2g0 was actually founded on campus by two guys who wanted to test their coding lessons. We love what they are doing and beating major social network giants for users on the continent is no mean feat.
We met with Alan and Ashley and below is our conversation.
What is 2go and why the name?
2go is a mobile social network focused on emerging markets, particularly Africa. On 2go users chat, share photos with friends and family, meet new people and play games in chat rooms.
We chose the name 2go as we thought it was a fun, catchy name that was relevant to mobile.
Why smartphones now – we thought 2go was for feature phones?
Feature phones have been an incredibly successful platform for 2go and will continue to be so for the next few years at least. Research firms such as Informa indicate that by 2015 there will still be 5.6 feature phones in the African market for every one smartphone. But, we can’t ignore the growing interest in and access to smartphones on the African continent, so now is the right time to start extending to iOS, Blackberry and Android platforms as well.
It’s also important that our users have choice – they should be able to use our application on the platform of their choice.
When was it launched and where?
Version 1 of 2go was launched in March 2007 in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Who are its founders?
2go’s founders are Alan Wolff and Ashley Peters, two computer science students who met each other in 2006 while studying at Wits University.
What inspired them to find it?
Alan and Ashley were hungry to use their software development knowledge to make something that people would actually use. They began working hard on a simple mobi site application that allowed students in their class to keep up to date with their study and exam timetable. They soon realised that the application could function well as a more general purpose-chat application. Using Java, they decided to start a company with the aim of developing and promoting a messaging network on feature phones.
How does it work?
The 2go Mobile Messenger is an application that is downloaded onto a user’s cellphone. Once installed, it enables the user to chat to friends for free, meet and chat to new people in chat rooms and share files and photos. The application has its own mobile currency known as ‘GoCredits’ that allows the users to get access to premium features in the application and download content.
What is target population?
2go currently has over 20 million registered users across South Africa, Kenya and Nigeria of which over 9 million are active in Nigeria and over 1.5 million in South Africa and over 300 000 in Kenya.
What is your business model?
- Direct messaging between friends is free.
- Content store with mobile currency – 2go Credits are needed for messaging inside chatrooms and buying content such as love poems, trivia and jokes.
- Advertising and market research. The 2go Ad Platform enables brands and ad agencies to target and engage with 2go’s growing base of young savvy users.
- 2go Market Research leverages the power of the 2go community to conduct real-time surveys and polls that deliver actionable insights with immediate value to clients.
Advertisers such as McDonalds, Vodacom and P&G have utilized 2go’s ad platform. The simplest form of advertising is often the most powerful and 2go’s full-screen splash ad often sees more than 20% of unique users clicking on the ad.
2go’s chat based ads enable a brand to speak directly to its customers. Age, gender and location targeting are also possible.
The IM and social networking space is a hotbed of activity at the moment. 2go’s intuitive user interface, lightweight app that requires very little bandwidth and highly scalable platform, has been custom-built for emerging markets where feature phones still dominate.
How unique are you from the competition?
The 2go application is built specifically with feature phone users in mind. 2go has developed custom technology to keep the application lightweight and data/resource efficient. In addition to enabling users to message friends and family, 2go creates a unique platform for users to meet, socialise and play games. The company spends a lot of time to understand what its users really want and constantly incorporates their feedback into the app.
Any funding yet?
2go has managed to achieve profitability within four years of launching its service and has been entirely self-funded with no outside financial support
The challenge for any mobile social network is to constantly innovate and always stays one step ahead of competitors and customer expectations.
2go is just getting started! We will continue to focus on our core social offering; continuously improving the user experience and adding more features to make our service even better. This also means evolving with our users as they shift from feature to smart phones. We currently sell content and will evolve these and other offerings. There are also other opportunities such as mobile payments.
In terms of growth, we will continue to focus on emerging markets in Africa and beyond in countries like India and Brazil. Considering that Nigeria alone has a population of 160 million with over 100 million mobile users, there is still plenty of opportunity for growth on the African continent.