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Logistics marketplace Bwala.co.ke Launches to Take On Sendy, Lori Systems in Kenya

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Kenya’s Bwala.co.ke, has launched to join the growing list of logistics marketplaces in a move to link up truck owners to cargo and earn them extra revenues and reduce empty trips.

With a growing database of pick-ups, minibuses, trucks, tours and delivery vans, Bwala Africa Group will compete sites such as Senga, Sendy and Lori Systems despite the fact that it has segments for vehicle repairs, service and maintenance.

Bwala has partnered with the National Transport and safety Authority (NTSA) for vehicle verification and Kenya’s Virtual City for a reconciliation software for companies with trucks within the FMCG sector.

Speaking during the launch, Darshan Chandaria, CEO of Chandaria Industries said,” A big part of our customers and customer satisfaction at Chandaria Industries depend on sufficient supply chain systems and fleet management. I spend a significant time strategically at Chandaria Industries thinking about how to get raw materials in faster and in the right quantities and how to get more of our products out to customers and to our retailers’ shelves as quickly as possible. With the launch of innovative platforms like Bwala you don’t have to worry about these.”

Bwala’s key focus areas include vehicle leasing, light and heavy duty cargo haulage, FMCG distribution and fleet management and vehicle repairs and maintenance. The firm will also deal with insurance covers and claims and also has a segment for genuine auto parts dealers. Bwala will work with verified garages to provide its users world-class vehicle repairs, service and maintenance.

Now available in Nairobi, Kenya, Bwala.co.ke has been under pilot for the last one year but will be expanding rapidly to major counties and urban centres in the country this year then launch across East Africa followed by its expansion into Asia.

“We wanted to prove our concept and get customer validation before we go public,”said Kennedy Nyabwala, the firm’s founder and CEO. “Our key focus will be in the African market, though we are also looking at the Asian market starting with India and Philippines because they have a lot of similarities with Africa; such as the growing middle class and the increasing rate of car ownership. These are the markets we want to play in.”

Bwala works simply; a vehicle owner takes a photo of his or her car, van or pick-up truck, signs up for an account then lists them for hire. Bwala verifies vehicle ownership through the National Transport and safety Authority (NTSA) portal then makes it available on its site for hire. A client then browses the site, searches for the type of vehicle they want then they proceed to pay. Bwala holds the money in its escrow payment system to make sure both are satisfied before funds are released.

Users pay a 20 percent to 30 percent commission to either lease or hire their cars, connect with verified mechanics or buy genuine spare parts. Bwala then takes care of vehicle servicing, insurance renewals, and lease contract renewal among others automatically.

Bwala has listed 50 vehicles on its platform which were part of its pilot but it’s targeting the over 1m cars on Kenyan roads daily which need regular maintenance and servicing irrespective of their make and year of manufacture. The self-funded company of six aims to make revenue by simplifying car hire, service and maintenance and repairs. The firm is also working with a local insurance company to give its clients a customized and affordable cover.

Bwala Africa Group is an interesting platform for firms like Chandaria Industries which owns and operates a fleet of over 150 trucks, canters, pickups and delivery vans every day. To manage its operational costs, Chandaria Industries takes logistics very seriously.

“One thing that keeps coming up is excess capacity. With our fleet, we have over 150 trucks going out every day,” said Darshan. “On return trips, these vehicles are supposed to carry back paper waste from different parts of the country but only 30 percent come back loaded. 70 percent of our fleet come back empty and I would think many other firms including SMEs have this same issue. Whether it’s from a B2B perspective or a consumer perspective, I think there is a big opportunity there.”

To Darshan, platforms like Bwala will help SMEs focus their core business rather than tying their cash on fleets of vehicles thus reduced expenditures on assets, insurance, recruitment and training especially to drivers and offloading teams who now act as brand representatives and customer care assistants.

 

Freelancer marketplace Creative Africa launches to bring the best of African creatives in one place

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Creative Africa​, is a new platform launched to gather and feature, every week, best of African creatives in different domains such as Photography, Web Design, User Experience Design, Painting, etc.

Founded by Ahmed EL AZZABI from Morocco, the bootstrapped startup aims to help creatives in Africa be discovered and connect with others in their industry or region. These will help them with questions such as how much to charge their customers? Where to find customers?

“We already have plans to address the two main issues described above, but we wanted to launch this first version to gather feedback from the general public and to see if there is a market fit for our product,” said Azzabi.

The idea started when he founder wanted to take freelance jobs online and got rejected many times, not due to lack of competence, but because hewas charging a lot for an African.​He didn’t like the idea of: “You need to charge less because you’re from Africa”, so he started thinking about a way to show to the world that African have what it takes to charge what they charge.

Competition will be from Freelancer itself, Upwork and several other platforms from across the world.

Hacks To Help Improve Your Networking Skills

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Networking is all about interacting with people to exchange information and develop professional or social contacts. Clearly, it is everything in the business the world. From gaining job opportunities to bringing in business for your company, networking is the key to success. Here are seven tips for networking like a pro.

Have your business cards with you all the time

You do not know who might meet on your itinerary, it is therefore important for you to have your business cards with you all the time. You never know when you’re going to need your business cards.

Brag about your accomplishments

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with bragging about your accomplishments or your company to get people interested. However, do not overdo it so that you won’t appear arrogant.

 Use social media

You should be on all of the major social media platforms, and you should be use them often. Network with everyone in your industry that you can, and post frequently so that you stay on everyone’s minds.

Network with everyone

There is no need to discriminate when you network. So, endeavour to network with everyone and do not forget to be friendly.  This will make everyone remember for good reasons.

Attend Events

You can’t network if you’re stuck in the house or the office. Attend industry and community events so that you can meet people.

Get excited

Be excited about what you’re talking about when you meet someone. This excitement will make people aware that you are passionate about what you do and you are willing to work with others to boost your portfolio.

Make plans

When you hand over your business card, ensure that it results in something concrete. Tell the person to call you on a particular date or you can tell them to expect your call. And ensure you call.

Online ‘garage sale’ Preloved launches to help people auction preloved things

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Developed by Dakarai Mshoperi in Zimbabwe, Preloved, an online garage sale community has launched to to help people buy preloved things at prices starting from as little as a dollar.

The app aims to help users sell things from their homes that they’ve loved, but have not used in weeks, or perhaps, that would be put to better use by somebody else.

Preloved lets people auction those things. People sign in with Facebook, and browse to their city to see what’s on offer. People can also post items for free – forever!

“We are thrilled to partner with Hamish Stockdale of the “Cape Town Buy, Sell, & Swop” Facebook group with over 110,000 members in Cape Town to transition them over to Preloved for our launch, and giving all the members of the group an online garage sale where buying, and selling is simplified to the bare minimum, allowing an easy, and user-friendly shopping experience – all the products posted on Preloved are automatically posted on our Facebook Page,” Mshoperi said.

Preloved is easy to use. Users can go to the website on any device, whether desktop, or mobile and still get the best experience. When browsing to Preloved for the first time, users will see a grid list of countries, and cities. Once they select the one appropriate for them, they immediately see preloved products on sale in their city, and can search for particular things. Bidding on an items is easy, users simply tap on  products, and enter how much they would want to pay, then tap on bid. This immediately makes them the highest bidders on those products.

There are checks to make sure the sellers cannot bid on their products, and other ones that make sure the bids are not less than the current ones. When products are listed, the sellers add a date when the biddings will end, so when users tap on products, they see a countdown timer that ticks until bidding has ended, upon which a message pops up saying, “Going once, going twice, sold!”.

On how we make money, Preloved does not charge sellers to list their preloved products, and we do not take a percentage commission from every sale. We only get US$1 from the top bidders via PayPal, or Bitcoin in order to reveal the full contact details of the seller so that the they can arrange to meet with sellers to pay, and collect. That means the buyers can pay the sellers in any form of payment they both agree upon, outside of Preloved.

Preloved began with the idea that buying, and selling can be made simpler, and safer. With the auction model, you have the chance to get the best possible price for your preloved item by opening it up to the market, and getting the highest bid.

One may ask, “Isn’t that too risky?”, not at all! You also have the control to set the base reserve price, and set the finishing time; giving you piece of mind.

Preloved is simple to use, it’s free of commercial ads, saving you hours of time scrolling through corporate ads, and allowing you to get straight to the products. Posting your items couldn’t be easier with the mobile friendly website, and while you’re at it, give our Facebook page a like to keep up to date with all the latest news, and products; we post every preloved item you post to the Preloved Facebook page, and Facebook groups in your city to give you the widest possible audience. You are not charged for posting and selling.

