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These Kenyan Entrepreneurs Are ‘The Real Ghostbusters!’

Nzekwe Henry August 30

Paul Kimani and Jackson Kung’u are both alumni of the prestigious University of Nairobi. Both individuals were colleagues in the Faculty of Engineering – from where they obtained degrees in Electrical and Information Engineering back in 2013 – when they made their first foray into the entrepreneurial scene.

Although they were undergraduates at the time, it did little to deter both individuals from launching their first startup, The Aspirant Enterprise, within the walls of the educational institution. The timing of their debut enterprise was strategic in that the 2013 Kenyan general elections were just around the corner and the brand they were selling at the time was called ‘The Kenya Aspirant.’

The online platform created by Paul and Jackson back in college was dedicated to profiling politicians, highlighting their achievements, and x-raying their potential to deliver on future projects. And even though a number of factors eventually threw spanners in their works which resulted in the business grinding to a halt, both entrepreneurs had undoubtedly assimilated a crash course in ‘How Not To Run A Business 101.’

Never ones to stay down for too long, both individuals remained resolute in their drive to succeed, and they soon had their proverbial second coming. Paul and Jackson may have gone their separate ways after graduating from the University of Nairobi, secured jobs in the private sector, and even started their own families, but the undying entrepreneurial desire that was common to both men – however flickering in the embers of their hearts –  was always going to ignite and link them up for the second time. And it did not take long before they regrouped and launched AfriSoft Africa Limited, their second startup, which is a firm that consults for IT services (mostly software development), as well as mobile app development.

Both entrepreneurs were not to be caught up in the infamous Sophomore Syndrome, though, as they got it mostly right at the second time of asking. Their second creation, AfriSoft Africa Limited, came good – so much so that Paul considers it the source of the inspiration for their present venture.

Bumpy, topsy-turvy, roller-coaster ride? Well, that is usually the case. Hardly is the entrepreneurial journey ever a smooth and cosy cruise in some million-dollar yacht on the French Riviera. True entrepreneurship is a test of mental strength, resolve, and mettle – and only those who dare to dream, dare to do and eventually succeed. Nobody really ever has it all figured out from the off, and there will most certainly be challenges. It might also involve false-starts, false dawns, multiple attempts, and perhaps a series of trimming, chopping and changing. And this is the area where drive, persistence, and focus on the end-game proves very essential.

Paul Kimani and Jackson Kung’u appear to have gotten to grips with the requirements of running a startup and steadied the ship with their third startup together – with the former overseeing affairs as CEO, and the latter running operations as COO.

Their creation, TozzaPlus, is a B2B end-to-end payroll solution that is cloud-based, which assists businesses in the area of managing their workforce – from tracking to payroll processing and all the way to payouts. The three-pronged approach of the platform offers a workforce management solution that is one of the first of its kind in Kenya.

PAUL KIMANI

Paul Kimani – CEO TozzaPlus

The business is tailored to meet the needs of businesses and companies that have to deal with the prospect of managing a large workforce, with particular emphasis on those businesses with more hands on the field than behind desks.

The workforce management solution offered by TozzaPlus incorporates the use of mobile biometric devices which enables the tracking of workers, and this comes in handy for such establishments as construction firms, NGOs, consultancy firms, security firms, and a number of other organizations that have a sizeable population of field workers on their payroll.

As revealed to WeeTracker by Paul Kimani, CEO of TozzaPlus, the startup has landed something of a cutting-edge innovation in the form a novel device that enables employees to keep track of workers’ location, as well as keep tabs on the timing. This device does a good job of taking accurate records of where a company’s personnel is working from and the amount of time that the individual has spent on a given job.

The location and time data obtained by the device is subsequently transferred to the Kenyan startup’s cloud servers where the payroll is then prepared on the basis of the data received, with attention to such details as advances, deductions, and bonuses. This process which is entirely automated ultimately culminates in the triggering of payouts – straight into the accounts of workers. “This is why we call it an end-to-end solution. It helps to track employees, record the amount of time that they have worked, and pay them in the end,” the CEO stated.

Paul revealed that work on the TozzaPlus solution kicked off in 2017 and beta testing was concluded early this year, which could be regarded as the time of the platform’s official launch. He also highlighted the role of their previous venture, AfriSoft, in serving up the idea behind the creation of TozzaPlus. “Most of our clients at AfriSoft were SMEs. We developed software for SMEs in different sectors, including banking, construction, MFIs, and consultancy firms. In trying to make our operations more efficient while improving the bottom line, we identified problems with the status quo. And one of such was employee management, which revolved around difficulties in tracking, managing, and paying employees.”

