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Interview With Damansah co-founder/CEO, Claver Nambegue Coulibaly

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Claver Nambegue Coulibaly, Chief Executive Officer at Damansah

Claver Nambegue Coulibaly is passionate about entrepreneurship, innovation, artificial intelligence holds a master’s degree in business and technology. His company,Damansah is improving the success rate and well-being of African micro-business owners by helping them track their transactions, business profitability and improve their financial management and business skills.  In this e-Interview, he speaks with Alaba Ayinuola, on how the team is working towards building the most powerful and largest bridge leading to financial inclusion, challenges, government policies and Africa’s business ecosystem. Excerpts.

 

Tell us about Damansah and the role you play?

Damansah is a platform that allows African micro-business owners to easily manage their financial activities and improve their financial literacy. With the Damansah application, we empower African micro business owners to track their transactions, know their business profitability and improve their financial management and business skills. The purpose is to lead them to financial inclusion where they can take advantage of financial services.

As co-founder and CEO of Damansah, my first role on the team is to ensure that we continue to work towards our core mission, enhancing the success of African micro-business owners. In addition, I maintain the relationship with our investor, define and track our key performance indicators and milestones, define business strategies.

 

What was your startup capital and how were you able to raise it?

My co-founders, Michael Danho, Mohamed Bakayoko, and I were students at MEST AFRICA, where we took advantage of the one year program to develop our project and study the target markets. At the end of the program, after presenting the project to a panel of investors, we raised $ 100,000.

 

What are the challenges, competition and how are you overcoming them?

Our biggest challenge is the behavior of the micro business owners as they are used to not tracking their transactions. To overcome this challenge, we started sending them messages, notifications about business or financial trainings every two days. In what follows, when they open the application to read the course, they record at the same time active transactions.

We are not alone in the market. However, from our point of view, the user interface and the user experience of the product are the key differentiators. In addition, based on the design thinking methodology, we have designed the essential features that African micro-business owners need to run their businesses. We have created business and finance courses to help entrepreneurs improve their business or start a new business.

 

How does your organisation measure its impacts?

We are a data driven company. As a result, we use many internal and external  tools to track our performance indicators, track customer interactions and the mobile application available in the playstore, only in Ghana now, engage customers when they are not active. Also, we always discuss with our entrepreneurs to evaluate satisfaction and get feedback.

 

What advice would you give potential entrepreneurs who intend to start a business or invest in Africa.

Before investing or starting a new business in Africa, take the time to do a local market research based on design thinking methodology. During this study, you will have the opportunity to discuss with your potential customers and verify the hypothesis you made before the market research. Here is the key to success. The problem and the solution must come from your potential customers, even with the pricing model of your services or products.

When you will encounter difficulties, never give up! Entrepreneurship is a long journey, it is a series of many challenges that will produce the big expected result, an impact.

What’s the future for Damansah and what steps are you taking in achieving them?

This year, we promise many services and features to satisfy African entrepreneurs. Among these promises, we will expand our business to Côte d’Ivoire where it is a large young market with a high smartphone penetration rate. In the middle of the year, we will launch an online accounting software for African small businesses using artificial intelligence.

All of these steps will lead us to our vision of building the most powerful and largest bridge to financial inclusion in Africa.

 

How is the government policy impacting startups in Ghana?

Well, the Ghanaian government has been actively working to ensure that Ghana  sees more and more successful startups. Last year, it set up a fund and a national entrepreneurship program to show its commitment to support start-ups. It even changed its fiscal policy so startups would have a 3 years tax holiday and focus on growing. However, not everything is rosy, in particular when it comes to the tech industry.

As the industry is moving forward and new technologies are coming out every single day, Ghana and not just Ghana actually, most african countries have failed to adapt the legislation to the digital age so to create an enabling environment for  tech startups to thrive and heavily contribute to the economic development of our countries.

 

What’s your view on the development of Africa business ecosystem?

The African business ecosystem, French or English speaking, is becoming more active and growing rapidly. The number of entrepreneurship competitions, incubators and tech hubs is growing exponentially. It all starts with capacity building. Many NGOs all over Africa teach, train young entrepreneurs to international standards of entrepreneurship and the result is there: many great projects in all sectors are born. 

