Category: interview

Peter Mwangi: CEO, Konectify Technologies, Kenya

 

Peter Mwangi is the CEO of Konectify Technologies a startup providing cloud-based solutions in Kenya

Can you please introduce your company?

Konectify Technologies Limited is a Kenyan startup specializing in software engineering and development of custom web and mobile solutions with a key focus on cloud-based web solutions.

What would you say gives your company a competitive edge?

Instead of focusing only on digital marketing as many other firms do we strive to create products that offer all-round practical value to our clients. Towards this end, our team comprises of a lawyer, a digital marketing strategist, a UX/UI front-end developer, back-end engineers and cloud engineer. And we combine the expertise of all these professionals to offer holistic services.

Who are Konectify Technologies Limited clients?

  • Entrepreneurs/innovators looking to launch innovative digital/software solutions but do not have programming and development expertise.
  • Organizations looking for custom solutions to unique challenges such as donor/volunteer management for an NGO or a secure communication and file sharing channel for corporates.
  • Organizations that want to migrate to the cloud to improve the performance of their web applications, enterprise systems, websites etc.
  • Organizations in need of enterprise systems to automate their operations, fully custom websites, mobile apps etc.

What are the ambitions of the company going forward?

To become one of Africa’s premier technology conglomerates with our own software and web solutions for different sectors. We are currently working on three innovations, Popin: a solution for event organizers, eateries clubs and restaurants, Malkia: for the wedding industry, and KonfrenceMe for businesses).

How has the market responded to your technology products and services?

The market has responded positively, as we have realized many organizations have unique challenges that they don’t know can be solved by using modern digital technologies.

How is the competition in the mobile app and web design space? How are you insulating yourselves from the competition?

The mobile and web design space is quite competitive especially since there are many freelance developers who are cheap and use third-party web builders such as WordPress, Joomla, Magneto etc. We have positioned ourselves as a company that invests in Research & Development to build digital solutions with practical business value as opposed to developing generic web and mobile apps for just for the sake of having an online presence.

Africa has many talented programmers, database engineers, and developers because computer science was once a high priority in some educational systems. But the design and web-based side has been neglected for too long, and often, why is that so and is that still the case?

In our experience most talented programmers who mostly work as freelancers have poor design and UX/UI skills and are best suited to back-end engineering, thus most neglect the design and UX/UI aspect.

What are some of the cloud-based solutions you develop for your clients?

  • Custom Internal communication and file sharing platforms
  • E-commerce solutions
  • Custom Content Management Software

What is the latest news from your company?

In partnership with another startup, Three Dots Financial solutions we will be launching an event ticketing and table reservation platform dubbed Popin on Feb 14th 2019.

Nixon Kanali    Africa Business Communities

Archzilon Eshun-Davies, CISO/CEO, TAISE, Ghana

Archzilon Eshun-Davies is the CISCO/CEO of TAISE, a managed cybersecurity services company located in Ghana

Would you please introduce your company?

TAISE is a cyber-intelligence company that aims to counter cyber attacks with actionable intelligence and awareness.

What would you say gives your company a competitive edge?

We have world-class analysts and we employ Machine Learning as a tool for detecting attack patterns, this makes our solutions much more effective than most. We also have been working with different companies around the world and that gives us a global understanding of the threat surface we deal with.

Who are TAISE clients?

Our clients cut across all industries and fields, we have clients in the financial sector like GN Bank Liberia, IFS Ghana and in the telecoms space we have SwilliamTel in Switzerland, in the eCommerce we have Mummy’s Boutique, eCampus, Groc Wheels Uganda, 509Host.com and we also have professional clients like bkc.name and many others.

What are the ambitions of the company going forward?

We want to eliminate internal threats for the financial sector by 15% in 5 years, we have seen internal threat as a major problem across Africa and Europe. We also want to be of great help to businesses that want to focus on their business without fear of losing it all in a minute.

How has the market responded to your cybersecurity products and services?

The market has been quite responsive, we initially expected to have a hard time influencing C-level management of the threats and its impacts but we have seen a complete opposite. The need for our penetration test has also been very consistent across the board. When we pre-launched our flagship product the “Webguard” we were very excited to receive support from some of our competitors who now advocate for their clients to use our solutions. Overall we are very happy with how we have been received so far and look forward to more.

