A few years back, Boniface Githinj, founder SemaTime was studying computer science at the University of Nairobi. Shortly after his return home for the holidays, he ran into one of his neighbours who started complaining about his child doing what so many other kids around the world with bad grades resort to: hiding their report cards from their parents
That led to the establishment of Sematime, a Nairobi-based SMS service provider. With just a click of a few buttons, schools can send report cards to parents on their mobile phones, allowing them to keep better track of their children’s education. In addition, schools can also use the platform to distribute exam results, fee balances and general communication messages.
Githinji, 26, says the service is designed to make parents become more involved. “If you are not up on how your kid is performing in school, then that kid to some extent probably feels not loved,” he says. “And then as a parent I want to know how my kid is performing so I can take some measures. I can go speak to the teacher and get to know why is he not performing well.”
So far, more than 1,500 schools use Sematime, forming a huge percentage of the startup’s clientele base. The rest is composed of small and medium businesses in Nairobi, which use the service to send information, bills and invoices to large groups through text messages.
Githinji, who started the company in 2011, says the biggest problems initially were raising capital and convincing schools about the service. Nailab, a Nairobi based start up accelerator incubated Sematime by providing the seed fund.”I probably wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for Nailab,” he says. “It’s an organization that tends to start ups, people who want to do something but they don’t have the facilities”
Githinji has had a pretty successful start. His company made about six million Kenyan shillings last year. But even with his financial success so far, he remains grounded.
“In terms of feeling accomplished, I think it is a long, long way to that point,” says Githinji.
“It has not been as easy, the only thing that has been keeping us going on is a passion,” he adds. “You have to have a passion for what you do because you have challenges; sometimes you run out of money, sometimes customers run away from you.
“I think it is just beginning — we have a thousand things we want to do and we can’t wait to get started.”
Watch Sematime CNN feature Video here