Image result for paul kimani and jackson kung'u tozzaplus images

Jackson Kung’u – COO TozzaPlus

By virtue of their collective engineering backgrounds and the fact that both individuals had stints in engineering-related jobs post-college, creating a business management solution which connected the engineering with the IT was their first move. What Paul and Jackson created initially was a platform that incorporated CRM, payroll, and accounting, but they soon shifted gears when they realized that turning the venture into a profitable one with that model was something of a long shot.

 

They soon tweaked their offering on the backs of the results of tests and feedbacks they got from early-adopters and served up an all-in-one solution that has now come to be known as TozzaPlus. “We were inspired by the clients we were working with at AfriSoft and our experiences in our previous jobs. Being an engineer, I have done some project management myself, and I have experienced firsthand the difficulties in trying to manage people working under you the traditional way,” Paul offered.

The CEO also pointed out some of the initial challenges which threatened to derail the business during those early stages. According to him, the technical aspect of the solution posed one of the biggest challenges as trying to incorporate three aspects into one simple working solution involved intensive design thinking, which was no easy feat.

He also cited difficulties in snapping up those first few clients as another problem they faced when they started out. Since the business was coming to change the norm by eliminating things like time-punching and ghost-workers, it was first greeted with the usual skepticism and uncertainty as people tend to want to maintain the status quo whenever change looms. Paul recalls that the business had to do some work in the area of selling the solution and not the technology. Instead of playing up the technology that has come to rock the establishment and disrupt the old ways, they recognized areas of most need and helped potential clients see how their solution could solve their problems. This approach proved very instrumental in landing those first clients who are vital to the survival of any business.

The employee management solution on offer from TozzaPlus is unique in that it is connected with time, attendance and payouts. Its product is best suited to businesses that have the need for all ends of the system. This comes in handy for such firms as construction companies who need time-tracking and corresponding payout services. In the same regard, the CEO revealed that big companies in the construction industry are currently some of the biggest clients on the platform.

Paul highlighted the successful development and stabilization of the solution as one of the biggest accomplishments of the business. Signing on a good number of clients also represents another milestone. He also talked up the importance of the startup’s participation in the 2018 edition of the Pangea Accelerator Program, as it served to provide TozzaPlus (alongside two other Kenyan startups) with funding (believed to be around USD 50 K each), as well as mentorship, during those early stages. “We were able to learn so much from experienced people, and we made good contacts too. Most importantly, we got some funding to help boost our business.”

On the subject of further investments, Paul reiterated that the immediate goal is to keep building and running the business, but the startup will be looking to raise funds in the coming year. This, he believes, will serve to strengthen the establishment, buoy its expansion plans, and transform it into something of the go-to payroll solution for the construction industry. He also gave indications that plans are in the pipeline to extend the company’s reach to four other African countries by 2020.

One the lessons gathered from his entrepreneurial journey thus far, Paul drummed up the importance of collaborations and delegation, as regardless of how brilliant the idea is, no one can really pull it off entirely on their own. He also hinted at determination, belief, resilience, and perseverance as essential ingredients.

The Kenyan entrepreneur also believes in the importance of the fundamental concept of entrepreneurship which is solving a problem or meeting an identified need. “Yes, you can start with an idea or a gut feeling, but there is a need for you to go out there and talk to your potential customers,” he said. “They are the ones you will be selling your products to, and they can afford you invaluable insight as per what product is needed and how best to go about designing that product.”  According to him, the world has moved on from what used to be the norm as it is now best to first get a market, and then build solutions around the needs of the identified market – instead of the other way round.

There is something of a long-standing ghost-worker problem in parts of Africa, with Kenya, in particular, being at the center of some major fallouts in recent times. The Kenyan public sector appears to be worst hit by the spate of ghost-workers – as is evident in a recent publication on Standard Media which revealed that an aggressive campaign launched by the country’s President, Uhuru Kenyatta, to rid Kenya’s inflated wage bill (about USD 3.2 Bn in salaries and allowances in the 2016/17 financial year) of ghost-workers in 2014 resulted in the discovery of around 12,500 fictitious names on the government’s payroll.