We have the knowledge and the technical support. We therefore hope that many more investors from around the world will trust the ecosystem, invest in our startups and accompany them throughout their growth, like in Europe, the United States or anywhere else in the world.

 

What inspires you and keeps you going?

I have three big inspirations, my Grandmother, the entrepreneurship my passion and my family. Specially about my grandmother, she is my primary inspiration, my first role model, it’s the brave African mother we often talk about in books. She created herself a job allowing her to educate her 7 children until their professional success. Unfortunately she is dead, but I still think of her when everything goes wrong.

 

How do you relax and what books do you read?

Generally, I listen to music or walk. Walking allows me to think about everything and nothing at the same time. I read books like Lean Startup, Outside Insight. However, my favorite book is Blue Ocean Strategy. I will end with the best quote I read there: “The best way to beat the competition is to stop trying to beat the competition.”

 

Claver’s Mini-biography

Passionate about entrepreneurship, innovation, artificial intelligence, after my master’s degree in business and technology in Ivory Coast my country, I started various social projects to help my community. Then, I got a scholarship from MEST AFRICA, where I improved my entrepreneurial skills during a one-year program. I have experience in IT project management.

Kindly visit: https://www.damansah.com/

 

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How the Founders of Odiggo are transforming the MENA auto industry using tech and linked end-to-end ecosystem

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Odiggo Founders (L-R); Ahmed Omar and Ahmed Nasser (Source: Ahmed Omar)

Odiggo was founded with the aim to close Egypt’s and the MENA informal and highly fragmented car repair process. Which makes it ripe with fraud and inefficiency gap by providing an online platform that links customers with established car parts vendors and car repair service providers. To date, Odiggo has earned 1.2M USD in GMV and grown its user base to 50K monthly active users. In this interview with Alaba Ayinuola, Odiggo’s Founder and CEO, Ahmed Omar shared their journey, impact, challenges and the future for Odiggo. Excerpts.

 

Alaba: Could you tell me about the Odiggo journey and what sparked the interest?

Ahmed: We started off as e-commerce platform, bootstrapping our way up with no funds, until COVID-19 hit, we did not see it as a threat as much as we saw it as an opportunity, so we went to spare parts dealers and service providers that had to close down due to the pandemic, and allowed them to re-enable their online stores and channels to advertise their products. Then we connected them with service providers so customers can find those products and services delivered at their convenience at their own homes.

With one customer and has grown from the onset when we spotted a gap in the market to make people’s lives easier by simplifying car parts and services shopping. It’s a huge market need. let me explain what we mean with a huge market need, there is some number that can show you how big it is. MENA region Market size is crossing the 60 Billion USD, with a global market size of more than 1.9 Trillion USD as one of the top 10 revenue generating industries.

We are building a digital experience that is transforming the automotive and the after-sale industry, by connecting car owners with a safe ecosystem of car parts suppliers and service providers nearby to ensure convenience and network effect. Users can now find all their car needs in one single place, all their car parts and services. So we made it very easy for them to find what they are looking for.

 

Alaba: What competitive advantages allow Odiggo to deliver on its value proposition?

Ahmed: Team; we believe we are onboarding top notch talent with very high potential that can drive Odiggo’s innovation and growth in the past few months and this is what we will always have an exceptional team, delivering exceptional results, products and growth.

Technology/product; building scalable tech is what is making us grow very fast, everything we do is very scalable yet will be extremely hard for competitors to go at our speed.

Growth/Expansion; how fast we expand is just thrilling to watch, we built the company with a scalability mindset, yes takes more time to build such things but once you decide to open markets it just flies.

We recently had two of the top Executives of Agility Logistics Company that built it to a Billion Dollar Company, alongside, Essa Al Saleh – CEO & Chairman of Volta Trucks the next tesla for trucks joined on Odiggo’s board alongside side a billion dollar team coming from Jumia, Mackensey, Careem, Deloitte, Hyundai the next generation digital automotive support ecosystem to change the way car owners do their car parts and services shopping.

