Meet The 21-Year-Old Who Built An Online Wildlife Sightings Empire
All month long SME South Africa will highlight young entrepreneurs, innovators and influencers who are shaping the future, as part of our Youth Month 2017 coverage. Follow #YouthAmplified on Twitter and Facebook to join the conversation.
The 21-year-old’s channel is a verifiable hit within the global wildlife and conservation community, with users not only able to watch videos, but because of its crowd-sourcing model, can post their own encounters with nature and wildlife.
His channel today boasts more than 500 million views and over 400 000 subscribers.
The Latest Sightings App was last year named one of the Top 5 Most Innovative Apps for Culture and Tourism in the world at the World Summit Award (WSA) Innovation Congress, and Ossendryver was named one of Africa’s Most Promising Entrepreneurs on the Forbes list for Under 30s for 2016.
Ossendryver’s obsession with wildlife began when he was just eight-years-old, however it was only in 2011, when was 15, that he launched his first wildlife-spotting YouTube channel, Kruger Sightings, after a family holiday to the Kruger National Park. The channel was an instant success.
“It was one of those small YouTube channels and my first video ever actually went viral,” Ossendryver says.
This was despite some misgivings from the wildlife community about the possible interference of social media.
“At the time that was the only way to get the community going. I couldn’t think of any other way and I wanted people to know about this so they could share their sights, and because it’s online, it’s instant. In the past a lion could be a kilometre from you and you would have no way of knowing it.”
Ossendryver, who is currently studying for a B-Com degree part-time, has taken his influence beyond YouTube.
He has capitalised on the channel’s success, launching a website and app, and together with social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, updates wildlife enthusiasts on where interesting animals and birds can be spotted. The service also provides Kruger National Park accomodation recommendations and specials.
“Only when I finished Matric [did I realise that] this community is so big, let’s try and monetise it so I could do something I love forever, and I could make a living off it. So the monetisation kind of started in the past two years and YouTube and the media around it is a big part of it.”
Ossendryer has also partnered with Tendopro, an online education platform to provide wildlife courses to students, particularly those in rural and poverty-stricken areas.
The A-ha Moment
I’ll never forget thinking to myself, “Why don’t people share their sightings online?” this realisation that I could see more animals and everyone could have a better time at the Kruger, together with absolutely loving wildlife and not thinking about anything else [for example] “Is it going to work?”, “Is it going to be huge?”, is what drove me.
Also, I had internet [access], a phone and my computer at the time, so nothing was stopping me, and I thought I could do it.
I’m Turning My Passion Into A Profit
So our YouTube channel [has reached] 500 million views so it’s really exciting to see how popular it is.
I think the reason why the website has done so well is because we control the quality of what goes out and we choose the most authentic, exciting story-based sightings; so if the whole story is in the video we’ll post it.
A lot of thought goes into everything we share and I think that’s why everyone can connect to it.
Our Platform Is Like No Other
We’re getting footage that has never been seen before and we’re the first ones to get it in the world and that’s very valuable, so is the media exposure we’re getting.
More Than a Channel
Because we’re getting so many hits around the world in terms of wildlife, we are creating excitement [around wildlife] and have people wanting to add a safari to their bucket list. They are starting to ask us where they can stay and I started referring them to a lodge and helping them with their booking, so it’s something we’re trying to work on because it helps people with their accommodation.
Social Media Can Be Used For Good
One of the best things about Latest Sightings is when people report an injured animal which has been hit by a car, or anything that has to do with human intervention, and they can arrange for someone to try and find the animal and save it through the report.
A post shared by Latest Sightings – Kruger (@latestkruger) on
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Our Generation Has A Powerful Tool
We have all these tools to help anyone set up something from scratch and without a lot of money. The special thing about our generation is the internet, before it was probably very hard, you couldn’t start something for free.
I Didn’t Wait – No One Should
The biggest thing is to actually do it.