It might seem the unpleasant trend has been somewhat checked in the private sector but it certainly still poses a problem in some quarters as insurance companies have particularly taken the hit on account of the compensation of non-existent policyholders who plunge these companies into underwriting losses – another sorry case of ghosts reaping where they have not sown and a ripoff on the finances of these institutions. The infamous tea growers saga where over 50,000 ghost tea growers are reported to have been siphoning around USD 54 Mn from tea factories annually also makes for gloomy reading – too many people getting paid for work they never did and in the process, wreaking havoc on the finances of institutions.

This stresses the need to curb the menace. And with Paul and the rest of the team at TozzaPlus looking to keep track of these things, it appears it is no longer business as usual for ghost-workers as ‘The Real Ghostbusters’ are officially here!

Nigerian Startup Thank U Cash Ropes In Investment From Ventures Platform

Andrew Christian October 19

Nigerian rewards platform Thank U Cash has secured funding from Lagos-based venture capital firm Ventures Platform.

While the amount of the investment remains undisclosed, the founding partner of Ventures Platform, Kola Aina announced the development via a medium post. According to him, the firm saw the huge but fragmented and significantly unstructured retail economy in African countries, as growing businesses do not have the needed resources or expertise to build robust loyalty programs or data analytics. Ventures Platform saw the loophole as an opportunity and decided to fund Thank U Cash to pioneer a solution.

This is Thank U Cash’s second funding this year, as a Weetracker report disclosed in August that the startup received investment from Nigerian VC Microtraction. The VC firm ordinarily invests USD 65 K in two stages, with an initial amount of about USD 15 K. Crunchbase, a business information platform, estimates that Thank U Cash has raised USD 12 K in funding over three rounds.

Thank U Cash is also part of the second cohort of Google Launchpad Accelerator Africa, which kicked off earlier in August.

The startup was founded this year by Madonna Ononobi, the company’s CEO, CTO Surak Supekar and COO Simeon Ononobi. Thank U Cash enabled consumers to save and earn loyalty points that can then be swapped for cash, and merchants benefit from the extra spend.

 

Team Cash Flow, 2 Others Hold the Centerstage At First Bank Fintech Summit 2.0

Andrew Christian October 19


Team Cash Flow led a handful of victorious players at the just concluded First Bank Fintech Summit. The event, which converged more than 700 fintech fevers, stakeholders and tech enthusiasts, was held at the Oriental Hotels in Lekki, Lagos State on Wednesday.

The Fintech Summit 2.0 metamorphosed into a three-day event that was themed The Future of Banking – The Role of AI and Big Data. The initiative was generally designed to be an avenue for Nigerian fintechs to showcase their original innovations that would fast become solutions in the financial sector of the country’s economy. The summit also provides a platform for networking and partnership opportunities between the Bank and the fintech community.

View image on Twitter

The event featured a two-day fintech hackathon with limelight in Artificial Intelligence and Big Data for voice banking, mobile check validation and other methods of financial fraud prevention which could be implemented by First Bank. Finalists totaling 10 were selected from the competition to showcase their technological and AI solutions during the summit.

After the many presentations, three teams who showcased innovations deemed to be the most impressive and helpful in combating challenges facing the financial industry through AI and Big Data leveraging were selected as winners. The teams that held the centerstage include Team Cash Flow, who emerged first position, Team Ace as the first runner-up and Team CyberSmart in third place. The teams bagged home cash prizes of NGN 3 Mn, NGN 2.5 Mn, and NGN 750 K respectively.

First Bank Fintech Summit 2.0 was graced by key stakeholders in the Nigerian fintech sector, names such as Khadija Abu, Product Partnerships Lead, Paystack; Akin Banuso, Country General Manager, Microsoft; Olayinka David-West, Academic Director, Lagos Business School, Pan African University and Adia Sowho, Managing Director, Mines Nigeria. These guests formed the panel for the event, speaking on the theme aforementioned.

5 Facebook Ads Tips for E-commerce Stores

As an E-commerce business owner, you need to master your digital marketing in order to make more sales and reach more people within your target audience group.

One of the important types of Ads are sponsored Ads. With Facebook Ads, you get the opportunity of specifying who and who sees your ads, their location, interests, etc.

Facebook Ads don’t just get your products in front of a wider audience, they also get it in front of the right audience for your brand. As an e-commerce business owner, you need high relevant traffic to your e-commerce website, more loyal customers, leads, and so on.