 

Alaba: What have been the biggest challenges?

Ahmed: There is a huge market need. Our biggest challenge is coping with that huge market need, as operations of serving that huge market need, so we do as much as we can to automate most of our operations.

 

Alaba: What are the biggest achievements Odiggo has had?

Ahmed: OUR GREAT TEAM, that got us the great results we reached. We’ve achieved 7 Figures ARR (Annual recurring revenue). Getting consumers to let us know how we changed their lives and how we made it easier for them motivates us.

 

Alaba: How is your company funded?

Ahmed: It started with a few angel investors coming from private equity firms and tech companies in the region. Latest 2 rounds were backed by Agitero AC (Switzerland VC), that’s led by Essa Al-Saleh, Chairman & CEO of leading electric trucks company Volta Trucks and former CEO of the Billion-dollar logistics company Agility.

 

Alaba: Kindly share the impact of Covid-19 on your business and survival strategy?

Ahmed: It was a positive impact, we did our highest day every when the lockdown happened in Egypt, and after 3 days we doubled that number. At that time, we recognized that we are in a space that has a huge market need. We are not selling a ” want ” it’s a ” NEED “. COVID-19 made people go for e-commerce more than ever before.

 

Alaba: What parts of the business will drive growth in the future?

Ahmed: There are multiple growth triggers that will drive growth of the company in the future. The core of this growth is understanding the customer behavior and helping them have a better experience and work on their repeatability. However, introducing more services will help customers to come back, in this case customers will have 3x of their retention.

Global infrastructure; allowing customers to buy from any merchant onboard worldwide is something that we are working on to make sure merchants that are on boarded on Odiggo is not only selling locally but also internationally.

Horizontal Expansion; not only cars, expanding into other vehicle types to support more businesses and car owners who generate income from driving their own commercial trucks or vehicles, motorcycles etc.

Car connection; understanding and reading the car data, will allow us to educate the customer on what needs to be changed, allowing them to make those purchase actions from the platform and making it very easy for them to place those purchases on Auto, so they would not need to confirm again.

Introducing all the DIFM – Do-it-for-me services like, to drive convenience and obsession to the app/platforms.

 

Alaba: What is the set milestones and future for Odiggo?

Ahmed: It’s mainly coping with the huge market need in the region. Based on research the market in GCC is more than $11 Billion USD. So we are mainly going to expand to the MENA Region mainly, with a focus on GCC starting with UAE and KSA. In addition, Africa is a huge market we are targeting for the future as well.

Be the No. 1 source of car parts and services with a great experience through automated error recognition. Acquire 5% of the global market size in one of the top 10 revenue generating industries which is 100 Billion dollars, that means being a trillion dollar company. Between Mid-2020 to Mid-2022, we are looking to expand and earn the highest market share in the digital marketplace in terms of car parts and services in three markets UAE, Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

We are working on various testing environments and R&D ourselves that will allow us to always elevate the company and grow beyond our stakeholders expectations

 

Alaba: How do you feel to be African entrepreneurs?

Ahmed: First, we believe that Africa is the next big thing, we’ve seen great success stories that came from Africa that made it to billion dollar such as Jumia that went IPO at NYSE.

Second, is there a lot to be done in our industry, there are a lot of ideas that haven’t been applied to the region yet.

We believe that entrepreneurs make people’s lives easier so that’s our main objective. We feel so proud when we get a message from a customer saying how we made his life easier and how much time and money we saved him.

 

Founders Background 

Ahmed Omar CEO & Co-founder grew Odiggo traffic from 0 to 100K+ with no marketing team. He started his e-commerce career and made first eCommerce sale at 14 years old in 2017 with his e-commerce channels in Egypt selling through marketplaces like Souq, Jumia & social media channels making thousands of dollars during his college. While graduating back in 2014 he built what is called Seyanty a car maintenance booking platform, not knowing anything about tech product or venture capital. Omar have been involved in Find My Pic, which is an app that helps customers save images with keywords so they can easily find it, again.