How to Attract Amazing Talent to Your Startup

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Hiring people for your new venture comes with its fair share of difficulties. Sure, there are some great tools out there that make hiring a less demanding process. But finding the right combination of skills, attitude, and personality traits can still get tough. And those are only the difficulties on the talent side.

On your side, you have a brand new business. A business that’s experiencing growing pains. A business that’s little more than a good idea and a group of people who are determined to make it happen. It takes a special kind of person to work at a startup. And you need to find enough of them to ensure that your startup becomes a serious business.

It all Starts with a Mission

Why did you create your startup? Was there any particular problem you wanted to solve? Did you think you can do things better than the established players on the market? Did you aim to disrupt? You must have had a reason, a spark in you that made you do it. The thing that drove you to start your own business is the mission of your startup. And you want to formulate it so that others can understand it.

Here’s a piece of insight from Infor CEO Charles Phillips. Phillips has a military background. He says that he learned as a Marine how important it is for people to buy into the mission. They need to understand the “why” if you want them to come aboard. So, you need to have that “why” figured out first.

Develop a Business Culture, and Use It in Hiring

A business place culture is more than a combination of standards, policies, and practices. It’s about using standards, policies, and practices to give the business a certain feeling. As the person in charge of the business, you can choose what type of culture you want to build, and what kinds of tools you want to use. If you’re not sure how to develop a culture for your startup, don’t fret. Other businesses have figured it out, and they can give you plenty of ideas.

When you have a well-developed business culture, it will tend to attract people who can identify with it. It will have an opposite effect on the people who can’t. That’s another great thing about developing a business culture. If you use it during hiring, it will help you determine whether the people you’re interviewing are a good fit for your startup or not.

Offer Something Your Competition Doesn’t

Offering equity to new hires is something startups routinely do. The startup gets the talent, and the talent gets a stake in the startup. Equity offers have their pros and cons, both from your point of view and the point of view of the talent. But whether you choose to offer equity or not, you must have a competitive offer if you want to attract high-quality talent.

The thing that sets you apart doesn’t have to be money or a piece of the business. Your business culture can make your offer competitive, as well. You can offer better professional development options or support for personal projects. You can offer the ability to work from home, if possible, or different kinds of bonuses. Whatever makes your offer better than the competition’s will work. As long as it doesn’t hurt your business, that is.

Work with Educational Institutions

Someone can be a great hire without having a day of work experience. You should never underestimate the value of experience, that much is true. But you shouldn’t overlook the fact that in some industries, like in tech and IT, it’s the youth that’s been pushing the boundaries.

Career advisors and other faculty members can be an invaluable source of information about possible new hires. Fresh graduates are a particularly good pool of talent because their skills are current. Plus, if they haven’t worked before, you won’t need to deal with any unwanted workplace habits. You get a brand new employee who’s ready to be formed by your business’ culture.

Staffing plays a very important role in the success of your startup. If you gather the right kind of people under the same roof, there’s nothing you won’t be able to achieve. However, a single person who doesn’t fit can completely disrupt your plans for your business. You need to be careful and only choose the people who fit your business and bring value to it. Those who don’t should get a hard “no.”

Areedi’s new lab for usability testing: All you need to know

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Some days back, we reported that Areedi had launched as a usability lab to enable founders in Nigeria test their products before launch. This is aimed at letting them know if their users (potential ones) would actually enjoy using it, and then make amends where necessary before finally going public.

To discuss further on this, we caught up with the brain behind the lab and had a little chat with her. Uyai Effiong is the Lead consultant at Areedi labs and describes herself as a usability geek. This speaks volume of how much experience she has had with usability testing which makes her the very right person to do this.

Areedi

How important is usability testing?

From my observations, if they are true, Nigerian founders do not pay maximum attention to usability test. Just for the sake of emphasis, we asked Uyai to highlight how important this is to a new product. She began;

“A lot of businesses still follow the old industrial system of building and releasing products, which looks roughly like this: do some research, make some assumptions, build a product, release it to the market and then wait 6 – 12 months to collect and implement feedback. It’s not just Nigerian founders, because people do this everywhere.”

“However, in the current global economy, following this system is expensive and time consuming. Businesses simply don’t have the luxury of building a product from start to finish and putting it into the market without testing and iterating. They might miss the mark of what their customers really need, and spend too much money building the wrong thing.”

“User testing is important because a product team can build and test an MVP with real users. They’ll get real people to give them useful feedback, which can then be incorporated into future iterations of the product. This cycle continues until the product is ready to be launched, and even after launch. Continuous testing and iteration allows the business to build something that the customer actually wants without a long and expensive development cycle.”

The first usability lab in the country?

Well, having NOT heard of any other usability lab in the country before now, Areedi lab seem like the first in Nigeria (I hope I’m right). Uyai says she would be happy to inspire others to invest in making products and services more usable. Whether that involves doing more testing on their own or also having a lab, She thinks our ecosystem would be better for it. I think so too.

Areedi lab is a startup, like every other.

We were very curious to the extent of asking Uyai if she is going to treat the lab like a business (to make profits) or simply to help the Nigerian ecosystem. As any entrepreneur would, she stuck with the former which to me, is the best.

Uyai says they are a business first and foremost. “The usability lab is one of several services that we offer at Areedi. While we will charge for these services, we will have different pricing tiers to allow everyone to take advantage of the lab. Let me give an example. The testing for a few products might just involve a few people trying it out in the comfort of their homes, and sending some feedback to us via a survey. This is a low-cost option. But other teams may like testers to actually come into our lab and go through a moderated user interview that is recorded for the client. This might be more expensive”

Market potentials?

How big is the market you’re planning to serve?

Usability testing is still somewhat in it’s infancy in Nigeria. We believe that the market will grow over the next 5 years, and we are positioning ourselves to take advantage of that. This is a service that will piggyback on the continued growth of the tech industry in Nigeria.

Given your experience in product usability test, tell me one thing you think product creators should focus more on in their products.

The testing and iteration phase is crucial to a successful product that actually meets the needs of its users (as opposed to the needs of just the product team). Getting out of the office and talking to the people who will use the product is the one thing that I would recommend. And when the users talk, it is important to use their feedback to improve the product. In conclusion – build great products, but talk to the people you’re building for. And that is why we are setting up the lab.

So people, instead of giving family and friends you product to test and review, and receive biased opinion in the process, it’ll be better of you took it to Areedi lab as they are building a database of potential testers who are interested in doing usability tests for their products.

Interview: Is ProbityFarms the best thing that happened to Smallholder farmers?

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Isn’t it impressive how much technology is going into Agriculture these days. I think it is. ProbityFarms is one of such platforms that have decided to leverage technology to improve the agricultural sector. And trust me, they have been doing a great job thus far. You’d find out in this chat with Oluwole Ogunlade, a co-founder and CMO at ProbityFarms. Probityfarms provides a free app for farmers to manage farm operations and boost revenue.

Many people have been screaming “go back to farming” lately, but it seems ProbityFarms have pointed that we shouldn’t just go back to the farm, we should also farm right. Talking about how they came up with this realization, co-founder Oluwole opined that;

“Agriculture has always been an important part of Nigeria economy. For instance, it employs 70% of the workforce and contributes 24% to the national GDP. Despite this, most farmers are poor and their harvests are unpredictable. We think there is a big potential to improve agriculture when you harness the power of technology to grow the agric sector. That is why we started Probityfarms.”

Welcome to ProbityFarms

“We started building ProbityFarms with a simple proposition— a free tool for farmers to manage farm operations and boost revenue. As a result, farmers can improve their yields by up to 80%. The app also provides information on best farming practises to improve crop yields, prevent post-harvest losses, connect them with off-takers and manage their business.”

According to Wole, they “are driven by the need to increase youth participation and access to capital for farmers. These helps us to solve the dual problem of youth unemployment and food import deficits through agriculture. Agriculture is going to be an important part of the GDP of African countries. By 2035, revenue from food and agric businesses will hit $1 trillion USD, and because Probityfarms is at the intersection of farm advisory, management and productivity, we are positioned to innovate across the entire agric value chain by developing products within the verticals and partner with other key stakeholders to drive meaningful growth with a sustainable revenue model.”

It is very true that the AgriTech sector in the country holds a lot of promise for the players. Despite this fact, Wole, just like me, does not think we have even scratched the surface Agriculture in Nigeria. He states clearly that there is a big potential for technology to transform agriculture in Nigeria. So, he believes we haven’t even scratched the surface yet.

“There are over 10 areas in Agritech through which we believe we can be a catalyst in helping other entrepreneur build solutions on, we are positioning our solution on providing the enablement to drive all these sectors. We want to be able to aggregate data from different players and layer some intelligence into it to help farmers be more productive.”

