Anne Amuzu, Co-Founder Nandimobile, on the Startup Scene in Ghana
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Anne Amuzu is the Co-Founder and Lead Product Developer of Nandimobile Ltd, a young and vibrant technology startup in Ghana. The company was founded in July 2010 by Anne and two other graduates of the Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology, a school set up to train and mentor young entrepreneurs in Africa.
Nandimobile's objective is to leverage the high mobile penetration rates in Africa to create mobile customer service technology that enable businesses easily connect with their customers on the mobile platform
In 2010, Nandimobile's maiden product, Gripeline was said to solve a worldwide problem and was awarded the Best Business at the Launch conference in San Francisco.
As well as being a graduate of the Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology, Anne holds BSc in Computer Engineering from Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in Ghana.
We spoke to Anne about the startup scene in Ghana; which other African startups she admires; and what could be done to foster entrepreneurialism amongst young Africans.
TNW: You founded Nandimobile with two fellow graduates of the Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology. Did the idea for the company come first, or did the team come first? Tell us a little about the very early days of your business.
AA: In the final year of the Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology (MEST) programme, Entrepreneurs In Training (EIT) are required to form teams for their start ups. The three of us having worked on a previous project in MEST decided to start a company together. From there we brainstormed on various ideas and settled on one. The idea went through a lot of iterations as we gathered feedback from our colleagues, the faculty and most importantly potential clients. We pitched this idea to the Meltwater Foundation and got seed funding. Most of our early days were used in validating our ideas, gathering requirements for the solution and building the solution.
TNW: In 2010, Nandimobile’s maiden product, Gripeline was said to solve a worldwide problem and was awarded the Best Business at the Launch conference in San Francisco. What does Gripeline do? Are you planning to roll it out internationally?
AA: Gripeline is a customer support tool for companies to be able to chat with their clients on their mobile phones via SMS. Clients are able to send SMS with their complaints or questions through SMS to the company. These are then received by the company on a web based dashboard where they can respond to the messages in the form of SMS to the clients. The chat information over a period of time can be analysed by the company easily to make business decisions.
We are planning to roll it out internationally in a different form. Clients will have the communication over mobile applications instead of SMS. The mobile application will versions for both smart and feature phones so it can run on any internet enabled phone.
TNW: What are the upcoming trends for the mobile industry in Africa?
AA: A number of firms have emerged offering mass text messaging and aggregation services. A lot of other firms are also using mobile telephony for advertising, mass marketing .
There has been a rise in mobile technology being exploited for payment services; especially in the area of money transfer services. This has worked well in Kenya and other African countries are following their lead. However the adoption rate in other countries like Ghana is far lower than in Kenya.
There are a number of emerging trends in using mobile applications for communication over internet instead of a normal SMS messaging or a phone call.
TNW: What were the most useful lessons you learned as a student of Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology and how have you applied these to launching and running Nandimobile?
AA: A major lesson I learnt was; a potential customer is key in validating an idea. Surveys are good but a short interview with prospective clients could help in gathering more relevant information from the non-verbal part of the communication.
Another thing I learnt too was; the kind of people you have in your team really matters. It is very important to choose the right people both in skill set and personality to start a company. The best ideas could be destroyed by a bad team.
TNW: At the 2012 Women’s Forum, you spoke at a session entitled How can Africa create more high-potential entrepreneurs? and were quoted as saying “Young people don’t know what it means to become entrepreneurial. We need to show that it is a real option.” How could young African people be encouraged to be more entrepreneurial?
It could be done by introducing entrepreneurship at an early stage in our educational systems instead of at the tertiary level.
Entrepreneurs in Africa could also take it upon themselves to serve as role models by taking time to talk to young people in school and in other programs so the students can understand what entrepreneurship is and begin to consider it as a career path.
TNW: Tell us a little about the startup scene in Ghana. What kinds of new businesses are emerging?
AA: Many startups in Ghana are in the clothing and fashion sector .These startups use the local Ghanaian fabric in making clothes, shoes and other accessories. The software sector is also seeing a lot of business with many businesses creating software for businesses. In general the services sector has most of the start ups in Ghana.
TNW: What are the particular challenges faced by women looking to start their own businesses in Ghana? Are Ghanaian families and communities generally supportive of female entrepreneurs?
AA: Traditionally women are home keepers and subordinates to men. This perception is carried into business and creates a situation where women are not taken seriously. Women have to sometimes work harder than a man will do to prove themselves. Women who dare to excel in business are expected to keep the home and work at the same time.
In the area of entrepreneurship where one may need to spend a lot of time on their business in order to grow it, it becomes difficult juggling the two responsibilities. Some then tend to lose their families or the business stays small.
The community is generally supportive of women starting up businesses. This is so because it gives more time for the woman to take care of the home. The consequence then is that most of the entrepreneurial ventures are small and do not grow big since the women do not spend the needed time on it.
TNW: Which African startups do you really admire and why?
AA: I admire Leti Games which is making African stories into games. One of the founders recently won the Young Creative Entrepreneur award.
Africa needs to push its local content rather than just consume content from other countries. That is what Leti Games is helping to do by putting African history into games.
TNW: Do you have any role models or mentors?
AA: I do not look up to any one particular person. I pick up the things to emulate in people I meet on a daily basis and I read about. I also direct my challenges and questions across to people based on their area of expertise.
Anne can be found on Twitter @Ewoenam.
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