Omar did not research the market well enough to know that Google Photos have launched it in their new app led to Find My Pic users to leave no reason to use the app anymore. Omar’s passion to solving the customer’s problem and disrupting industries as long as making people’s life easier always kept him hungry. After his last visit to Cairo, he decided to join a team building an aggregator marketplace called KasrZero.com, which was the first used cars (pre-owned) marketplace in Egypt during 2017/2018, They never made any money selling cars, the only money they made was when one of their customers asked for Car Parts, That was the start of Odiggo’s story.

 

Ahmed Nasser, COO & Co-Founder drove the growth of Odiggo’s revenue from $5K to $100K monthly in 11 months and transformed Odiggo’s performance to make 8x more during COVID-19. Nasser grew small traditional companies and digitized businesses to be top ranking companies in their industry in Egypt. He started helping businesses at the age of 16 and pursuing patterns that would make successful management. His obsession to how companies grow and building great products have carried him along every step of the road.

Nasser read over 500 books during his career trying to understand the right patterns to create successful businesses, yet he found the answer in execution. This is where he decided to be part of building a startup or build his own. Results speak louder than words! Since joining Odiggo the company has been on top of the list of any candidate looking to grow and be part of this disruption, the company was able to grow 40-50% month over month in GMV, transactions and Userbase.

 

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Up Close & Personal with Phillip Scott, Founder of YouTube’s Most Watched Black News Channel

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Phillip Scott, Founder at The African Diaspora News Network (Source: Kellen Coleman)

Phillip Scott also known as Phil by his audience is a Texas native graduate with a Bachelors in Theology. Throughout his life, he has amassed a diverse following where he has successfully delivered messages of inspiration, knowledge, and optimism with a realist point of view. The African Diaspora News Network he has created is a daily YouTube program on multiple channels with various contributors whose mission is to inform, inspire, and entertain his listeners with engaging discussions on current events. Phil is a Husband and Father of four children. In this interview with Kellen Coleman, Phil talked about his entrepreneurship journey, business and life as an African in the Diaspora. Excerpt.

 

Kellen: You started YouTube as a hobby and for free for years while having a job and a family. Did you ever imagine it would have blossomed into being what you have now?

Phillip: No, it wasn’t in my mind that our platform would grow into what you see today. I knew we would grow if I would be open to new ideas but not at this level.

Kellen: Numbers show you are the most subscribed to Black News network on YouTube, does YouTube give you any special privileges or awards?

Phillip: We have received a Silver Play Button award for obtaining 100K subscribers and a Gold Play Button award for obtaining 1M subscribers. Anyone that hit those levels of subscribers can obtain those awards. But an award directed at being a successful Black platform. No, I haven’t had that type of recognition.

Kellen: With your new app and website it appears your messages are more direct and uncensored did you feel you were being silenced on other social media platforms?

Phillip: Social media platforms aren’t what they used to be. Back when I started as long as you didn’t use racial slurs, post violence or do something bad to children, you were fine online. Today social media companies are heavily censored and at the end of the day it’s their platforms. I felt we need our own place to speak where no one can remove our opinions.

Kellen: It’s said your content can be seen on various networks including Roku, Itunes, and others around the world, how do you keep track?

Phillip: We try to keep up by checking our various networks for the analytics just to get a scope of what countries and demographics are consuming our content.

Kellen: Why do you think your channel is so successful, and what do you do that others aren’t?

Phillip: I believe our success comes from taking many risks. Some people aren’t willing to invest money or risk failing. I also believe our success comes from having the proper team as well. As you grow your team is very important in helping you achieve the goals at hand. We also made sure to dedicate to a daily show and being at the same level as mainstream media platforms.

Kellen: African based news networks struggle to get the audience you have, what advice would you have for them and would you consider partnering?

Phillip: I would say for African channels to target a younger audience. The African continent average age is 25. Younger people are more on smartphones and care about modern Africa. Young African people care about foreign nations taking the resources for free, they care about their politics and want to live no different than the rest of the world. You can’t get a young African audience focusing on what the older generation cares about.

Kellen: You have come a long way from filming in the bathroom and kitchen table, you have a beautiful studio setup would you encourage others to invest in their studio?