“Take for example, Nigeria has an estimated 82 million hectares of arable land, yet one of the biggest challenges to farming is unpredictable revenue because farmers lack best farming practises that farm extension workers (or agronomists) and technology intelligence can offer.

Unfortunately, the ratio of agric extension workers to farmers in Nigeria is 1:10,000 compared to 1:800 global best practises. The only cost effective way for government and private stakeholders to meet this deficit is with technology like Probityfarms, which will allow experienced farm agronomist to connect with farmers.”

Well, at this point, you might be wondering how much impact ProbityFarms have made since its launch. We thought about that too. Full interview below.

 

How many smallholder farmers have you brought onboard ProbityFarms?

We did a pilot launch of Probityfarms in June to 100 farmers before closing access to the application .The feedbacks from the pilot users helped us to improve the product significantly. Some of the features we have added include.. (1) a real-time task management for farm activities (2) simple book-keeping and accounting system to capture sales (3) hyper-local weather forecast to predict rain. Each of these features will improve the productivity of small-holder farmers.

We launched the full suite in December and we are working with our partners to onboard farmers to the platform.

Farmers viability assessment by ProbityFarms

Talking about onboarding, you’d agree that most smallholder farmers are not conversant with the internet, and technology in general. Do you meet them one on one to bypass this limitation?

We understand the importance of technology to the delivery of our product. That is why we chose to serve a segment of the market. For example, in Nigeria alone, there are more than 28 million small-scale farmers but an estimated 8 million live in semi-urban and urban areas with access to smartphones for digital farming.

We aim to serve this market and we are already offering them our biggest feature for FREE. That feature is our crop planting intelligence (it gives farmer a customised report of farm activities of any crop they want to plant). However, we are making arrangements to incorporate certain features in our product to cater for farmers who are not technology savvy or conversant with the internet, we hope to have them ready soon.

Since you want to help farmers run a successful farm, have you considered partnering with other tech start-ups in the Agricultural sector e.g Farmcrowdy & ThriveAgric?

Sure, we love what other startups are doing and we are open to collaboration. We are positioning our solution to drive the entire value chain in agribusiness, this means that we cannot achieve this alone. We are already working with established names in the agric space directly. Some of these include agric cooperatives societies, media houses, off-takers, tech startups, banks as well as several other national and international agric-focused agencies.

In your own view, what is the greatest challenge of the agricultural sector in Africa?

Farming in Africa is unstructured and there is a prominent under-utilization of data. An average farmer in Africa has poor record keeping facilities. There is also a lack of rallying point where farmers can effectively collate and utilize data on activities, costs and expenses from their individual farms.

This has led to a situation where farmers farm blindly, unable to share information and resources amongst themselves, are constantly exploited by farm marketers and cannot access funds and credit facilities. For example, there is no reliable figures on the number of farmers in the country and the amount of produce that will be harvest in a particular time. These are the part of the challenges our solution will solve.

How is ProbityFarms funded? Bootstrapped or you’ve had investments?

At the moment, Probityfarms is 100% bootstrapped. The founders have committed their resources to grow the brand.

Tell us about the team behind ProbityFarms.

Probityfarms is led by 3 cofounders; Olushola Ogunniyi (CEO), Wole Ogunlade (CMO) and Ope Adelaja (COO).

The 3 founders have experiences across strategic partnership, software development and business growth. The CEO and COO are alumni of Zoom Technologies Hyderabad, India since 2009 and have experiences in hardware and software development. Before Probityfarms, 2 of the cofounders have jointly managed a multi-million dollar Citrix application virtualization solution for a global telco leader in Nigeria and have built software for SME accounting.

Shola Ogunniyi (CEO/CTO) has a master’s degree with specialization in Internet Applications and is a doctoral student of Edinburgh Napier University Business School, Florida, USA, while Wole Ogunlade (CMO) has 7 years experience as growth and digital marketer with multiple early stage and series-A startups in Nigeria (including a Techstar-backed, hyper-logistics company and also one of the biggest online payment gateways in Nigeria)

The co-founders also recruited a team of advisors and partners with expertise in crop agronomy, weather and soil intelligence, this includes collaborations with international agencies and local agencies of food control in Nigeria.

In 5 years time, how big do you envisage ProbityFarms?

ProbityFarms is positioning itself to be the biggest data driven agri-tech platform in Nigeria, we hope to have positively impacted the lives of over 2,000,000 farmers, enabling them to benefit from a rich pool of data on farming practices, market prices and better access to funds and credit facilities.

Tell us, in two words, what has kept you going till this point.

Farmers feedback

Farmers sponsor platform Farmcrowdy raises $1 million in seed funding to expand to 20 states in Nigeria

Nigeria’s Farmcrowdy, an online platform allowing Nigerians to venture in and sponsor agriculture has closed $1 million in seed funding to scale its operations with plans to expand into a combined 20 states in Nigeria.

The $1m was raised from Cox Enterprises, Techstars Ventures, Social Capital, Hallett Capital and Right-Side Capital; as well as angel investors Tyler Scriven, Michael Cohn,Josephine Group, FC Agro Allied SPV and Dr. Christof Walter.

The money will also see it work with 4,000 additional small-scale farmers and engage a combined 20,000 new farm followers and farm sponsors on it’s platform to learn about the opportunities in Agriculture and partner with farmers.

According to Onyeka Akumah, Co-Founder and CEO of Farmcrowdy, “Today’s seed announcement is a remarkable milestone for us and Nigeria’s Agritech industry as a whole. It will allow us to build on our earlier traction as we continue to introduce Nigerians to this exciting new category of partnering with farmers for impact and return.”

Launched just over a year ago, Farmcrowdy, was the only African startup from Techstars Atlanta’s 2017 cohort and connects small scale farmers with sponsors, who invest in farm cycles. A farm cycle can be anything from poultry [3-5 months] to cassava [9 months].

The farmers receive on-the-ground advice from  Farmcrowdy’s Technical Field Specialists who also give them training in better agriculture practices and provide them with quality farm input. Prior to harvest, Farmcrowdy works with pre-arranged buyers who assist the farmers sell their yield at harvest and earn a decent margin.

The sponsor then gets their original sponsorship +40% of the profit from the harvest, the farmer receives 40% of the profit and Farmcrowdy receives 20% of the profit. Farm sponsors can get between 6-25% returns after harvest depending on the farm type they sponsor.

Farmcrowdy has to-date recorded close to 1,000 unique farm sponsors from Nigerians in Nigeria, the US and UK. The company has aggregated a combined 4,000 acres of farmland across 8 states in Nigeria and worked with more than 2,000 small scale farmers. The site has raised over 250,000 organic chickens on its poultry farm cycles.

Farmcrowdy recently launched their first mobile app which provides an accessible platform for agriculture enthusiasts to experience, learn, do their farming business with real farmers and appreciate agriculture practice first-hand through regular updates, images and videos from the farms. These allows Farm sponsors and farm followers to digitally track the progress of their sponsored farms from their mobile devices. The app has seen close to 5,000 downloads in the 3 weeks since launch, positioning the startup to take on more farm followers and sponsors both locally in Nigeria and globally.

“Onyeka Akumah and the Farmcrowdy team are changing the global dynamics of farming and agriculture.  Techstars is proud and honored to be a continued part of the Farmcrowdy journey via investment from Techstars Ventures, the venture capital arm of Techstars.  We first met the Farmcrowdy team at Techstars Atlanta in partnership with Cox Enterprises and were immediately impressed by their vision, execution, and the vast scope of their potential impact to the world,” said Cody Simms, Partner, Techstars Ventures.

5 AgriTech companies helping to achieve food security in Nigeria

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One of the Sustainable development goals set for the hear 2030 is “Zero hunger”. Well, before you can achieve zero hunger, you must have had food security to a very large extent. I must say I’m quite happy to see that some tech start-ups in Nigeria are taking up this mantle to help achieve this goal. Meet some of them.

1. Farmcrowdy

Given the lack of interest of most people, especially youths in agriculture because of the thought of picking up crude tools to work, Farmcrowdy has decided to make this very easy. With their platform, you can just sponsor a farm, sit back and relax as they in partnership with farmers, grow crops/livestocks and after selling them out, you get profits on your initial investment. How impressive?

Farmcrowdy is making a huge impact as they are not only creating wealth for citizens, they are also helping to achieve food security. So far, that have cultivated numerous hectares of land in different locations like Akwa ibom, Osun and others while having raised thousand of birds too for consumption. The more Farmcrowdy get to scale, the greater Nigeria’s chances of achieving food security.

