FMCG companies are usually faced with the problem of data distribution, but then, Optimetriks as a startup has since been offering a solution to it. TechMoran sits with Paul Langlois-Meurinne, the founder and CEO of Optimetriks where he shared insights to the beginning of the startup, how far they have grown, how they have been funded and many more. Enjoy.
OH, Before then, you can watch their cooperate video below.
What birthed the idea of Optimetriks? Were you ever actively involved in FMCG distribution?
I have worked 5 years in the telecoms space in Africa, developing mobile money services in Chad (Tigo Cash) and Uganda (Airtel Money). Distribution, in terms of ensuring your networks of agents is liquid, widespread, visible and well trained, is really the first foundation to build a successful mobile money service, much more than additional product features. That is how I got to appreciate the difficulty of this issue, the fact that the challenge was shared with other FMCG players (companies in beverages, food, beauty products, etc) and the opportunity that existed in responding to this need. The other founders have also experienced this topic, by working as consultants for large institutional or corporate projects in Africa.
Since launch, how big has the startup grown?
We have now fully established our headquarters in Nairobi with a team of 15 people. We are operational in 9 countries. So far, we have conducted more than 250,000 unique shop visits, gathering around 1,5 million data points. We have also done a proprietary comprehensive census of 80,000 shops in Nairobi.
How well have you dealt with competitors so far? Who are they and what is your competitive edge?
I believe there is room for everyone in this space, as the needs are immense ! The traditional players, such as Nielsen, Ipsos, etc are using a traditional top down operating model, which is costly and ineffective. Then, there are other companies trying to tackle the lack of consumer or corporate data in Africa, but addressing the needs differently. We are the only ones focusing on the distribution data thanks to a crowdsourcing set up, through either our Android app or Messenger chatbot. You can likewise make the chance to take a data science course and become a data science master and a guaranteed information researcher.
To explain a bit more, the crowdsourcing means we leverage a community of 1,500 field contributors that use our app or chatbot to get paid to collect data on the ground at the shop levels. It is a unique bottom up approach, that enables us to be much more agile, on demand. Our solution is also end to end, from collection to visualisation on live dashboards.
Tell us about the team behind Optimetriks
On top of sharing an on the ground work experience in Africa, the founding team is quite complementary in skills and profiles, with one statistician and one engineer. Our tech team is made up of 6 Kenyans. We have been very impressed by the quality of the developers we found in Kenya. We have local operations manager in each country we operate to recruit and manage the community of users.
How many companies do you presently have as clients?
We currently have more than 10 unique clients, being large FMCG companies, some multinationals, some locals.
Let us in on the business model of Optimetriks
We are a B2B company. Essentially we get paid by the scope of the data collected or used by the clients. We pay our field contributors in return for each “visit” they do on the ground, through mobile money. We make money by collecting quality data, enriching, cleaning and displaying them on live analytics dashboards. Clients would typically ask for store census, counting quand qualifying the number of shops selling a particular types of goods, calculation of their market shares, or auditing their distribution performance, measuring the stock availability, the merchandising presence, etc..
In 5 years time, how big do you see Optimetriks?
The vision is to build the one stop data portal to Africa, when it comes to measuring any KPI required to run efficiently a distribution business. For a crowdsourcing business, the value lies in the size of the community, so we are aiming at growing it significantly, to dozens of thousands of contributors and a presence in all countries across the continent.
Are you majorly focused on East Africa, or the whole of the continent?
We have been focusing first on East Africa (Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania), as our test markets, but we have gradually expanded to other markets.
How has funding the startup been like? Totally bootstrapped, or investments?
We have bootstrapped, using our own funds and client sales. We have also benefited in May 2016 from a grant from the GSMA Ecosystem Accelerator Innovation Fund, which is by the way an excellent program that I can only recommend to any entrepreneurs in Africa using mobile technologies with a social impact ambition.
What others problems in this sector does Optimetriks hope to solve in the nearest future?
Well the problem is large enough for us to stick to it !
Do share a piece of advice for up and coming startup founders hoping to solve a problem in the society.
Nothing so original, there are so many critical issues to be solved, which can in return be opportunities for brave entrepreneurs. One of the most important things is really to stay close to the market, understanding the potential clients or users of the product you are trying to build, and making it relevant for the local context. There are so many solutions of the “copy and paste” type that totally fail.