture backing and is responsible for the enormously popular Lady Gaga social network LittleMonsters.com.
On Friday, Mandela and Michelsen will launch Mandela.is, a social hub built around the idea of giving back to the community. It will also help extend and amplify celebrations around Mandela Day, which itself is meant to inspire change and spur people to take action for the good of their communities.
For Ndaba and his cousin Kweku Mandela, Mandela.is represents a chance to honor their grandfather, the anti-apartheid revolutionary and first black President of South Africa. “For me and Kweku, we’ve always wanted to celebrate our grandfather and never really got the chance,” says Mandela, who speaks slowly and deliberatively, in a deep, rich timbre. “So this year we felt driven and compelled to make it happen.”
To mark Mandela Day and Madiba’s 95th birthday, the grandchildren are hosting a series of high-profile events – a concert in London, a boxing match in Monaco, a soccer match in Johannesburg – and tying them into the theme of giving back to the community. Mandela.is will be the glue for those events and the online hub for all the activity around them.
At Mandela.is, people will be able to share thoughts and experiences via text, photos, art, and video, as well as building up profiles on the site. Invitations to use the site will at first be contained to ensure a steady build up of content and quality. Mandela will publish the first post on Friday in the form of a letter explaining the concept of Mandela.is.
He’s hoping to get world leaders, statesmen, and celebrities to lead the discussion on and around the site.
Mandela says technology is crucial to the campaign around this year’s activities, and beyond. “It’s so important because technology allows people to connect like they’ve never been able to connect before. Not only are you able to connect to people in your community, but you’re able to connect with people in another country, in another region, which have similar interests.”
Mandela.is also represents the first time the wider Mandela family has been united in giving its blessing to a project related to the patriarch, who is the second-most recognized brand in the world, behind only Coca-Cola. The social network will help preserve and protect Mandela’s legacy.
Mandela says Mandela.is will be an organic movement that people can engage with and take ownership of. “That’s the real legacy of my grandfather: empowering people, and allowing people to empower others.”