Prudence Ramotso, Founder and CEO of PRUDENT (Source: Prudence Ramotso)
Prudence Ramotso is a South African young lady who is passionate about fashion and envisioned a different kind of a brand that cares about customers and offer high quality products services. She decided to follow her dreams by creating the brand PRUDENT. A brand with designs inspired by African names, Prudent Shoes is a South African Shoe Brand established in 2019 and manufactured by one of the best and finest stylish shoe makers in Italy. In this exclusive interview with Alaba Ayinuola, Prudence shares her entrepreneurship journey, the gap her brand is filling in the industry and the future. Excerpt.
Alaba: Could you briefly tell me about yourself and your brand?
Prudence: My name is Prudence Ramotso, I was born and raised in the Vaal (Sebokeng). I love shoes and fashion , I am ambitious and goal driven. I realized there was a gap in the South African female footwear when I was shopping around for shoes back in 2016, my entrepreneurial spirit couldn’t let this to rest. After my research in 2019 PRUDENT shoes was born, we offer what was missing in the market which is good quality shoes at affordable prices and shoes that have characters from the African names that are engraved on the outsoles.
Alaba: What inspired you to go into entrepreneurship and start Prudent?
Prudence: The rate of unemployment in South Africa increases daily and knowing that I have the ability to make a difference and create jobs in the future inspires me everyday. I took my love and passion for shoes and turned it into a brand that fills the gap in the female footwear industry. It started in my bedroom on my cell phone. I left my full time job as a financial advisor for an insurance company and gave birth to PRUDENT shoes in 2019 and I never looked back again.
Alaba: What makes your brand USP stand out and how has the market responded to your products?
Prudence: Our shoes are made of high quality material and attention to details (better workmanship). Our insoles are glued and stitched on, with our unique style names engraved on the outsoles. Like the brand name says PRUDENT, you take prudent steps when walking in our shoes, which means taking careful and calculated steps you think for the future.
The market response is very good, customers are happy with the quality and saying the shoes make them comfortable. Most customers say the shoes speak to them laughing.
Alaba: Any challenges so far since you launched early this year?
Prudence: The challenges we have is reaching a big scale of the market and getting the brand out there.
Alaba: In what way do you think the South African government can support entrepreneurs?
Prudence: Government must encourage localism, encouraging customers to “buy local” is a pillar of regional development strategies. There are products that are not manufactured in South Africa due to lack of suppliers, however they are South African brands and they make us a competitive country. Also, the government should give small businesses a real advantage in procurement policies and the process must be clear, protective and accessible to all small businesses.
Alaba: Where do you see your brand in 5 years?
Prudence: I see my brand growing and being the trusted female footwear brand in South Africa and in 10 year recognized globally. Also, as a brand helping fight the high rate of unemployment.
Alaba: How do you feel as an African entrepreneur?
Prudence: Being an African entrepreneur feels amazing at the same time is hard and exciting. We are 6 of the 10 fastest growing economies as Africa and the ease of doing business in Africa is improving to an extent that a good number of countries including South Africa, Ghana, Mauritius and Tunisia now outperform China, India, Brazil and Russia, we can say our future is bright as AFRICAN entrepreneurs.
Alaba: A little piece of advice to young and budding entrepreneurs out there?
Prudence: Believe in yourself and your dreams, it is true your network is your networth. Be persistent and never give up, start where you are with what you have and go for it. If you can imagine it , you can do it!
Trueflutter – Matchmaking App for singles of African descent: Interview with Trueflutter’s Co-Founder, Dare Olatoye
Trueflutter’s Co-Founder, Dare Olatoye
Trueflutter is a matchmaking app built for single Africans on the continent and in diaspora, in search of committed, fulfilling relationships. An online community of Single Africans in search of something real, make genuine and authentic connections. The App takes you beyond surface appearances with the use of audio bios to hear what a person sounds like and what’s important to them even before you connect. In this interview, Alaba Ayinuola speaks with Trueflutter’s Co-Founder, Dare Olatoye on his experience growing a Matchmaking brand, successes and challenges in Africa. Excerpt.
