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Rwanda’s Launches To Help You Build SMS Applications & Deploy Them Globally

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Introducing TextIt from TextIt on Vimeo.

TextIt, an SMS platform that lets one to visually build SMS applications and deploy them anywhere in the world has launched to help organisations get the most out of SMS, easily.

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TextIt was build by Nyaruka a software solutions consultancy firm based in Kigali Rwanda.

Speaking to TechMoran, Nyaruka’s Nicholas Pottier said, “We were inspired out of our experience building custom systems for various organizations over the past three years. Taking those learnings and trying to build something more flexible that anybody can use.”

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Pottier said SMS is still the best way to reach out to field workers or beneficiaries, but there aren’t great tools available to make that easy for NGOs. The “frustration that many NGOs aren’t really getting the benefits of using SMS for their projects” moved them to build TextIt.

According to Pottier,” Other tools have existed, but they have really failed on the user experience front in our opinion. They aren’t easy to use and they are limiting, we were trying to make something that is both really simple and really flexible, the flows in TextIt give you that.”

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Android support

Now launched globally, TextIt supports an Android phone or can integrate with aggregators like Twilio, making it possible for people to use TextIt anywhere in the world.

The Rwanda-based consultancy firm say their hearts are in East Africa and are soon setting up office in Kenya. They have already integrated with Africa’s Talking API platform to allow people to connect short codes in Kenya to TextIt.
Currently bootstrapping, TextIt seems to have stuck a chord with people across the world said Pottier. The startup is a bit surprised how much attention the product has received globally. TextIt already has customers in the US and lots of interest around the world to integrate with other aggregators.

 textitHow it works

Its overwhelming attention could be due to its simplicity to use.

TextIt works the way people are used to, by using a conversation of sorts. One visits the site, draws out a little flowchart of how they want their SMS application to work such as to ask one question, save the response, then based on that response ask another question.

When a user sends a text, TextIt works through those questions and responds. They also keep track of where the users are.

“And since you build these interactions, what we call flows, visually, they are really easy to understand.  You just use arrows and boxes to define the flow and that feels natural to users. The neat part is just how much flexibility there is.  We give you the ability to send emails, or call a web service, or send a message to someone else, anywhere in a flow, and people are coming up with pretty neat uses because of that flexibility.”

Pottier adds that TextIt real journey was figuring out what is the easiest and simplest way to present features. At times that meant changing direction completely. They built out an entire part of the product around polls, then realized that it was confusing to have both polls and flows since flows really accomplish the same thing.  So they threw out polls, and after two months of work. came up with a polished product.
Competitive advantage

With all the work done, TextIt still has to be better than similar products already in the market such as Trext, FrontlineSMS and TeleRivet. They are therefore a combination of all three. They are in the cloud, have an easy way to build the kind of interactions they have and belive they are powerful. TextIt will make its cut from charging users a monthly fee for the service based on the volume of messages one sends.

The firm is targeting small to medium-sized NGOs and SME’s working in the region and globally to use TextIt SMS to reach their customers or field staff. The team is not afraid of apps like Whatsapp, hike,Kik, Line as studies show that by 2015 there would be 150M or so smartphones in Africa, but 640M feature phones.

Customers or field staff

So even as smartphone penetration increase, there is still a huge, huge need to have a universal way of communicating with them, in a way that is open so that automation can occur. Also, not everyone has the apps installed nor will always have internet making SMS a sure way of communication.
“That’s why in the States, even though the smartphone penetration is gigantic, SMS remains relevant as a form of doing customer surveys, marketing, sending password resets etc.. it is ubiquitous,” Pottier concluded.

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Sam Wakoba
Sam Wakoba
Taking you on tour through Africa's tech and business ecosystem, one story at a time since 2010! Based out of Nairobi, Kenya, Sam is the founder and managing director of Moran Media, which runs, various other digital platforms and a startup incubation hub for Kenya's youthful entrepreneurs. Drop me a mail at [email protected]

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