2. Thrive Agric

The model of Thrive Agric is very similar to Farmcrowdy.

3. Kitovu

Kitovu is a mobile based inputs/produce supply system that uses soil and geolocation data to match soils to the right soil and crop specific fertilizers and improved seedlings, while connecting farm produce to offtakers. In all Kitovu is doing, very important is that they are helping to increase crop yields while reducing post harvest losses. This is a giant step to achieve food security.

4. Ajaoko

This AgriTech company has a simple, efficient, and a state of the art online food and agro marketing and capacity building platform. They provide opportunity for farmers to sell their products directly to the end users, and to have quick and easy access to inputs, investors, professional agro-based services, tailor-made training and latest research information communicated in a simple language consumable by everyone, even the rural farmers. All these services put together has a major impact on our security in the food aspect.

5. YesHarvest

YesHarvest logo

Nwosu Friday, founder YesHarvest once told us that their mission is to make it easy for people to eat healthy. They are an AgriTech company that delivers fruits and vegetables to consumers upon order. Consumer distribution is definitely part of food security and this is what this company is helping achieve.

In all, this is one more reason to appreciate the rapid rise of tech startups in Nigeria. They are helping us achieve Sustainable Development Goals.

He’s 19, once dropped out of college, now a startup founder – Meet Offers.ng’s Anjola

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I wrote an article few days back about how the Generation Z in Nigeria (Africa, maybe) are not making maximum use of technology, and the internet (as the case may be). Adebayo-Oyetoro Anjola, a 19 year old is one of those challenging the argument (though does not make it any less valid).

Anjola, who was a college dropout – though now back to school – founded Offers.ng, a marketplace for the sales and purchase of goods. The marketplace launched barely a month ago, and has had it’s own fair share of users too.

In the midst of the competition?

While speaking with Anjola, I was concerned that with the likes of Olx and Jiji dominating the Nigerian marketplace, how does he intend to break through and grab his own market share. Well, he was less concerned as he had a game plan already.

“We do believe that though there are many existing classifieds platforms, the market is still big enough for everyone. We don’t see competition, we see opportunities.”

“We plan to take it one step after the other with the first being providing a platform people will want to use and would have more reasons to reuse, and evolving into a household name with features that will stand us out.”

“To put our strategy in perspective, we already took a leap in redefining the space by being the first e-commerce site to implement the WhatsApp Seller option in Nigeria (which we introduced some weeks before Konga), and there are more where that came from.”

Offers.ng

To further prove his point and let you see reasons why you should use Offers.ng as platform, he confirms that “when you use the platform, you will find that it is truly buying and selling made easy, and it only gets better.”

Security on classifieds platforms.

Here was a question for Anjola – What have you put in place to ensure the security of buyers and sellers alike?

He answered that “Before we launched a beta version of the platform in September, we conducted a market survey to determine currently what are the challenges of users who use classifieds in Nigeria. The findings have really shaped the development of our platform as we found that security issues really ranks high on the list.”

“We have worked on and developed proprietary security measures that we hope will flag too good to be true ads and spams, with machine learning to improve its efficiency over time. We spend a lot of time plugging in security lapses and building a platform where users can trade with some measure of trust.”

“In the early part of 2018, we will roll out some additional features that will redefine how people use classifieds site, introducing extra added layers of security.”

Asides this, they have also been in touch with Eddy from SafeTrade to see how they could integrate their API and are also on the lookout for other platforms to ensure user security and prevent fraud. “Watch our space.”

What do you see as the greatest challenge of the sector you have launched in?

Conversion, not only of the crowd already online but of those currently offline. Whilst the potential is certainly really huge, we do believe that even the heavyweights in the sector have not fully tapped the opportunities in the sector. When people say success online is offline, it is particularly true of this sector.

Let us in on the business model of OffersNG

We have adopted a lean start-up model for our business and product development (which is based on an open source script by the way). We are not unmindful of lessons to learn from the failure of some early entrants into the sector and have taken steps to adopt a viable structure for the long term. We are here to stay.

Tell us about the team behind the venture, or is it just you at the helm?

We have a team of three founders, and a few hands we frequently outsource to. It is a growing team, and it continues to grow. I am only the loud-mouthed co-founder(laughs).

Trust is a pretty important factor in your sector. How do you intend gaining this from the public?

We do have a plan and are currently testing these features. We will keep it under wraps, for now, until roll out.

In 5 years, tell us how big you envisage offers.ng?

We are taking it one day at a time, but in five (5) years we should have redefined the space enough to be a force.

What are your personal recipes for success? Tell us just two.

(laughs) I’m very far from being successful.
If looked at critically Offers NG is my first ‘Successful’ endeavor. At 19, I have been a college drop out and only just returned to school. Ask me this question in 5 years.

Areedi lab is making products usability testing seamless and easy

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Products are being launched every now and then, people are also needed to test these products and see if they’re are market fit. While friends and family seem like a good fit for doing this, “people who love you aren’t always objective.”

Areedi is a usability lab that is building a database of potential testers who are interested in doing usability tests for their products. They have identified the need for proper usability test before the launch of any product, and have decided to create a dedicated platform to address this.

According to a medium post announcing the launch of Areedi, Uyai Umoren Effiong says, “I’m pleased to announce that the the Areedi team will be opening a mini usability lab in 2018. We want to be able to take away some of the awkwardness of finding users and asking them to test a product or service. It also helps teams who may not be as experience as we are with testing users.”

According to her, When a business or an individual requests a usability test, they’ll sort through their database to screen, select and schedule users.

“Sometimes teams have certain types of people or personas they want to test with — for example, moms or schoolteachers. We will try to accommodate this, especially as our database grows. The plan is to schedule 5–7 users for each usability test, since about 90% of issues can be identified with this number.

This is a very important announcement that’ll help our ecosystem, especially in the face of products being released on a daily. The Areedi lab would be opened in 2018. Visit their usability lab page to read more about how this works.

Prudential Financial invests $1.5million in the emerging market-focused LeapFrog Talent Accelerator

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Talent development is the single greatest challenge most firms in emerging markets face.
To help solve these problems, LeapFrog Investments has launched the LeapFrog Talent Accelerator (LTA), the private equity industry’s first talent development programme for CEOs, C-suite executives and middle managers in emerging market growth firms.

According to Lata Reddy, Senior Vice President, Diversity, Inclusion & Impact, Prudential Financial, Inc., “The LeapFrog Talent Accelerator transports that ethos to some of the world’s fastest growing emerging markets. Through our support, we are helping to develop a cadre of transformative leaders that are delivering innovative solutions to consumers in Africa and Asia, ultimately creating opportunities for financial security for more people.”

LTA is backed by U.S.-headquartered Prudential Financial Inc with an investment of $1.5 million to provide institutional training and education programmes in emerging markets where there is still low take up of formal degrees.

The LeapFrog Talent Accelerator was developed in response to tackle these unmet needs, and enable sustainable growth through investment in people. In Kenya, for example, only one per cent of the population have been awarded a university degree, compared to an equivalent figure of 32 per cent in the US.

“In seeking to solve the challenge of talent development within our partner companies, we commissioned a study that revealed no in-market programmes existed in the African and Asian markets in which we operate, that could address the concerns being raised by our CEOs,” said Vaughan Lindsay, Executive Director, LeapFrog Labs.

The LTA is designed to help bridge this gap and unlock significant growth for companies, markets and economies in the process. Research from the Boston Consulting Group demonstrates that companies with strong leadership and talent management training increase their revenue more than twice as fast and their profits one and a half times faster than those without access to skills programmes.

LeapFrog developed the LTA’s bespoke curriculum with EY. It sets a new standard for executive and managerial education in emerging markets by providing a tailored programme that mixes formal classroom and technology-based learning, with mentoring, coaching, sponsorship and peer-to-peer learning between participating companies over a 12 month period.

The three target populations who will participate in the LTA are: the CEO, C-suite (CxO) and middle managers. Additionally, the LTA will also offer services aimed at professional skills development; initially around actuarial and underwriting skills.

“We see investment in people as one of the most important elements of building commercially successful and impactful businesses,” said Andy Kuper, CEO, LeapFrog Investments. “Leveraging talent management to build enduring teams capable of a high level of operational efficiency benefits participating individuals, their organisations, and our investors.”

The first class of the LTA will convene 70 individuals from LeapFrog’s partner companies IFMR Capital in India, Magma Fincorp in India, Resolution Insurance in East Africa and UT Life in Ghana.

Ghana’s Ahwenepa is merging fashion with big data, augmented and virtual reality to revolutionize eCommerce

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Ahwenepa co-founders at Alibaba and UNCTAD’s efounders Initiative

Merging fashion with Big data, augmented and virtual reality, Ghana’s Ahwenepa works closely with its vendors and designers co-creating and implementing impact strategies, that transform their operation, business and financing models.