Credit: Giphy.com

 

Here are 5 Facebook Ad Tips for E-commerce Stores:

  1. Have a goal in mind: Don’t create any advert without first identifying your goals for the advert. Sometimes your goal may be to get more traffic to your website, build your email list, get more profile visits, get more sales, etc.
  2. Boost an existing popular post: Take a look at some of your existing posts and look at the ones that have the most engagements. This would give you an indication of what your audience loves and what they want more of, and most importantly, you know that the post works already. And so, boosting that kind of posts will get the posts seen by more people beyond your current reach. These kinds of posts would get more engagements.
  3. Use videos: Videos are much more interactive than pictures or texts. Invest in creating quality videos that would show the personality of your brand, sell your brand story, show your product in action, generate leads, and eventually lead people to purchase. Videos are also shareable and even promoting them via Facebook Ads can have a lot of huge impacts.
  4. Create an offer: We all love interesting and irresistible offers. You can create an offer around Facebook Ads so as to get more people to engage with the Ads. For instance, you can create a free E-book for people and what they would probably do to get the E-book is by subscribing to your email list or signing up for the offer.
  5. Leverage retargeting: Facebook now gives you the opportunity to target those who have once visited your website. It is a wise move because this shows that they are actually interested in what you have to offer.

Do you have more Facebook Ads tips for us? Do drop your comments below.

The African E-commerce Saga: Chapter Nigeria

Andrew Christian October 19

The advent of internet technology globally has brought about a rapid improvement in virtually of spheres of existence. In economic, social and cultural areas among others, the internet never stops having its impact on different nations of the world, communities, institutions and even the individual. As of today, we are in the constant embrace of leveled-up ideas such as e-governance, e-learning, e-hailing, e-banking and quite suitably, e-commerce.

The web is bringing with it time and again new, exciting opportunities particularly in the aspect of the industrial innovation. Electronic commerce is one of such real-time opportunities that are changing the way people buy and sell, everywhere. While the channel has proven to be a vibrant reservoir of economic upheaval in first world countries in Asia, Europe, and the Americas since the turn of the 21st century, e-commerce is as well witnessing some quick-as-a-wink growth in Nigeria and some other African countries such as South Africa, Egypt, and Kenya.

E-commerce has very well had its impact on Micro, Small and Medium Scale Enterprises (MSMEs) towards the fronts of job creation and wealth generation. With the fact that a robust legal frame of reference is vital to the right-on-track running of any vibrant and secure e-commerce system, policymakers in Nigeria are being compelled to harness relevant information to grow the nations’ economy. Millennials and hopefuls believe that with hard work and consistency, the country would be put on the world map of e-commerce revolution in a matter of five years or less.

The e-market space is a major part of the today Nigeria economy. As MSMEs are an engine of economic growth and development, making markets more competitive and resilient, they are directly and indirectly impacted on by e-commerce. Countries such as U.S, Japan, India, Brazil and China, small businesses have been a source of jobs for the teeming population. The success stories have not only been the spirit entrepreneurship but the support of technology inclusively. With the immense value information technology is creating, the economic potentials of Nigerian MSMEs can be tremendous. E-payment solution companies such as MasterCard, Visa, Interswitch, Verve, and significant others springing up in Nigeria, e-business has been so great a boost. These payment solutions are vamping up their services in a bid to meet up with the ever-growing demand of ease, safety, and speed as it concerns buying and selling online. As a result, small businesses can experience seamless transaction with each other and other bigger businesses in the space, ultimately leading to their growth and equally to the betterment of the Nigerian economy.

As of 2014, e-commerce in Africa was growing at a rate of 25.8 percent. In a headlock against the rest of the world’s 16.8 percent, the then growth rate was enough reason to make the continent the fastest-growing e-commerce market in the world; not to talk of now that the stakes are higher. Emerging e-commerce has brought about restyling to the traditional method of shopping, as buying and selling goods and services can now be done online anywhere and anytime. Goods are being delivered with either in-house or partner courier services providers, but virtual products such as eBooks, videos, audios, and templates are being delivered electronically – at affordable and competitive prices compares to offline deals.

In a 2014 report by Business Day, it was revealed that the current market opportunity for e-commerce in Nigeria was over USD 151 Mn annually, with a rapid growth percentage of 25 each year. But it has not also been so good because just a decade ago, an e-commerce-based model of a business plan would so quickly have been laughed off and given the heave-ho, as it would have come off as a bad investment. But times have changed, and they never stop doing so – e-commerce in Nigeria is fast becoming the next big thing. More and more Nigerians are subsuming the medium as their preferred platform for purchase and selling – 60 million Nigerians enjoy internet access (2014) and nearly 100 million as of now – thanks to the rapid growth of telecommunications, and with that figure, nothing is stopping the e-market from becoming larger. The country has a predominantly youthful population to add, along with the near 100 million connected Nigerians representing more than 40 percent of Nigeria’s 197 million people. Facts have it that way over 300,000 online orders are made every 24 hours in the country – a promising figure to say the least and an indication that e-platforms are on the rise with business, tech, and leisure.