Phillip: I always say that no one will invest in you until you invest in yourself first. Always be willing to take a risk by investing your time, money and partnering with others. I felt that having a studio similar to what you will see on television would bring our platform respect. I have achieved the respect due to our reporting and efforts.

Kellen: How has your message been received by Africans in the states and Africans on the continent?

Phillip: Yes our message is received on both continents. We made sure to also employ our sisters and brothers from the continent as well to help us.

Kellen: What can Africans on the continent do to support your network?

Phillip: The best way to support us is to watch all our content and share it with 5 people they know.

Kellen: Your company is registered in Kenya, but you have Kenyan and Nigerian in your DNA any plans on having a company in Nigeria, and what can Nigeria do to help you with that?

Phillip: I plan on visiting Nigeria when international travel opens back up. I would also consider having a studio in Nigeria if everything works right with a great team in place.

Kellen: You have several contributors from around the world, more than some larger networks twice your size, how do you recruit and manage not just personalities but payroll?

Phillip: I can’t give our secret to picking people. But I will say I have a great idea on who would fit well for our platform. Some people could be great but not for our platform. We select people based on previous work and work ethic.

Kellen: Do you see yourself living full time in Africa, and if so which country(s)?

Phillip: My goal is to live on the African continent  at least 80% of the year. Having business I will still have to travel to the US. As for country, I’m still deciding at the moment.

Kellen: What impact do you think cryptocurrency and NFTS will have on your business?

Phillip: When it comes to cryptocurrency it’s new so for us we will always move with the times. Maybe with time we can use cryptocurrency as a payment method.

Kellen: How important is it to have a great wife in doing business?

Phillip: I can tell you from experience that a woman can take you high as the heavens or take you to the pit of hell. As a man a wife that’s a blessing also will help you be successful. Having a supportive spouse makes the hard jobs easy and also help come up with ideas for growth.

 

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Meet Riaan Rautenbach Changing the Future of moving Cargo, using Cloud-Based and Machine Learning Technology

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Riaan Rautenbach, Founder & CEO at LIVE FR8™ (Source: Riaan Rautenbach)

Riaan Rautenbach is an entrepreneur, founder and CEO of South Africa based tech startup LIVE FR8™. A disruptive game changing cloud based App that gives solutions to existing problems in the transport and logistics industry. In this interview with Alaba Ayinuola, Riaan shares his entrepreneurship journey, challenges, impacts and successes of the App. Excerpts.

 

Alaba: Could you us briefly tell me about LIVE FR8™ and the problems it’s solving?

Riaan: LIVE FR8™ is a South African start-up that offers Cargo Suppliers and Transporters improved low cost logistics services using Cloud Technology. The App can be used on any Smart Device. Cargo Suppliers add loads and Transporters find loads on the App. Cargo Suppliers and Transporters connect using the Cloud. Cargo Supplier lists the loads by weight, category, source address and destination, on the database. The algorithm helps Transporters to search for specific loads in the specified area, thereby turning empty loads into full loads. The Transporter nominates the price to move the cargo to the destination. The Transporter only pays a small fee to LIVE FR8™ once a load has been obtained successfully. The Supplier and the Transporter transact directly with one another, and rate each other. The continuous rating system will remove dishonest, corrupt, non-performing and non-competitive role players. Transparency will drive improved performance and cost effective logistics operations.

Alaba: Why did you start your business?

Riaan: After 30 years’ hard work and experience in transportation of goods by road, sourcing return loads, making deliveries on time, determining whereabouts of Cargo in transit in 5 African countries, I came up with this idea. With my experience in cost accounting, as a marketing manager, financial manager and general manager, I have identified problems in the transport industry. I have spent a lot of time thinking of and finding a solution. I developed an App that addresses the various problems and challenges in the Transport industry: improved communication; finding Cargo geographically in real-time; monitoring and managing dispatch staff, controllers, drivers and Cargo in transit. Reducing communication costs; no expensive programs; no costly servers; no monthly fees; no broker fees; no bidding platform but a closed quotation system. Reducing empty trip costs that results in expensive transport rates, reducing transport pollution and a rating system indicating the performance of Cargo Suppliers and Transporters.