The fashion marketplace which focuses on everything African and made by Africans, from shoes, bag, jewelery, dresses interior decor and more aims to grow, communicate and scale social impacts for both businesses and communities.

The company’s business model continuously evolves with the ultimate goal of sharing accumulated value with its vendors , designers and even buyers for the longest term.

TechMoran met Henry Cobblah,27 Co-founder and CTO at Ahwenepa and this is what he told us.

Tell me about yourselves, the Ahwenepa team that went to the Alibaba and UNCTAD’s efounders Initiative in China, your educational background and your roles at Ahwenepa.
My name is Henry Cobblah,27 Co-founder and CTO at Ahwenepa. I have a bachelor’s degree in Computer Engineering and an M.Phil Health Informatics. My Co-founder’s name is Araba Assafuaba Yelbert who has a BTech Marketing. Ahwenepa was one of the teams selected out of 750 applicants to join the first class of efounders in China organized by Alibaba and UNCTAD

I am very sure most of the readers from the larger African continent are wondering…..what does Ahwenepa mean?
Ahwenepa which comes from the Local Dialect “TWI ” Means ” A quality woven product ”
Ahwenepa is a digital solutions company for African Fashion with a strong sense of data and innovative driven mission to provide the marketplace platform to sell African fashion products from thousands of designers and vendors all across Africa. We provide Digital, financial and cultural inclusion for Africans and our associates.

Ahwenepa is an ecommerce platform for African fashion, as your website explains. Does it only focus on the Ghanaian market, or does it cater for the rest of the African countries as well?
We focus on everything African and made by Africans, from shoes, bag, jewelery, dresses interior decor and more. It just needs to have an African touch and should be made by an African.

Who are your major competitors in this space? What do you do different from them, that is unique to you?
Major Competitors are foreign fashion, individual designer stores.
What makes us unique is
1.Convenient fashion and lifestyle marketplace
Easy buying and selling of African products Stress-free payment and delivery
2.Affordability and accessibility to the international market
Products that fit budgets and easy to export to the international market and diaspora
3.Customization & o2o (Offline to online)
Online customization of products tailored to suit customers and also provide offline 2 online new retail trends for customers
4.Originality
Innovative designs with genuine materials verified by Technology
5.Innovation
Promote Trendy and unique lifestyle fashion designs from African designers
6.Technology
Merging fashion with Big data, augmented and virtual reality
We work closely with our vendors and designers co-creating and implementing impact strategies, that transform their operation, business and financing models. In this process we are using our marketplace, that helps us to identify, grow, communicate and scale social impacts. This generates huge value for both business development and community development. Our company business model continuously evolves with the ultimate goal of sharing accumulated value with our vendors , designers and even buyers for the longest term.

You recently participated in Alibaba and UNCTAD’s efounders Initiative. How would you describe your experience there?
It was amazing and overwhelming. There was a lot of learning just in a short period.
Exposed to bridging the digital divide facing young entrepreneurs in developing countries, the eFounders Initiative helped me to undestand and appreciate digital economy, as called for by the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development .
The eFounders Initiative opened up to Alibaba’s mission to help small businesses succeed in our home markets and beyond by leveraging the power of technology.
Countries with poor infrastructure, regulatory frameworks, skills and local content development, and electronic payment systems, are missing out on what the innovative flare of young entrepreneurs can generate in the fast-growing digital marketplace.
This training was an exposure for me.

What major lessons did you take away from this experience, that can be applied in Africa that Ahwenepa plans to execute? What were you doing before that is going to change after the training?
One big takeaway was BIG DATA – How we capture data, manipulate mine and analyse data
Payment – Strong, cashless , dependable payment platform with big data driven
Rural Digitization using ecommerce – How ecommerce can improve the living of the rural area with the right infrastructure
Ecommerce revolution – Creating an inclusive environment for everyone on trade and in my case clothing and lifestyle.

Who did you meet there that impacted your lives: in what way did they do so?
Amazing people. All 24 founders gave me some reason to be better. My group members “SIMBA MARARA” were awesome with most ideas we shared.

On a lighter note what did you for fun during the training?
A lot.The food,the nightout, the road trips. Everything kind of was awesome.

Where do you think the company will be in the next 5-10 years?
We will be one of the biggest marketplace in the fashion ecommerce, Big Data and AI space.

What do you think about the future of e-commerce in Ghana and Africa at large?
It will bring about an economic improvement, there will be more employment, digital and financial inclusion

What is your advice to those who want to enter the ecommerce space?
It is tough but better done than never. It is creating wealth and impact on the society.
It opens up a country or continent to trade which is one of the most important gateways to economic transformation.

How can one access Ahwenepa services?
Visit www.ahwenepa.com

or visit out social media
facebook
twitter
instagram

or on google playstore

Skin Gourmet, Beauty Revolution & FreshMe declared winners of the 2017 Dark & Lovely x SLA Beauty Accelerator Prize

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Skin Gourmet from Ghana, Beauty Revolution from Nigeria, and FreshMe from South Africa are the winners at the 2017 Dark & Lovely x SLA Beauty Accelerator Demo Day.

The Demo Day was the closing ceremony to the 10 week entrepreneurship development program which is run to support early stage entrepreneurs who are building businesses in the beauty industry.

Over the past 10 weeks, 5 beauty businesses have worked with mentors and advisors such as Nneka Keshi, Digital Director at L’Oreal for Sub-Saharan Africa; Tresor Mpasa-Engwanda, Brand Director of African Beauty Brands at L’Oreal for Sub-Saharan Africa and Afua Osei, CEO and Co-Founder of She Leads Africa.

Hosted at OPEN Sandton in Johannesburg, the 5 entrepreneurs pitched their innovative businesses to a range of industry stakeholders, media and investors for a chance to win cash prizes.

“This program is very important to Dark and Lovely because our brand mission is built around empowering women. We wanted to empower and support young women entrepreneurs across Africa. Dark & Lovely and She Leads Africa were committed to going the distance and delivering hands on work with beauty businesses from across Africa. We are incredibly impressed with the quality and scalability of the businesses we’ve worked with,” explains Nneka Keshi, Digital Director at L’Oreal for Sub-Saharan Africa

The first place winner was Violet Amoabeng of Skin Gourmet from Ghana: Violet is the Founder of Skin Gourmet, a premium skincare range sourced from the wild, so pure you can eat it!

The second place winner was Louisa Kinoshi of Beauty Revolution Studio from Nigeria: Louisa is the Co-Founder of Beauty Revolution Studio, a digital beauty network for African women.

The third place winners were Sherri Rhode, Deveash Jivan and Lendl Rhode of FreshMe from South Africa: They are Co-Founders of FreshMe which takes brands to salons and brings people to brands in the informal salon market.

Afua Osei, Co-Founder of She Leads Africa said, “it’s been an incredible journey watching these entrepreneurs grow over the past ten weeks. Each company has transformed into a business with the potential to grow across Africa. Congratulations to all the entrepreneurs who participated in the program. We look forward to seeing where these businesses will be in a year’s time!”

The other two entrepreneurs who pitched are:

Mathebe Molise of Beauty on TApp: Mathebe is the Founder of Beauty on TApp, a mobile application that is a directory of beauty service and product providers. (South Africa)

Aniouvi Gnassounou of Black Beauty Fair: Aniouvi is the Co-Founder of Black Beauty Fair, a trade show dedicated to the business industry in West Africa. (Cote d’Ivoire)

 

Nigeria’s InstantApartments launches to be an Airbnb for luxury apartment seekers & owners

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Ubi Franklin, CEO InstantApartment

Popular Ubi Franklin has launched an online platform for luxury apartment seekers and property owners in Nigeria.

Dubbed as Instant Apartment, the web-based platform provides short stay, medium and long stay property rental for customers.

According to them, they would provide a wide range of outstanding luxury services which tend to make accommodations one of a kind. The official launch of InstantApartments was held on Tuesday, November 28, 2017 in Lagos, Nigeria.

Ubi Franklin, CEO InstantApartment

The company has announced a whole lot of services which will be rendered to ensure utmost convenience and comfort for customers – a number of the services include; free pickup from the airport, provision of a car and chauffeur for mobility, free Wi-Fi, 24 hours uninterrupted power supply, swimming pool, 24/7 security, cable TV and several more.

Quoting the Chief Executive Officer of Instant Apartment, Ubi Franklin who was speaking on the company’s objectives and goals, he said, “Our platform’s goal is to help customers gratify their various taste and needs with the wide range of luxury apartments which have been made available..