E-commerce has also contributed to Nigeria’s economic growth and development. Firstly, the medium is creating jobs for the country’s more than 30 million unemployed youths, in line with a report from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) – irrespective of the fact that the actual jobs availed from 2012 to 2014 are just over 12,000. The ICT industry contributed to a 10.44 percent part of the 2013 Nigeria GDP, as well as significant strides in other sectors. Should more and more Nigerians have access to the internet, it would bring about a massive impact on the e-market. The Minister for Communications Technology, observing the USD 12 Bn generated from e-sales about three years ago, online consumption could be worth USD 154 Bn by 2025. It was to no one ’s surprise when the same Minister recently said that e-commerce market in Nigeria has a potential worth of USD 10 Bn since the sector has already attracted about USD 200 Mn in foreign investments.

Also, critical players in Nigerian e-commerce such as Jumia, Konga, and Payporte are now selling goods on a large scale, SMEs no longer have to go overseas to purchase merchandise for business. This brings about a steady and easier-than-usual flow of market stock, as well as an increase in the country’s GDP. What is needed at this point is that the laws need to be tailored to form a robust and legal framework for a vibrant and secure e-commerce system. More proactive provisions need to be put in place for e-entrepreneurs to have a fighting chance, scale up and even internationalize. Cybercrimes need to be checked, shoppers’ privacy needs to be legally protected, and more gateways need to be flung open to accommodate as many e-commerce enterprises as possible.

According to a report by Jumia, Nigeria’s e-commerce could be worth USD 13 Bn this year. Nigeria’s most recent figure of the subscribing population is 162 million – that is 84 percent of the country’s populace. The statistics are impressive, as it drives a huge chunk of e-commerce transactions, and it seems investors are falling over each other to get a slice of the cake. Bright lights are coming up on the horizons as Konga and Yudala have merged, making analysts hopeful that Nigerian e-commerce is not going back on becoming a gamechanger. The world is no doubt swinging in the direction of tech-enabled serviceability and order-from-a-distance transactions. Nigeria will go with the wind, even if not as fast, but at its own checkered pace.

Kennie-O Cold Chain Logistics Wins USD 15 K In SUN- Pitch Nutrition Competition

Kevin Gachiri October 19

Ope Olanrewaju of Kenni-O Cold Chain Logistics from Nigeria won the  USD 15 K grand prize of The SUN Business Challenge at the Nutrition Africa Investor Forum in Nairobi showcasing entrepreneurial opportunities in Africa in the Agribusiness and Food sector. The Scaling Up Nutrition Pitch Competition saw 21 finalists compete after having been shortlisted from a pool of  450 entries from different African countries. The Global Alliance organised this forum – the first of its kind – that links up investors with nutrition-focused SMEs for Improved Nutrition (GAIN), Royal DSM , The Sun Business Network and African Magazine. At the sidelines of the same two-day event, Nutrition Dealrooms comprising part of GAIN’s pipeline of companies improving access to nutritious food attracted the interest of investors taking part in 130 deal room discussions involving 20 investors and more than 20 companies with $82m worth of investment being contested for various opportunities in the sector.

While opening the forum Fokko Wientjes, Vice-President of Nutrition in Emerging Markets, Royal DSM observed that  “The panelists had an extremely challenging afternoon choosing from 21 extremely good candidates from different parts of Africa. What we have seen is the critical role of innovation and scaling for SMEs in the food industry which proves that this conference is necessary and meeting a need.” According to its website, Kennie-O Cold Chain Logistics provides value-added services that include cold storage and distribution, provision of Reefer equipment, party services as well as the provision of Intermodal and State transportation. The company was founded in 2014 and was selected based on nutrition impact, commercial viability, scalability and the use of innovation.

Other reported winners were August Secrets from Nigeria who won the Graca Machel Award, Healthy Maishaa from Tanzania who took the BoP Inc Award, Kulamawe Poultry Industries from Kenya who took the GrowthAfrica award and Miruku Agro Industria from Mozambique who took the DSM Innovation Award.

 

This development first appeared on cnbcafrica.com

Feature image source: African Business Magazine

 

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