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Spencer Horne’s ’08 Cloudline Soars to Quartz Africa Innovators List 2019

This past month has seen ALA alumnus Spencer Horne’s innovative logistics company, Cloudline, win big. The revolutionary startup not only earned Spencer a spot on this year’s Quartz Africa Innovators List but was also announced the winner of Santam’s Safety Ideas Challenge – walking away with R100 000 in incubator funding and seed capital.

Spencer Horne ’08

The Quartz Africa Innovator’s list recognizes and celebrates 30 innovators across the continent for their groundbreaking work, thought-leading initiatives, and creative approaches to problems. “They each are exemplars of what’s possible when we take original approaches to solve big challenges,” reads the Quartz website. 

Founded in 2017, Cloudline seeks to revolutionize the logistics industry by connecting over one billion people from isolated communities to the global supply chain. How? By using autonomous airships to transport goods in areas where cars and other modes of transport cannot access. 

The Cloudline

“Growing up in a deeply divided society in South Africa, I was always fascinated by structural drivers behind inequity and poverty, and became passionate about tackling those issues at the root,” says the young innovator. He says it was while working in East Africa after receiving his Mechanical Engineering degree from Harvard University that he became truly aware of the effects that inadequate transport infrastructure has on this continent. It is here that Cloudline began to take form as a viable solution.

“More than one billion people have no access to roads, and this affects their access to the global market in terms of the goods and services they can access. So what are we, as Cloudline, doing to address that?” 

For starters, using his passion for aerospace technologies, Spencer began investigating the use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) technology, which led him to the creation of a blimp-like aviation vehicle, to address the problem. These airships use significantly less energy than drones and can be operated from a central control room. The airships can also remain airborne and operational without battery swops for extended periods of time, permitting new levels of operational flexibility.

Now in the technical and regulatory phase of the project, Cloudline will be operational from 2020.

If you know of a young leader like Spencer, who has the potential to drive change in their country, nominate them for the ALA two-year Diploma Program.