“It’s also an avenue for property owners to advertise their properties to customers across the globe. Apartments on our platforms are carefully selected and the hosts are thoroughly verified to provide the best accommodations and additional services like free meal on first day of arrival, restaurants, events, recreation centres, among others.”

The platform launches to join other start-ups, like ToLet already operating in the real estate sector in Nigeria which has proven to be quite a profitable one.

Kitovu is planning to reach 200,000 smallholder farmers in 12 months – Emeka Nwachinemere, founder

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Very recently, in the African continent, AgriTech start-ups have been placed under the spotlight. This isn’t unconnected to the realization that technology can play a highly central role in improving and achieving food security in our continent.

Emeka Nwachinemere, who founded and heads and AgriTech company, Kitovu was our guest on chat some days back. Kitovu is a mobile based inputs/produce supply system that uses soil and geolocation data to match soils to the right soil and crop specific fertilizers and improved seedlings, while connecting farm produce to offtakers, to increase crop yields while reducing post harvest losses.

Emeka does not think we are just facing an unprecedented increase in AgroTech start-ups in Africa. In fact, he thinks it is something more and the way we are doing business in the continent is evolving.

In his own words, “I wouldnt just categorize it as a surge in the number of Agro-Tech Startups in Africa; I would rather point you to the rise of a new kind of business and business men; the social enterprise and the social entrepreneur. CSR as we know it is dead; it is no longer enough to make tons of money and then try to give back to society.”

“We are in a new era; one where the entire business is built around solving problems that faces society, which is the core foundation of social enterprise. Africa’s agricultural space is attractive to a lot of social entrepreneurs because it has a lot of behemoth like problems facing it; from post harvest losses to sub-optimal yields. Some of these problems can be solved effectively by leveraging emerging technology. That, I believe is the dominant reason why there is a rise in agro-tech startups; but as I mentioned its not limited to agriculture; Africa is witnessing the birth of a new kind of businessmen, and they are entrepreneurs who believe that we can transform Africa by solving problems profitably. I call them Africapitalists.”

Kitovu farmers

Agreeing with the fact that a lot of smallholder farmers, which Kitovu addresses, are not usually tech savvy, Emeka and his team have devised a perfect way to bring these farmers on board. Giving an answer to our enquiry, he said,

“Thats a question I have heard a lot, and it was the same set of questions we kept asking ourselves till we pivoted to a business model that works. The majority of farmers falls into the category smallholder farmers and not only are they not literate; they are often located in distant pocket locations where internet connectivity is a huge problem.

“To bring them on board, we train young people in every location we onboard farmers and they serve as last mile interphase with the farmers, who most times have at least a feature phone they can be reached through. This solves that problem for us.”

Read the rest of the interview below:

Since the launch of Kitovu, how well have you grown? How many farmers have you impacted?

Kitovu was legally incorporated in July 2016, but we didnt begin actual operations in March 2017. In the span of that time, we have carried out pilots of our project in three states of Nigeria; Bauchi, Niger, and Oyo States. We set up a demonstration farm in collaboration with the International Fertilizer Development Center, where we were able to achieve over 200% increase in yields; going from a National yield average of 1.3 tons per hectare for maize, to 4.2 tons per hectare. We were able to reach over 3000 farmers as well.

Tell us in clear terms how you “reduce post-harvest losses and wastages”.

Our platform leverages on soil and geo-location data to not just reduce post harvest losses, but also increase crop yields. First, we are able to match the right soils to the right soil and crop specific fertilizers, improved seedlings and agro-chemicals. This guarantees soil-crop-inputs fit and increases crop yields because not only are the crops receiving the nutrients they need, but we also ensure that only what is best for an area is grown.

Secondly, with the geo-location of farms captured, we are able to create market access for farmers by connecting their produce to offtakers like processors and commodity exporters who partner with us. This way, produce in remote locations have more visibility and less likelihood of getting wasted due to no one knowing such areas exist, and ultimately, market access for farmers translates to reduced post harvest losses.

In your own view, what is the greatest challenge of the African AgroTech sector?

The average age of farmers in Nigeria is 64 years. And they have at least been in the agricultural sector no less than 15 years. Thats 15 years of doing things one way, even if it hasn’t been optimal. As such, it would take a lot of time and sensitization through demonstrations and engagements to get them to make the switch. Time is money.

Unfortunately, the AgroTech Entrepreneur has neither time nor money because patient capital is almost non-existent, and its only a matter of time before he runs out of money. The second challenge is not limited to the agricultural sector but to business generally; the paucity of data necessary for effective decision making.

Tell us about your business model.

We collect, analyze, and aggregate soil and geo-location data, working with micro-entrepreneurs we train. We call them Kitopreneurs. Kitopreneurs interphase with farmers providing extension and advisory, while aggregating farmers produce. We sell inputs like soil and crop specific fertilizers, improved seedlings and agrochemicals to farmers, and commodities to partnering offtakers. We also offer an inputs-produce swap service to farmers who do not have money to buy inputs; they pay us with produce.

How have Kitovu been funded since launch? Bootstrapped, or you have investments?

Kitovu has largely been bootstrapped. However, we were helped along the way by a 10,000 Dollar grant from Total as part of our Total Startupper Awards 2016.

Kitovu award

There are some other start-ups that are leveraging technology to operate in the Agricultural sector. Do you think all of you put together have even scratched the surface of attaining food security in the continent?

I think the situation is very grave because despite having the larger proportion of arable lands in the world, Sub-Saharan Africa contributes the least to global food production. So, considering the huge task ahead, I think we have not done anything meaningful at the moment, and we must keep working because the goal to transform Africa into the hub that feeds the world isnt one that is achievable by one man, nevertheless it is achievable, and we would achieve in this generation.

Share with us your long and short term goals as a startup.

In the short term, which for us is the next 12 months, we plan to reach about 200,000 smallholder farmers in six states of Nigeria as well as train and empower 250 Kitopreneurs. By 2028, our vision is to be the name brand in Sub-Saharan Africa for inputs and produce such that, if you require high quality inputs or produce, you would have to Kitovu it!

Tell us about your team, or is it just you at the helm?

The Kitovu Team comprises of young people who are passionate about transforming African agriculture into the hub that feeds the hub by leveraging emerging technology with skills that span extension, web and mobile development, business development, financial intelligence, and strategy. They Include Nwachinemere Emeka, Chief Innovation Officer, Adegbola Adedotun, the Head of Operations, Akam Divine-Love, the CFO, Nduka Miracle, the Head Business Development, and William Udousoro, the CTO. They are the best team in the world.

In two words, what has kept you going since the very beginning?

Purpose and Passion!

We have achieved our goal of expansion and profitability – Alao Tope, founder Offkrent

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The travails and high ended stress that most Nigerian students pass through when trying to get a hostel to rent is unspeakable. Most times, they have to walk from hostel to hostel, and from street to street in search of a habitable and affordable place. What do you think of an online platform that allows them to rent a hostel right from the comfort of their smartphones? Cool, right? See – Offkrent

TechMoran held a chat with Alao Tope, founder of Offkrent, a platform which allows students to rent hostels online. The platform has really helped students ease off the stress involved and recently, Alao announced that they processed close to one million naira worth of hostel booking just last month.

In our chat with him, he talks about how bootstrapping the business has been like, their goals as a startup, how well they are growing, competitors and many more. Do enjoy.

Offkrent, hostel booking platform

You processed close to one million naira worth of hostel booking last month at OffKrent. Tell us the effect this has had on the startup, and the team.

Boostrapping the business up to this point has been both interesting and challenging. Processing that amount in a month have made us realized how big the industry we are is. Before, it was just numbers on pitch deck.

Going back to the beginning of your startup, what initiated the launch? Did you experience problems with getting hostels as a student?

It all started when I was in the University with my roommate, who is now my Co-founder. Back then, we were trying to get a new hostel as we were no longer able to pay for the hostel we were living. So we set out with the goal of getting a less expensive hostel. But then, we were faced with several challenges. One of which was the fact that most of the hostels around don’t have any sign to show if they are vacant or not.

Another one was the issue of paying consultancy fee before some agents can take us to view their hostels, which we don’t know if we will be satisfied with any of the hostels. That was a no brainer for us as paying consultancy fee will mean spending part of our rent. Fortunately for us we found someone who later agree to take us to view his hostel for free. On getting there, it was a disaster, the place was farther than we thought, rough and for the worst part, there were existing occupants who were smoking and blasting music, that was one thing we can’t live with as we were introverts. At that point, we gave up on searching for a new hostel and decided to pay the rent for our existing hostel.