Alaba: Could you briefly tell me about yourself, business and the gap it’s filling?
Dare: My name is Dare Olatoye, I’m the co-founder of Trueflutter which is a matchmaking app for Africans on the continent and in diaspora
Alaba: What’s the inspiration for the business idea, and your vision for Trueflutter?
Dare: My sister got married for the first time when she was 47 years old. She met a great guy and they have a beautiful family. The interesting thing is that the person she married lived just 15 minutes away from her and had also been searching for a partner for many years.
Thinking about that, I realized this was a problem that technology could solve, which is why my brother and I set out to build Trueflutter.
Our vision is to provide a platform where single Africans can easily connect with highly compatible partners.
Alaba: What makes your brand USP stand out and how has the market responded to your products?
Dare: The major challenge people have with online dating is that most of the profiles have sparse or superficial information. Our platform helps you get a much deeper insight into a potential match with the use of Audio Bios and responses to carefully thought out prompts.
Alaba: How long has Trueflutter been in business?
Dare: We launched the MVP in September 2018 and had over 15,000 users sign up. That helped us gain valuable user insight which we built into the current version that was launched in January 2021.
Alaba: What are the key initiatives for the success of the business and great accomplishments?
Dare: To us success simply boils down to assembling a great team at Trueflutter and building a great community around the product. This means the most important thing we can do is listen to our users and ensure our product continues to evolve based on their feedback.
Alaba: Kindly share your most difficult moment in business and what did you learn?
Dare: Our founding team has always been very goal driven and when we set targets, we drive ourselves incredibly hard to achieve them. We had set a goal to launch the new platform on January 8th 2021 and had all our promotional partners ready to go.
However we experienced a serious setback in timelines with our development and ideally should have postponed the launch date, but we literally worked 18 hour days to still meet the timeline.
Unfortunately we launched prematurely, with quite a number of bugs on the platform. We have since resolved these but that premature launch meant we lost many of the early adopters of the platform. The major lesson is that it’s okay to release a product that is not yet perfect, with the caveat that users know it is still on beta (just like what Clubhouse did). Public launch dates should only be set when the platform has been stress tested by thousands of users and you know the user experience will be flawless.
Alaba: How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected Trueflutter’s growth and/or the user experience?
Dare: I think online dating is one of those few industries that thrived because of the pandemic. We saw an 820% spike in activity on our platform and a 270% increase in organic downloads. Our voice and video call features are also now used by more people with duration of calls at an all time high.
Alaba: What’s your favourite feature of the App so far?
Dare: Hands down it’s the Audio Bio feature, which also lets you reply with a voice note to users you like. People don’t actually realize how much your voice says about you, and when they listen to someone’s audio bio, it helps them easily decide whether or not they want to connect.
Alaba: Where do you see your brand in the next 5 years?
Dare: As the primary platform where single Africans on the continent and in diaspora meet.
Alaba: How do you feel as an African entrepreneur?
Dare: I am incredibly proud to see what my peers on the continent are doing. Despite the challenges of funding and infrastructure, we are beating the odds to build incredible products that are solving real problems. And the rest of the world is sitting up to take notice.
Alaba: Finally, what advice would you give entrepreneurs and investors in your industry?
Dare: To entrepreneurs, I would say every challenge is teaching you something. Every investor that walks away from your pitch meeting without investing, does so for a reason and if you find out why, it will make you better prepared for the next pitch.
Every customer that leaves a bad review is communicating a problem that thousands of other users are also experiencing, so you shouldn’t take it personal but embrace the feedback with gratitude.
For investors looking at the online dating space, few people realize how profitable it could be until they start diving into the numbers. But they also need to realize that it’s a long game, and like most consumer tech products, needs to be approached from the perspective of a long term investment. Trueflutter has been very fortunate to attract these kinds of investors.
