The Thebe is of great importance to Botswana, together with the Pula it is the coin of Botswana and is used daily in every transaction. But Thebe also means shield, the shield that protects Batswana and their heritage and is seen in the coat of arms.
TechMoran met with Colin van Mil, the site’s founder and here is what he told us.
What does the site do?
Thebe is an advertising platform for Botswana. We give people the opportunity to start selling and buying their goods and services on-line for free. Thebe.co.bw does exactly what it’s name portrays. It is used for transactions and tries to protect/shield our users while doing so. Like the Thebe there are many denominations so you can sell big but also as small as you wish.
When was it launched?
Thebe.co.bw is still very fresh, we went on-line on Tuesday the 4th of February.
As a founder, tell us more about yourself?
Great, I wasn’t ready for this question. Well I am Colin van Mil, the eldest son of two entrepreneurs in Botswana. I am both Motswana and Dutch and I run a software company in The Netherlands.
What else have you done that is successful?
Looking back at the moments I am most proud of would be having my own software company for 8.5 years now, and in that time I have helped a lot of companies throughout the world both small and multinationals. But how do you measure success, I guess if you love your job, enjoy what you do and can survive doing so it is already a success.
What inspired you to launch it at first?
The idea for Thebe.co.bw was born after seeing hundreds of groups on social media sites where people advertised their goods and services for sale. There was a huge demand and Botswana needed a platform where people could gather to sell and buy their goods in an on-line marketplace. So the real seed was planted not by us but by the people (our users) that needed Thebe.co.bw the most.
What moved you to launch a classifieds site with more global players soon launching in the country?
Why not, somebody has to be the first, so why not Thebe? The demand for these type of platforms is huge across the globe, people love buying & selling goods. Thebe is probably not the first and will probably not be the last, all we are certain of is that we are here to stay!
How is the classifieds market in your country?
Like I stated earlier, the market is very big, but spread out over many platforms. Our main goal is to move the on-line marketplace from the social media sites and printed form to one big platform where people can easily search and find what they need, but also start selling their goods or services in a few minutes.
Do you think you will be successful?
Our success is largely dependent on the success of our users. The users are the platform. Thebe.co.bw aims to provide the best platform for our users, so to answer your question. Yes, I think we, the platform/users will be a success as long as we listen to our platform/users.
How many listings so far?
The site has been live for a week now, but we cannot complain at all. We had 110 active adverts after the first week and hopefully double that by next week. Our user count is growing everyday and after only a week we are already seeing 126 accounts and more than a thousand unique visitors over 7 days.
Do you have any affiliations or partnerships?
At the moment we have a partnership with Customized Software in Botswana, this software company has helped us a lot in the development of Thebe.co.bw and will keep doing this in the future. Apart from that Thebe is a stand-alone platform run by enthusiasts.
How do you make money out of it?
Money is not important to Thebe, but like every company we have bills to pay. We will never ask our users to pay for the normal use of our platform so having an account, posting adverts or browsing is free, and will always be free! We do have sponsored search results and in the near future people will be able to place banner advertising on our website through an advertising partner, but at the moment our focus is having a good working platform first.
Do you have any paying clients here already?
No, Thebe.co.bw is completely free. All we really are is a platform to connect buyers and sellers with each other, we do not take any commission or even take part in the transaction. The sale is done between the advertiser and the interested party without Thebe being involved.
Is there anything new you are going to offer the existing online classifieds?
The existing ways of advertising in Botswana are either through The Botswana Advertiser, a weekly printed classifieds magazine, which is not only expensive to advertise in but not even available in all regions of Botswana.
The other option is posting your ad in social media groups, this is great if you come across an advert you need but if you are looking for something in particular can cost you days to scroll through all the messages in the different groups.
Thebe.co.bw offers you the best of both worlds and more.
Your advert is always free, it is published as soon as you hit the submit button for everybody to see You can edit it and add more images or change the description. You have access to our platform even without an account and are not bound by our borders or specific regions. But most important you can browse a category of choice or by specific regions or even the whole site 24 hours a day wherever you are, and it works on every device be it a smartphone, tablet, laptop or desktop computer.
Where do you expect your business to be in 2 years?
We have no expectations whatsoever, but it would be great to see our platform grow into a mature website and being the first stop for people to buy and sell second hand goods in Botswana. Is there anything cooler than that?
Any plans to expand into the entire continent?
Let’s focus on Botswana first and make sure we have a great working platform. Expanding into the entire continent will take time and we would have to focus on every country one by one. Not every country has the same needs or facilities. For now it’s a dream, but who knows what the future will bring.
How is doing business in your city?
I do business in the largest city in the world, the internet. There are many players but there is room for us all, and anybody can do it. The internet is a great place to do business and nowadays almost everybody in the world can be reached.
One word to wannabe entreprenuers?
One word is tough, just love what you do, don’t do it to get rich overnight and be patient! If it would be easy everybody would do it, making it even harder!
What could you be doing had you not founded Thebe?
If I had’t founded Thebe, I guess I would still be enjoying what I do and thinking of something else I could be setting up. There is still so much space for good ideas!