The question then came to me that what if we have a place that student can know the details of any hostel before they visit the hostel manager? This I believe will eliminate consultancy fee and let students make informed decision. After some months, I decided to set up a wordpress website, that has no booking engine, to list hostels around the University campus. Back then, I was only doing it for the fun of it. So I didn’t generate any revenue for the first year but I had some hostel managers (agents) who gave me some cash, it was more or less like a charity donation. But with time, we have added many features that allow us receive payment and track bookings.

How many institutions have you covered so far?

Currently, we have operation around 4 campuses. Our goal for this year was to get the business to profitability, and also learn how to expand to new campuses, both of which we are able to achieve. Our plan for 2018 is to expand operations to 24 more schools while keeping our overhead as low as possible and also getting to cash flow positive.

Share with us how you’ve been able to convince hostel agents to list properties on your platform.

It’s been difficult to convince hostel agents and owners to list their hostel on our website as most people are still skeptical about the online world, even those that are technology oriented. But one thing I believe is that no matter what you sell, you will always have some customers who are willing to give you a try. Your job is to show up to this set of people.

Offkrent

Let us in on your business model as a startup.

Our business model is similar to what most online marketplaces use. We get a certain commission, from the hostel manager, on every successful hostel booking a student make that comes from our website.

How has Offkrent been funded till this point? Have you had investments, or it has always been bootstrapped?

We are at this stage 100% bootstrapped using the little stipend we have. I was lucky to get some scholarships and event sponsorship, some of which I sold, while I was in school. That money constitute a large percentage of offkrent’s funding. But we are currently speaking with some investors who have shown interest in joining our seed round and are open to any investor who have interest in our space.

Competitions are inevitable in most business spaces. Tell us how you’ve been able to deal.

We have a lot of competitors and it has been fun learning from them. But our major objective is to provide the best service for our customers. My personal goal is to be part of a company that people feel grateful for using its service.

I’m sure one of the problems you face would be getting students to trust your platform. How have you been able to walk around this?

I think getting people to trust an online platform in Nigeria at this stage is difficult. This is because the market is not yet oriented towards technology. This is now changing though as certain tech companies, including offkrent.com, are doing the job bit by bit. For now, we process most of our transactions offline.

If you had to do one thing differently since you started, what would it be?

I don’t think we would have done anything differently. The way we’ve built the business is one that have helped us build a great product that people want to use.

In 5 years time, tell us how big you envisage Offkrent.

In 5 years time, we want to be the one championing the student hostel booking space in Africa. We want offkrent to be synonymous to hostel booking the way Amazon is for online retail. That is a goal that excites us as a team.

In two words, what has kept you going from the very beginning up till this point?

People and prayer

Moringa School Partners with MEST to Expand Across Africa

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This article has been updated to reflect the true status of Moringa School. It’s not struggling financially and it’s co-founder left the company willingly. 


Moringa is set to offer its training courses to startups in Accra, Lagos and Cape Town after it signed a partnership deal with pan-African startup incubator MEST which recently launched in these markets.

These deal will see Moringa offer its 20-week courses at MEST Incubators in Cape Town, Lagos and Accra. As a test drive, Moringa ran Moringa Prep (fundamentals of programming) course at the MEST Accra campus in September 2017.

“We are excited to launch across Africa with an incredible partner like MEST,” says Audrey Cheng, Co-Founder and CEO of Moringa School. “With this partnership, we will be able to train more world-class developers and continue to transform economies across the continent.”

Moringa, which started operations in April 2014 in Nairobi is an offline, trainer-to-student training firm offering courses to Africans in person allowing them to participate in the global code economy. Though offline, Moringa can be compared to Coursera, CodeacademyUdemy among others. Its biggest competitor in Africa is Andela, the poster-child of African software training and employment with Mark and Chan Zuckerbeg among its investors.

Recently, Moringa launched similar training programmes in Hong Kong, Ghana and Pakistan. The MEST partnership gives it the much needed bridge to become a truly pan-African training platform, able to reach to millions of students across the continent in a few years.

“There is huge demand for an in-person, blended learning course (which brings both the accountability and community of a classroom and our strong outcomes program that connects students to jobs – and also the high-quality content that you can find on MOOCs),” Cheng told TechMoran. “The World Bank did not give us any grants for Hong Kong and Ghana. Those were all revenues coming directly from students. Pakistan is being funded by both the World Bank and Pakistani government because they want to bring our successful model to Pakistan,” she added.

In return, MEST will receive access to the Moringa alumni network and community to recruit for its Accra-based Entrepreneurial Training Program. Every year, MEST selects 60 aspiring entrepreneurs from Kenya, Ghana, Nigeria, South Africa and Ivory Coast to apply to join the program, and this partnership will help maintain a strong recruitment pipeline of highly skilled and motivated individuals interested in building globally successful software companies.

Moringa School programs are divided into two courses: Moringa Prep, a five-week intensive program that introduces students to the fundamentals of programming including Javascript for web. Students then progress to Moringa Core, a fifteen-week program  where they dive deeper into programming languages and select a focus in Android or full-stack development.

“We are excited to work with them as they continue with a Pan-African expansion,” says Aaron Fu, MEST Africa’s Managing Director. “Our mission is to to unlock resources within the African tech space through a Pan-African network, and working with Moringa to develop tech talent in various parts of the continent is right in the middle of that.”

How Kenya’s StartUpNow is helping identify, grow and manage unbeatable startups

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Wilkings Fadhili is the founder and CEO of StartUpNow, formerly Fashion Torch Incubation Hub. This is an accelerator that offers startups a unique way to develop, grow and manage unbeatable brands, in a rapidly growing industry in Kenya and across Africa. In this interview he tells us more about himself and his company.

Tell me about yourself, who Wilkings is and what drives him, his educational
background?

Wilkings is this 25 year old entrepreneur passionate about people, disruptive entrepreneurial ideas and all kinds of brands. He holds a first class bachelors degree in Public Relations and Mass communication from Daystar University. His passion is in designing, developing ,growing and managing unbeatable brands

StartUpNow Founder, Wilkings Fadhili

You recently launched your company, Startup Now. Tell us more about the company.
Let’s say StartUpNow has been in existence for 4 years, StartUpNow is a rebrand of Fashion Torch Incubation Hub, a platform that used to design creative businesses into sustainable fully fledged companies. We started attracting entrepreneurs from different sectors and thought we were being biased, so we decided to rebrand to StartUpNow by WILKINGS to work with all kinds of ideas and build all kinds of brands.

What does Startup Now do?
StartUpNow is an Idea Development and Brand Scale up up/acceleration company.
We work with 3 groups,
People who have ideas and want to develop them into brands we put them into a 10 month idea incubation phase in building those ideas into brands, we also work with Startups that want to grow and scale up and finally we work with fast growing brands that also want to scale up and grow “unbeatably” e.g Tusker, Cold Stone, Posh Palace, Huddah Cosmetics.
Our mantra is designing, building, growing and managing unbeatable brands.

What was your motivation for starting the company?
To change the game, to develop ideas into companies in a different way and to help brands scale up and grow in a very different way.

You often describe Startup Now as an Idea Development/Brands and Startup Acceleration company. Over the past few years there have been other names in the industry, doing more or less the same thing. How would you differentiate Startup Now from the others?
We work so differently
1. When it comes to developing ideas into companies we don’t work with these entrepreneurs in groups, we work with them in a a more personal engagement.
2. We develop ideas and scale up brands using our self designed psychological methodologies. This helps our client’s.brands to grow and remain relevant in the ever changing world.
3. We grow ideas and brands in a way they don’t have to think about getting investors, they become self sustainable .

Does your accelerator program have a package for early stage startups who may not have the required funds to secure space at your premises?
Yes we do, we operate more like a company than an accelerator, we think there are many accelerators around and incubators and the impact these incubators need to make aren’t yet felt, that’s why we work with early stage startups in a more personal way, this enables both parties to come up with engagement structures that is favorable and impacting.

What has been the toughest challenge for Startup Now since its inception?
Our challenge was getting brand designers and strategists. It’s hard to get these people in Kenya, but our team has been learning on the job and they’re the baddest.

What has been the toughest challenge for you as an entrepreneur?
Most times its been someone believing that such a company with young guys can develop their ideas into a company or someone trusting us in growing and managing their brand. But thank God we are building an awesome international portfolio .

Is there any point during your entrepreneurship journey that you would term as easy
or a walkover?

Nope there isn’t! Honestly entrepreneurship is not easy, it needs a thick skin, every challenge I’ve gone through has been a learning experience.

