South African startup ‘Hashtag Our Stories’ secures investment from Snapchat

South Africa’s Yusuf Omar has secured investment and business training from global multimedia messaging app Snapchat for his mobile journalism company ‘Hashtag Our Stories.’

Omar, who previously worked at eNCA and later as a social media reporter for CNN, established ‘Hashtag Our Stories’ a year ago. Believing in his vision was his wife Sumaiya Omar who plays an integral role in the company.

Hashtag Our Stories
Image credit: Sumaiya Omar

The duo traverses the globe in order to educate media companies around the world about the benefits of Mojo.

Snapchat, after experiencing a shrinking social network presence, launched its first startup accelerator, Yellow, with the hope of identifying and enabling the next big online game-changer.

With the company having lost significant users to Instagram, and its share price dropping close to historic lows, the company purchased a 7-10 percent equity stake in a number of companies which includes ‘Hashtag Our Stories’ in exchange for $150,000 (R2, 2-m) in funding and a ‘creativity-centric business education’.

“It’s about experimenting with every platform and not taking them at face value. If you take Snapchat at face value, it’s for teenagers sharing nudies. You’ve got to look beyond that, you’ve got to look at how you can apply that technology for journalistic storytelling.”

Hashtag Our Stories, Yusuf Omar

In 2016, Omar’s work went viral after he used Snapchat to interview survivors of sexual abuse through a powerful and unique technique – Snapchat filters. The filters allowed the women to shield their identities and tell their stories for the first time without fear of being subject to the societal stigma surrounding rape.

Going undercover with Snapchat to search for drugs

In June, a Bollywood movie called Udta Punjab came under controversy. It focused on drug abuse among Punjab’s youth, prompting anger from some who thought this was damaging the north Indian’s state’s reputation.

Others denied that there were drugs in the state. So Omar took to Snapchat to take his viewers on an undercover search for drugs in Punjab.

Tracing his journey from his hotel room to where he managed to find the drugs, viewers were part of the story as Omar went undercover.

“I saw Snapchat as a powerful platform for a story where, even I as the content creator, didn’t know where it was going to go. It was suspense-driven. It was taking people in real time on a journey to find those drugs. That’s what live streaming and Snapchat is actually about.”

The investment in nine companies, ranging from Omar’s ‘Hashtag our Stories’ to prison-style fitness boot-camp, ‘Conbody’, will see them located in Venice Beach, Los Angeles for three months in one of Snap Inc’s buildings, where they will be exposed to “A launch pad for creative minds and entrepreneurs who are looking to build the next generation of great media companies.”

To learn more about Hashtag Our Stories visit here

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