Babusi Nyoni, the Zimbabwean Powering Africa’s Digital Health Economy with Sila Health
Babusi Nyoni is the co-founder and CEO of Sila Health, a global social enterprise that helps people everywhere access healthcare on any mobile device. Sila Health provides last-mile health care access across Africa using chat platforms and machine learning, creating comprehensive datasets to advance regional healthcare. In this interview with Alaba Ayinuola, Babusi shared the Sila Health journey and the vision to provide healthcare access to Africa’s most economically vulnerable. Excerpt.
How It Started
I started Sila Health in 2019 as an AI-powered health service after my mother fell ill in the Zimbabwean city of Bulawayo. Complications related to a relatively manageable condition (megaloblastic anemia) had gone misdiagnosed several times in the city’s under-resourced public health institutions, nearly costing her life until she sought private care.
Unfortunately her story is one of many across Africa where doctor-patient ratios are an average 1:5000 and low income levels mean quality healthcare is out of reach for many even as the continent’s internet growth and mobile payment adoption rates continue to outstrip the world. I saw an opportunity to connect millions of uninsured patients to healthcare providers on existing chat apps while helping them manage and find information on easily treatable conditions instantly on our platform just as my mother does.
Today we help thousands of Africans and their governments affordably bridge health gaps at scale and we are connecting the continent’s growing telemedicine industry to its first billion customers.
Africa’s digital health infrastructure is not built to scale as millions struggle with accessing basic health and medical care through traditional methods. Currently online health advice is inaccessible to most of the region’s inhabitants as many online health-solutions are data-heavy and are not built with the context of the African user in mind while players in the healthcare ecosystem lack the real-time data insights needed to contain the spread of preventable diseases.
Additionally, Africa’s telemedicine industry is growing at a slower rate than its global counterparts. Many surveyed telemedicine platforms struggle with recruiting quality patients due to the high costs of acquisition. Existing patient management platforms lack the features needed to provide comprehensive and scalable patient aftercare.
The Sila Health user-facing product is a chatbot that enables individuals in low income countries with limited access to healthcare and the internet to instantly obtain health advice that can help them significantly improve their health. If the automated interaction proves insufficient a user can make an appointment with a trained healthcare services provider via phone. Our services require very little internet data, therefore are accessible to our target group and our integrated COVID-19 module that helps people see if they show symptoms of being infected with the COVID-19 virus.
Our chatbot is accessible via Facebook chat, WhatsApp and SMS. These platforms are very popular among our target groups and are accessible on the lowest data plan tiers. By having our product accessible via these platforms the user is able to have access to medical information with very little internet data costs. Other medical chatbots require expensive app-downloads and are generally inaccessible to users with low-incomes. Our product is built for low to middle income households first, and for that reason has gained significant popularity with a 5/5 star rating and over 50% month over month growth.
Sila Trends, our data product, enables NGOs and governments to obtain real-time data on reported symptoms in the areas they preside over. Where currently health data is hard and expensive to access, our tool enables our clients to:
- Quickly recognize breakouts of infectious diseases, which is crucial for a quick and informed response.
- Follow general health trends real-time to better evaluate health policy. Understand what works and what doesn’t.
- Predict the future demand for health equipment and medication by locale.
Lifeline, our data product, helps telemedicine platforms struggling with acquiring quality users by handling the triage process on WhatsApp, Messenger and SMS and referring only high-intent users to partners. Lifeline provides doctors with critical context on a patient’s history including their profile, reported symptoms and triage result. We also provide environmental context on common symptoms in the patient’s location powered by our analytics product, Sila Trends. This saves your practice time and money. Lifeline helps practices across Africa achieve the following
- Increase practice revenue by 12%
- Reduce administrative costs by 30%
- Increase quality of care by 5% through improving outcomes.