Last year you were part of the Blaze tour as a speaker around Kenya, how would you
describe your experience on it? What was good, what was tough
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Being part of Blaze was amazing, I still am but on hands-on mentorship to the entrepreneurs and contestants under Blaze. Its such an amazing thing sharing your story out there in a bid to inspire someone, at the same time its tough, because you have to really understand every youth from different countries and speak their language.
The most amazing thing was last year I got a Ksh. 16.5 M Grant through Blaze , someone listened to my talk and contacted me there after, I’ll never forget. When you are given a platform to share more about your company or yourself, do it with passion you never know whose in the audience or who Will watch that video thereafter.

StartUpNow co-working space

Where do you think your company will be in the next 5-10 years?
To have branches around different countries in Africa. We just want to be the best in what we are doing.

What would your advice to young entrepreneurs be regarding their startups?
Build something that people want and be passionate about it.

What do you think about the future of entrepreneurship and startups in Kenya?
I think the Kenyan entrepreneurship ecosystem is changing and growing faster. We have a bright future, all we need to do is stop copying each other’s companies and embrace innovation.

How can one be part of Startup Now?
We can be reached on [email protected]
Our handles are startupnow by Wilkings in all our platforms

Video games will be fully tailored to tell African stories, says 22 year-old Mekan Games founder

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Mekan Games CEO, Evans Kiragu

“Video games will be fully tailored to tell Kenyan stories,” says 22 year old Mekan Games founder, Evans Kiragu.

Kiragu says gaming is getting so popular in Africa and Kenya is one of the key growth markets. TechMoran caught up with Evans Kiragu, the 22-year-old co-founder and CEO of Mekan Games, a game development company based in Nairobi, Kenya to tell us about the future of gaming in Kenya.

Mekan Games is undoubtedly one of the most vocal video game development companies in Kenya and East Africa at large, being able to cause ripples and set the pace in a largely unexplored field in Kenyan tech sector.
See below what Kiragu told us.

Who is Evans and what drives him?
Well simply put, Evans Kiragu is a 22year old campus student. I love making friends, I
believe I’m funny (maybe), and socially, I’d say I’m an extrovert. However, I also have
an eye for entrepreneurship and I mainly focus on Technology. My drive is to solve the
problems of society though interactive media.
Throughout my educational background, I have always found myself focusing on Tech,
however my official certifications include the degree I am perusing now in Computer
Technology, and certification in Web development, mobile applications development and
USSD that I got earlier before joining campus.

Briefly tell us about the team players under your leadership at Mekan Games. 
The Mekan Games team consists of 4 individuals, who are passionate about tech and the
emerging gaming industry in Kenya and Africa at large. We handle different roles and
tasks, summed up, they are:
– Evans Kiragu: Founder and CEO, lead programmer
– Carren Mwikali: Animator and CFO
– Darin Munene: Lead Design.
– Pauline Waigumo: Design.

What does Mekan Games do? Which titles have you worked on in the past? How did they
perform? 

Mekan Games generally develops interactive media for the local gamers market. Our focus
as of now is mobile video games. So far, we have been able to release four video games
under Mekan Games. Namely:
1. World Down Under
2. Wings Of Fury
3. Craving Carrots
4. KnockOut 2017

Mekan Games logo

Our best performing video games so far is Wings of Fury, which received over 25,000
downloads from all over the world, shinning a spotlight on the team. Currently we are in the
process of pushing out Knockout 201, which is our latest title, released about 3 months ago.
Focusing on politics and the elections, the video game is doing well in the market, at just a little
over 2500 downloads.

Video games is a largely unexplored field in Kenya’s tech scene, what was your motivation
for starting the company?

Weirdly, the fact that the industry is unexplored was motivation enough. I had been in the
tech space long enough to see the blow up of other interactive media industries. And so I
had a feeling when starting out that it will happen in the gaming industry too. It is already
happening all around the world, even in Hollywood where gaming is bringing in more
money, compared to movies and music combines. With a global figure of $111 Billion,
the gaming industry captured my attention. And believe me when I say that the local
industry is showing some great potential.

How would you describe the Kenyan market for video games?
I would say the market is very selective. Kenyans are very hard people to please because they are very choosy. A video game seizes to be just entertainment when it comes to Kenya. It
transforms to a tool that can tell Kenyan stories best. And so the local market tends to buy
into games that suit their narrative. Not just any form of entertainment.

Who are your major competitors in this space?
Multiple studios are emerging in Kenya. Examples include Black division games and
Mesmerize games.

What do you do to stand out from your competitors? 
We make games that Kenyans would want to play. It does seem cliché, but trust me,
making a game for the people is not easy. We constantly keep the player in mind before,
during and after development. To us, it is not about making a video game that we would
want to play or deem cool. It is about making a game for the citizens. Other than that, we
make sure that we are consistent in our releases, making sure to release at least one game
a year, could be more, but at least one video game regardless of the odds.

What has been the toughest challenge for Mekan Games since its inception? 
Marketing. For quite some time, the team had amateurs when it came to the business
world. I mean, a group of students who had the skills to develop video games, but zero
skills when it came to the art of selling this form of art to an already tough crowd
(Kenyans). But thorough time and more market research, we have learnt how to get to
our target market not only more quick, but also more effectively given our limited start
up resources.

What has been the toughest challenge for you as an entrepreneur? 
Choosing a team and constantly sticking to your vision as team head, amidst numerous
suggestions and criticism. Well choosing a team is as hard as it gets. I mean, these are
people who are ideally supposed to give their all and not get paid for the effort. They are
supposed to ride on the hope of getting company equity one day one time. it is a tough
one. Adding to that is the constant pressure to take into account all advice from random
people and think them through. As an entrepreneur, it does get to a point where you feel
if you consider all you are being told, you will essentially have a different company. And
so it brings about the hard choices you have to make as to if something is important or
not.

Is there any point during your entrepreneurship journey that you would term as easy or a
walkover?

(Took about 10 min to think about it). No. I don’t think there is. For every step we make
forward, we always have to put in some considerable amount of effort. Either that, or so
much has gone on that I cannot remember the easy times.

Earlier this year you released a title, Knock-out 2017, how was its reception into the
market? Would you care to comment about the irony of a message of peace conveyed in a
fight-like manner?

The reception was great! Never have we made a game that has gotten such a rise in user
update within a short amount of time. That combined with the numerous suggestions
from the market to make is an annual sequel shows it was well received.
We wanted to create a form of media that would show the reality of Kenyan politics.
What do I mean? Well art is but a window to the truth or a perception to one’s opinion of
the truth. With that in mind, we felt that Kenyan politics was all twisted. Kenyan youth
were being used as puppets by the politicians to commit acts of injustice and cause
lawlessness. We felt this was wrong. And so we made a street fighting video game,
having local politicians as the characters. Our aim was to communicate to the youth that,
the same way you control the politicians in the game, is the exact same way that you
should control them in real life. Push them to make positive changes to the society. All in
all, out message is that we are not the puppets, we are the puppeteers.

Mekan Games logo

In your interview at KTN’s Morning Express show, you and your former colleague Mr.
Abdi, expressed skepticism about the role school plays in entrepreneurship, would you
elaborate further on this subject?

Well I believe this can only be explained on a personal level. According to my view,
school is very important to any entrepreneur. Why? Because as an entrepreneur, chances
are your venture will be helping to solve people’s problems. And so, you need to be around these people and interact with them. Basically you need to be on the ground. And
what better place to do this than in school. In addition, school teaches you how things are
already being done, triggering in your mind and alternative of how else they could be
done. And lastly, you need to be around non-entrepreneurs for you to realize that you are
different, and hence cause you to venture out to find out more about yourself.

Where do you think your company will be in the next 5-10 years? 
An African leader when it comes to interactive media. Not only in video games, but also
in related industries such as Augmented reality, Virtual Reality and gamification.

How is your experience at Chandaria Business Incubator at KU? Is there a similar one at
your campus, why did you choose to outsource instead?

Chandaria has given us as a team the space to grow, criticize and feed our ideas. One of
the most important things I as team head am grateful of, is that Chandaria has taught us
how to make our area of interest, a business. Which is very important.
Well yes, JKUAT does have a similar program. However, due to several factors such as
proximity to the CBD, terms of agreement and resource availability made us opt for
Chandaria.

What do you think about the future of the video game sector in Kenya?
I see a future where video games will be fully tailored to tell the stories of Kenya. I see a
future where we will have a big title maybe based on colonization, post-election violence
and other events that unite us as Kenyans.
The video game industry in Kenya is currently valued at a little over $31m. I see a future
where we unlock this potential.

How can one access your video games?
You can access our games though the following links to the google play store:
Wings of Fury
Craving Carrots
Knockout 2017