Alaba: What has been the impact of leveraging technology in running your business?

Riaan: The business runs remotely, from any location with internet access. The business model has immense scalability and flexibility. Within 7 months, the App was active in 57 countries. Overhead costs are drastically reduced due to the technology LIVE FR8 App utilises, with no offices or expensive servers required. Technology is the future and using disruptive fourth industrial revolution technology which is Cloud-native and functional is exciting and will lead to transformation of the transport industry.

Alaba: What is one of the biggest lessons you have learnt on your business journey?

Riaan: We have learnt that our product, as a world first “Cloud Technology” App for Logistics is more difficult than expected to market in an existing resistant market. Training is an essential part of our marketing.

Alaba: Kindly share of the impact and success of the App?

Riaan: LIVE FR8™ empowers entrepreneurs in Africa and is available in 19 African countries. It levels the playing field for smaller Transporters anywhere in Africa, lowers operational costs for established businesses and empowers them to compete on equal footing. It transforms anyone with access to an electronic device, into a logistics manager. The App brings a huge competitive advantage to everyone who uses the App. It also empowers isolated communities in Africa to put food on the table by coordinating their logistics on their mobile phones. Though there have been many challenges I believe we will soon make a breakthrough in the market and more people will comprehend how much they can benefit from using the App to improve logistics processes, reduce costs, increase vehicle utilisation and drastically reduce pollution from carbon emissions.

Riaan Rautenbach

Alaba: What’s the future for LIVE FR8 in terms of its expansion to other African and International markets?

Riaan: Africa: LIVE FR8 will be available in all African countries by July 2021. LIVE FR8 is currently available in 19 African countries: Angola, Botswana, Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Eswatini, Kenya, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius (Including Reunion), Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

International; LIVE FR8 is available in the following countries outside Africa; America, Australia, All European Union countries, India, New Zealand, Pakistan, Turkey, Canada, The United Kingdom.

Alaba: Could you share your thoughts on the current state of Logistics in Africa, and where you see it in five years?

Riaan: Logistics face many challenges in Africa such as: Inadequate communication; Border congestions; inadequate road and rail infrastructure; old technologies; trade relations between countries. In five years most of the above, I believe, will be improved by Africa. I am positive, because there are already projects, led by African governments, authorities, entrepreneurs and private sectors to improve all of the above mentioned challenges. LIVE FR8 can play a vital role with its low cost communication between Cargo Suppliers and Transporters. Loads are exposed for free to Transporters, and Transporters can find loads with a geographic search using little data.

Alaba: How can South Africa support small businesses now and beyond?

Riaan: Smaller businesses help to create and sustain jobs. Support is vital to help businesses gain revenue and stay operational. Small-business owners value relationships they have with their customers and need the support of local consumers. As it may be more of a challenge for small businesses to stay relevant, they continuously need to work on adding new products/developing their products and providing new benefits for their customers. This is good as it generates healthy competition with their larger competitors. Small businesses tend to be more innovative as they constantly need to find new ways to sell goods and service. By supporting small businesses you are also supporting your local community to stimulate the economy.

Alaba: Any advice for young African entrepreneurs in tech and logistics?

Riaan: All young African entrepreneurs must believe in themselves and never give up. You can find solutions, keep asking questions about current affairs, search and find answers on how current affairs can be improved. Believe in Africa with all its valuable resources. All economic activities can be improved by young entrepreneurs who seek and find solutions using technology to improve supply chains, transport, more efficient low cost ways of communication and moving goods to people, factories, markets and harbours for export. Africa is the future!

 

B I O G R A P H Y

Riaan Rautenbach started working as a clerk, then became a learner coder, thereafter I was an Accountant. I then started part time studies at Unisa while working. I was later promoted to Financial Manager and for 4 years I was a Sales and Marketing Manager. I worked as a General Manager in Maize and Wheat Mills and a Poly woven bag factory. I lived and worked in five African Countries: Botswana, Nigeria, South Africa, Swaziland and Zambia. I traded with Angola, DRC, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Malawi.

Visit LIVE FR8™

 

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