Dated 10th November, 2017, the 3rd Fortnyt series as always, hosted by TechBuzz Hub – a social enterprise envisioning a successful startup community through capacity building and supporting start-ups. The session was moderated by the CEO and Team Lead Mr. Twesigye Keneth at Najim mall Ntinda. These Fortnyt Series are Q&A discussions that aim to encourage, motivate, educate, and more importantly extend experiential learning from the successful to the fresh and young startups or innovators. The Fortnyt Series are hosted every after Fourteen(14) days thus the name (Fortnyt Series) with themes carrying on startup development processes with switching experts panelists.
This particular series was organized under the theme PRODUCT/SERVICE DEVELOPMENT (How can you develop a product or service as a startup) with emphasis put on Problem analysis, Business Model analysis, Market analysis and Startup Structure analysis. It was paneled by young individuals that are creating an impact in the start-up ecosystem.
The panelists were;
Mr. Otim Gerald Co-founder and COO of Ensibuuko a Ugandan Based Fintech cloud based management information system for Micro Finances and Savings Cooperatives (SACCOS) now operating in four different countries, Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia, Uganda and soon extending services to Nigeria.
Mr. Kaizzi Joseph CEO Thin void, a company with three product lines (Powering MSMEs, Vehicle Security and Micro credit in the Transport Sector). Tambula app as the focus for day empowers MSME (Boda-boda Riders) by providing security solutions.
Mr. Etiang Emmanuel CEO Kalabash Studios Africa, creative hub with eight(8) products. However, Uganda Tourism Directory is the umbrella product. The Kalabash is currently operating in three different countries; Rwanda, Uganda and Tanzania.
Mr. Ricky Rapa Thomson. Co-founder and Director Safeboda. SafeBoda is a startup providing safe and efficient boda-boda rides for those in need of quick travel across the city. Riders are fully equipped with road safety gear.
- What problem did you initially intend to solve and what problem did you eventually solve?
“We wanted to solve the problem of financial inclusion”. Based on personal experience with rural micro finance institutions characterized by corruption, theft, irregularities, name it! I realized that there was a huge gap between the banked (urban based people) and unbanked (rural based people) that’s when I knew I had to do something to improve financial services in rural areas, he said.
Otim added “We started a number of startups among which include starting up a micro finance which collapsed all in the hopes of solving the problem of financial inclusion”. Otim later took interest in SACCOS, together with his team created a software to help in financial management of SACCOS currently known as Ensibuuko. “We took interest in SACCOS after doing a study and found issues of operating manually, people were defrauding these organizations. We therefore decided to digitalize these solutions and make financial management better” Otim said.
Mr. Kaizzi (Software Engineer by training)
In a sentence, “We wanted to use technology to save the world, I wasn’t sure from what!” Said Joseph. Joseph first started the social blog media along with a friend in senior six vacation which failed miserably and later two other innovations followed. He said the major cause of the failure of their innovations was product financing, not having good market feed and growth hardships.
After the failure the many innovations, went back on the drawing board to figure out a new way to save the world, “we wanted to create an impact andso decided to put our focus on boda-bodas but we were not sure how we were going to make money from the boda-boda industry” Said Joseph. They realized there was a bigger problem which was affecting the boda-boda industry and that was theft that’s when Tambuula app was thought about to be the next big thing.
Tambuula was launched in early 2014 and aimed at safeguarding bikes through monitoring of trackers put into bikes. “We would get phone calls about bike theft in weird hours of the night and since we were young and passionate about our innovation we would jump on boda-bodas and track these bike thieves without fear” Joseph said. “There was an incident during the pursuit of a stolen boda-boda we found our tracker had been removed and thrown by the side of the road” he noted.
Mr. Etiang (Psychologist)
”When starting Uganda tourism directory we thought of three(3) things that define a country; it’s people, culture and something that keeps inspiring them to move on”. They aim at promoting tourism and inspire people to tour as they see the beauty that Uganda has to offer as by their motto ‘INSPIRE AFRICA’. “Uganda tourism directory is a magazine, a guide that markets the country, a directory that gives people direction, no need to hire a guide you can use your own guide” Emmanuel said.