Prepaid Cover Product
HealthPass is a prepaid product that allows Africans living in the diaspora to pay for and provide world-class healthcare for their loved ones back home. Smarter than medical aid, fulfilled by verified healthcare practitioners, HealthPass members enjoy pharmacy perks, free delivery and more; all from less than the price of a Netflix subscription.
- Guaranteed medical & dental cover, members can explore a world of benefits with the HealthPass network of verified providers.
- A virtual pharmacy wallet that enables sponsors to automatically manage and pay for prescribed medications at no extra cost.
- Free country-wide prescription delivery for all members with medicine delivered directly to each doorstep.
B I O G R A P H Y
Babusi Nyoni is the co-founder and CEO of Sila Health, a global social enterprise that helps people everywhere access healthcare on any mobile device. He uses emerging technology to develop sustainable solutions for communities in the global South. He founded Sila Health after identifying an opportunity for artificial intelligence to fill the institutional voids created by poor healthcare systems in developing economies. Babusi has a strong passion for new ideas that will change the lives of those around him and is a firm believer that African innovation will shape the technological zeitgeist worldwide.
Other Current Responsibilities;
His is an Innovation Consultant to UNHCR (Switzerland); helps drive innovation to assist and protect millions of refugees, returnees, internally displaced and stateless people. Technology Advisory Board Member at Children’s Investment Fund Foundation (UK); He advises the UK-based global foundation on Artificial Intelligence implementation at scale. Technology Advisory Board Member at UNDP Africa Leading the 4th Industrial Revolution Technical Advisory Group(UK); he provides technical advice and guidance for the Africa Leading 4IR portfolio of activities.
The Story of Nigenius and why teachers love it – Kelechi Uchenna
Nigenius Founder, Kelechi Uchenna
Nigenius is a smart website that works with teachers, parents and educators to quickly generate well researched, vetted lesson plans and quality teaching resources. Kelechi Uchenna, the Founder and Application Manager of Nigenius, shared with Business Africa Online the story of Nigenius, this is how it began, and where they are now.
How it started:
So, in 2015, in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, while waiting on an employment offer which wasn’t forthcoming, I decided that I needed to start a business, solve a problem, and get paid for it. So, I started my first legally registered company called Innovative Digital Learning. Having been good at creating presentations and having been taught extensively with technology during my masters in Cyprus. I noticed a gap in the schools in around me, and that was the fact that schools were not harnessing the power of technology in the classroom. Innovative digital learning was created to train teachers with technology in the classroom to improve student performance and learning outcomes. We started with my neighbours’ primary school, and by 2017 we had trained over 6 private schools in Port Harcourt, with over 300 teachers in teaching with technology in the classroom.
In June 2017, I moved to Lagos and our first training for a school was at Lekki Phase 1. Two important moments, led to the idea of Nigenius. During the 5-day training program for the school, an admin asked me a question and said “Mr Kelechi, what will you be leaving with us after this training? We want more than just the training, we want content, we want resources”. In that same year, Innovative Digital Learning got selected among the Top 50 startups in the BET 7 program sponsored by Diamond Bank (now Access Bank) in partnership with the Enterprise Development Center of the Lagos Business School. During the programme, a fellow female entrepreneur in the programme asked me a very important question, and she said “ Kelechi, how can you prove that you have impacted these teachers, how can you prove that you have transformed the way these teachers teach”.
With those questions bothering my mind, and the resolve to build a solution, I set out on a journey to find out from the teachers if the training had impacted them. We visited all the schools, and we found out that only 2 out of every 10 teachers had actually applied what they learned in the training and actually taught with technology in the classroom. We wanted to find out their reasons for the low adoption and they listed their challenges. Two major problems stood out amongst all the others, the teachers were overworked because they spent so much time creating their lesson plans, and also some lacked the knowledge on how to access these teaching resources online even after they had been taught in the training.
