Albert Lyatuu from Tanzania and Sophie Stolle from Germany have launched Nitafutie, a virtual marketplace for used or new items that people can access without any internet connection, simply by using their phones. They call it a voice-based craigslist.
Albert is an IT and business expert while Sophie holds a degree in African studies and Economics and has worked with several startups in Berlin.
TechMoran caught up with them and this is what they told us.
How does Nitafutie work?
Nitafutie is a Swahili word, which means something like “help me find” or “find for me”. It is as easy as calling a friend!
Let’s say I want to sell my old phone. I then call Nitafutie Services, giving information about the price (and if it’s negotiable), my location (like the name of my neighborhood or closest bus stop), any additional information about the phone (e.g. brand, colour), and last but not least my contact. Nitafutie then puts this data into the databank.
If someone is looking to buy a phone, he or she calls Nitafutie, giving information about, their budget, their location, any additional information and the contact. Within 5 minutes, they will receive an SMS, providing contacts of sellers in their neighborhood, the items that they are supplying and the prices.
Buyer and seller can then meet up face to face. The buyer can have a look on the product and then decide to buy it.
What Nitafutie basically does is to bring buyer and seller together – beyond their social networks that they usually use for those kind of things.
If there is no entry matching with the request, Nitafutie notifies the buyer as soon as someone supplies, what he or she is looking for.
After 10 days the buyer can extend their classified ad if they have not sold the item yet.
Do you think voice/SMS search will work?
Yes, this is what will actually work! We have 22 Million mobile subscriptions in Tanzania, whereas only 2,5% of Tanzanians have access to internet. We talked to a lot of people here. Most of the people can’t access the services that already exist online and they don’t even know about them. There is a huge potential in the mobile sector, because this is what most of the people have access to. We intentionally decided to integrate voice, because we found out that many people trust voice more than SMS.
What inspired you to launch Nitafutie?
What inspires us most, is the people that we create this for and the problems they face. We saw that most of the people would inquire their social network when they want to buy or sell something. This takes a lot of time and doesn’t guarantee a good price, both for seller and buyer. Sometimes you also need to travel far to close the deal. We want to make it easy for people to buy and sell stuff: We want them to access a marketplace, where they can easily trade with people in their neighborhood, just by using their phones, without relying on any internet connection.
Who is your competition? How unique are you from it?
We have zoomtanzania and OLX providing classified websites here in Tanzania. OLX even has a smartphone app. Most of their customers are expatriats or middle/upper class people. None of them targets people who don’t have a (regular) internet connection. They don’t have much traffic because they exclude the majority of people here in Tanzania. Nitafutie addresses exactly those people by enabling them to buy and sell by using their phones only.
Where do you expect to be in the next two years?
We will soon provide a website as well, where people can add photos of the items, or have a look on them, once they get an internet connection (e.g. in an internet café near them). We are expecting to have a wide user base, both on- and offline, and also to partner with mobile companies and more advertisers. We don’t only want to provide the platform for people but also to develop more features and services in order to make it easier for people to save money and time, while buying and selling.
What’s your advice to up coming startup founders?
Pursue your entrepreneurial dreams while you are young! Don’t look for excuses. And don’t wait for you to get the money or education. Just do it and make it happen! And never give up when you face a challenge. You can do it, if you stick to it!
Did you know you will Startup Weekend Dar?
No, not at all! Sophie spontaneously decided to pitch her idea on Friday night, and people suddenly voted for it besides some other ideas that had been pitched. The weekend was really tough, and sometimes we were literally struggling, while validating and pivoting again and again and again. While others were already building their product, we were still thinking about how it should be. In the end it was fun to pitch our product in front of the judges and answer their questions. When we knew that we had won, we were really happy. Thanks to Startup Weekend Dar es Salaam and all the organizers, as well as KINU, to have made this possible!
Are you looking forward to winning at the Startup Battle?
Yes, definitely, but we need your help! Please vote for us here: http://globalstartupbattle.agorize.com/en/juries/11/votables/950 Thanks a million!