Mr.Ricky: “We wanted to transform the boda-boda industry from informal to formal” said Ricky. He was a boda-boda cyclist and for him” it was like a dream come true” he says, “There was a day a friend of mine got into a boda-boda accident that’s when I realized there was need for something to be done”. According to him it was more about Road Safety “No one paid attention to the boda-boda riders or users”. He realized the industry had insecurities no one wants to trust any random boda-boda and people tend to think that accidents are normal that’s when they came in to say that it’s not normal.
However it was not a piece of cake for the safe boda team “ we had ups and downs till we got to where we are today, we built four apps that were never successful” said Ricky. He at the same time advised individuals seeking to innovate, to be determined, focused and approach the industry in a way that they can eventually benefit something for themselves.
- Who was the exact customers you were looking for initially?
Joseph: “As Tambula, we were looking at the end user” Joseph said
Ricky: According to Ricky “An average Ugandan, someone who had a job, someone who wanted to move around Kampala at their convenience, those were our target customers”
Etiang “Given Uganda at 40 Million people at the date, on average we were looking at 20 million Ugandans”, Said Emmanuel. This was said based on the acronym Very best, Uganda for all as the Uganda tourism Directory reads.
Otim: “SACCOS were our target customers with over 6000 SACCOS with 18million individuals in Uganda.” Otim uttered out.
- Did you at any point look at your competitors?
Otim: “It’s a business decision you have to make, competitors are a part of the ecosystem so it’s important to watch your competitors. It helps you learn what you can avoid and what you can do better” said Otim.
Otim added that SACCOS that don’t use the software are the most difficult market and says that’s the competition to worry about.
Etiang: “Competition is there and a lot of it, there are many media houses, firms and magazines but we brought in an ingredient that others don’t have” Etiang said.
Ricky: “It’s a healthy practice to have people with whom you’re doing the same business” Ricky said. He added “The reason why some businesses fail is because they sit ‘boss’ relax and yet it’s important you sit close to your competitor, know their next move and be better”. Giving an example of Tambula which was once Safeboda’s biggest competitor, it had the same business model, offered the same services but after studying them, it made them realize that if they were to survive they needed to do the services better.
Ricky advised the audience” Never be too comfortable don’t think you own your idea there are other people who will come and make it better”.
Kaizzi: “Competition is good”, personally, I have never worried about competition and because we were the pioneers, competition seemed not direct“. He added “what’s important is how you protect your competitive edge, competition keeps you thinking and it’s good for the customers”.
BUSINESS MODEL ANALYSIS
- How did you determine how much the customer is willing to pay?
Mr. Etiang: According to Emmanuel, “When starting out you need to ask yourself who your customers are? Where are you getting the revenue? How to get the best deal? He added “by providing the customers what they need and pricing ourselves as the most expensive on the market and giving them quality work helped us however it was a challenge in the beginning as we didn’t have enough money to print the first issue”.
The Uganda tourism directory as a way of promoting tourism also advertises areas for accommodation, hotel and restaurants means of transportation so that people looking to tour Uganda can have easy access to such places and don’t have to stress about where to sleep or eat when they are on their touring escapade. “We therefore decided to charge figure that sounded high at the time (& million) for advertisement and made the magazine free so that the advertisers can benefit”. Indeed was a great model of determining price.
Mr. Otim: According to Otim their competitors were selling software packages so they therefore opted to adopt a new business model which was offering Software as a Service (SaaS) as a model, charge a service fee based on the number of subscription. “We started off by charging 50,000 Uganda Shillings (Ugx) per month per account but later realized reaching break-even would be difficult so we switched to 1000 (ugx) per person per month”.
- When did you realize you needed funding?
Mr. Otim: “We needed money from the beginning, spent a lot of time pitching and designing power point presentations however it was difficult sourcing for money since we didn’t have anything to show besides PowerPoint slides we therefore needed money to hire people with information communication technology background to put our ideas into a product “said Otim.
Mr. Ricky: According to Ricky “We realized we needed money when our first business model failed”, The first model failed because the engineer hired to design the app lost a very crucial lost the password and without it they could not go forward. They then started requesting for money from friends, from grant funding to hire another engineer since they had no technology background.