Sitting on a couch one evening, I had a eureka moment, and decided to build a smart digital assistant for teachers. An application to work with teachers, reduce their workloads, and give them access to online teaching resources. We knew that to reduce the workload of the teachers, we had to remove something that took a lot of their time and effort, i.e., lesson plans, and as for the teaching resources. What better way to give them teaching resources if not to give them the resources based on the four components of Innovative Digital Learning of which some of them had been trained. At that point, we called it the “Innovative Digital Assistant for teachers” IDAT. A few days later, in the shower, the name “Nigenius” struck me, build something that can help Nigerian teachers create geniuses. This was the ending of 2017, Nigenius was born.
The Bumpy road:
At the beginning of 2018, I was lucky to have come across some money from family, which I was going to use to invest in my future. We started building Nigenius in January 2018. A friend of mine introduced me to Samson Odele, a web developer, as a contractor at the time, who would go on to later become a co-founder. I pitched the idea to him and we went to work. Building Nigenius involved two things, the application, and the teaching content. We launched Nigenius as a mobile app on the Google store on the 1st of October 2018, Independence Day. Though it had just a few lesson plans, but we launched nonetheless. We started getting downloads, users were growing, but we still needed to get more content in because we believed that only with enough content, we could get people to actually pay for subscriptions.
After launching in October 2018 as a mobile app, it took us 10 months after to generate enough content to be able to hit the market and offer value to teachers and schools. We were able to fund our content generation and uploads from another of my businesses. We worked with graduate interns, trained them, and set them to work on a pay as you deliver model, that way we were able to get value for the money invested. Our lesson plans and teaching resources were also sent to schools for subject teachers to vet and approve before we upload on our database. One of the biggest challenges in building Nigenius was being able to create a lesson plan which could be easily used and understood by a cross section of both private and public schools.
Before we hit the market, a mentor advised that we do a free pilot with schools as a means of getting feedback on our solution, and to understand our customers experience first, before jumping into the market. At this point, luckily, we had been selected into the Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship 2019 session.
The Take-off and experience:
During the pilot, we collected the feedback data from the teachers and analysed it carefully, some of it was negative and some it was positive. Some of the negative feedback was that most teachers wanted Nigenius on their laptops which was where they went to create their lesson plans and to look for teaching resources, not on their mobile phones. We also discovered a need to make our search algorithms smarter because teachers were searching for content, which we had on our database but they weren’t getting results. Armed with the $5000 dollars from Tony Elumelu, we set out to build the new Nigenius Version 2, which would be on a website, no longer a mobile app, accessible to any one on any device. The new version went live in August 2020. We also added a feature to our admin end that helped us see the searches and the download that our users were carrying out on the website.
The new Nigenius ran on single and multi-user subscriptions. We offered users a free one-week trial, after which they would have to subscribe. However, 6 months after launch of V2, we didn’t have a single subscription payment. We discovered lesson plans and teaching resources were valuable to our users, but they weren’t enough pain point for our users to pay for. So, we decided to pivot our model. We made Nigenius free to use and launched the Nigenius Home tutor service. We already had over 500 teachers on our platform as at March 2021. And were going to sign up our teachers as tutors, connect them to parents who were looking for tutors for after school lessons for their kids, charge the parents a monthly fee, pay the tutors and collect a commission.
The Nigenius home tutor service had a unique selling point, we are not just providing highly trained, and qualified tutors, our tutors also leverage online line digital resources from our application to give kids the best learning experience.
We were also lucky to receive an investment from Aidi ventures as we joined their group of portfolio startups. With the investment, and immense expertise and mentorship from Aidi we are now charting a new course as we add amazing new features to our business model.
We are building a vibrant ecosystem of teaching and learning where teachers can access free lesson plans and teaching resources, parents can request highly qualified home tutors from top schools across the country. Teachers can create, and host group online lessons and parents can sign up their kids for these lessons.