START-UP STRUCTURE ANALYSIS
- What or who did you need to start this business
Mr. Etiang: “I had a dream to solve a problem and believed in that dream however to achieve that dream I needed human resource people with the same dream” Said Emmanuel.
Mr. Ricky: Ricky says he needed someone ready to solve a problem. “You don’t need people of the same skill set, provided you get someone who believes in your dream” he added.
Mr. Otim: I needed a co-founder and appreciates Outbox which is an Innovation Hub for helping him out, he says,”Out box helped me out a lot it provided me with a community of people who helped we out”.
- What platforms do you recommend?
Mr. Ricky: Ricky said “you need a community, mentorship from people who already have the experience, network.” He adds it’s hard to find people if not on such platforms referring to the panel and encourages people to attend and participate in such events or forums as well as package themselves in a professional manner. “The way you present yourself matters” Said Ricky.
Mr. Otim: “ Our success was attributed as being part of a hub” he recommends start-ups to be a part of hubs as well as get involved in such platforms like Fortnyt series, meetups, conferences and so on as they provide you with people of different skill set , networking opportunities, exposure etc.
Mr. Etiang & Kaizzi, Not any different from the said platforms maybe finding out more as subjects of startups.
NOTE: Due to time constraints, Question number 8 was meant to be a take home assignment that stated as below;
- At what level should the aspiring startups believe a business plan played a role in your startups?
- What did you do to rapidly scale up production?
Mr. Etiang: “Created a unique brand, the demand shocked us in that people asked for books and we didn’t have enough copies to give out” Emmanuel said.
Mr. Otim: “Looked for money, raised money and scaled up” said Otim.
Mr. Ricky: Raising grants, borrowed money and using the money to hire engineers to perfect their innovation. He continued to say, “You may need investment as well as free money but this free money will help you move and rapidly grow”.
- Where SACCOS your first initial target? (Desire Akanduhura) Directed to Mr. Otim
“SACCOS were our original target market however there are new partners that have come on board and are paying for our services including banks and other people who want to understand SACCOS” said Mr. Otim.
- When starting your startup must you have a business plan ready? (Desire Akanduhura)
According to Ricky “it’s about how you talk about your business that matters the most if you don’t know how to talk about your business no one is going to talk about your business for you”.
- How did you do your market research? (Kevin Mukama)
“I have never believed in doing too much research however i did my research while on job, as a boda-boda cyclist I encountered many people and most of my clients talked to me about the things they would like to be worked upon” Said Ricky.
- What kept you going despite the challenges you were facing? (Regina Naigaga)
Mr. Otim said “the love and passion for solving a problem kept him going”.
According to Kaizzi “ I never give myself a plan B” for him if this doesn’t work he won’t have a fall back plan so he has to do whatever it takes for it to work out.
- After all those people failed to pay the registration fee what did you do to get back your money?(Odoa Marazi)
“We forcefully pushed some of the people out of the community and started listening more to the rest that stayed, they were suggesting to pay half of the registration fee and pay the rest later which we agreed to and business is going on very well” Said Ricky.
- How do you find investors?(Kevin Mukama)
According to Otim “water flows were water has flown before” meaning that investors will invest where people have invested before. Advises the audience “you need to be tactful about how you look for money start by looking for money that you have control over and prove that you’re on the right course, practice and perfect your pitch”.
According to Ricky “You’re the first investor, other people will come in when your business is starting to make sense”.
Innovation starts with an idea, it’s about identifying a problem in your community and then present a solution to solve that problem. It’s never easy as to implement but as long as you have a goal, a dream, an idea and you stay focused there are many ways to achieve that vision.
You don’t need to be an ICT specialist or an engineer to solve a problem in your community, the best way to achieve product/ service development is through identifying the problem, find the solutions to the problem, find the right community, qualified human resource (don’t quote me wrong), understand your business model, practice and perfect your pitch to investors. We guarantee you that; you are on your way to receive funding to help you develop and scale your start-up. TechBuzz hub offers services best suit in capacity building needs for start-ups including mentorship and training, business incubation and consultation to help you understand and scale your business. Our on physical and distance training and mentoring will kick off effective 1st December. Reserve your slot Now! TechBuzz Hub brings you the best ingredients just like these series that guarantee success for your startups.
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