How is the competition in the cybersecurity space? How are you insulating yourselves from the competition?

As can be expected when a new niche is in town, we have been facing fierce competition on the field but we have curtailed this by focusing on our strengths which is intelligence gathering, analysis and our own in-house solutions that are developed on what we know works based on our years of working against threat actors in the past and what the intel tells us. When TAISE secures your business, website, phone or smart home, we provide an SLA with insurance that we pay you if you are hacked within the period for which we secure you; we do this because we are highly confident and we are tested and proven.

Africa is still lagging behind when it comes to cybersecurity, digital security is in its infancy. Why do you think this is the case?

I believe the relationship between a mouse click and an attack is not really appreciated in Africa yet, its easier for most to understand that when you leave your door unlocked you get robbed than when you leave your corporate network or your smartphone with weak passwords or broken software you get attacked and robbed. Another reason is; most businesses believe they do not have enough data or money to be a target, but in an attacker’s mind “No target is too small”. I believe sharing awareness tips like we do at TAISE helps to change the mindset and people can relate attacks more to lack of adequate security and monitoring.

What shift in cybersecurity is currently happening in Africa?

Africa is growing economically and its infrastructure is rapidly expanding, this has forced a new look at everything, we see now that more and more businesses and governments are going beyond anti-virus and firewalls and are asking the real questions of why attacks occur and how do we not fall victim.

How real are cyber threats for companies not typically targeted by cybercriminals?

If your company is small or doesn’t really fall in the general scope of what is expected to be a cyber criminal’s target, know that you interact and offer services to other businesses. Most cybercriminals would just attack large corporations but well advanced and more patient threat actors known as APTs(Advanced Persistent Threat) would use consulting businesses, cleaning services and various others as pivot points to attack their main targets. Your business is attacked to compromise and that leaves a sour taste which can lead to no business in the future for your business because you are seen as untrusted.

What is the latest news from your company?

We are preparing to launch a new product for detecting and categorizing internal threats before they become a problem. This has been a solution that most of our clients in the financial industry have been asking for and we have listened, so look forward to that and stay safe with TAISE

Nixon Kanali    Africa Business Communities

ELSELUND EWUDZIE-SAMPSON; FOUNDER AND MANAGER OF BIG SAMPS MARKET

Elselund Ewudzie-Sampson is the founder and executive director of BIG SAMPS MARKET a Ghanaian enterprise that is into a smart innovative approach to grocery and farm products to its customers. She talked to Africa Innovates about the enterprise’s business model, the growing clientele base as demand soars and her aspirations moving forward.

What is Big Samps Market?

Big Samps Market is an online food market and grocery delivery service. We shop and deliver groceries from local markets and farms to individuals, families and businesses in the comfort of their homes and offices.

Where is it located? (Country, City, Quarter, Office?)

Big Samps Market is located in Accra, Ghana.

When was it founded and by who?

Big Samps started by Elselund Ewudzie-Sampson (Adwoa Agbogbloshie Sampson) operating officially in August 2017.

How is the enterprise funded?

The company has been funded through personal savings, and financial support from family.

What are the competitive advantages of your business?

 Identifying that web based food shopping is a struggle for most people, we on the other hand have made access to our service very user friendly. Placing an order for your groceries is Just like text chatting with a friend because clients place their orders via WhatsApp.

How has the market responded to your products/services?

The response and feedback has been impressive. Though the grocery delivery industry is a baby industry in our part of the world. The business which started with no clients now serves 130+ families, individuals and businesses.

What have been your business milestones over the past 2 years?

 Gaining recognition through published articles, client recommendations and winning the maiden Lux Supergirl Empowerment Clinic Award for young innovative female owned business in November 2018

Who are your clients?

 Women (Nursing mothers, working and business class, students) businesses in the food industry then few men.

Who are your main competitors?

Other startup grocery delivery services, shopping malls, community foodstuff vendors.

What are the future plans for your venture?

Create mobile markets in the city to serve clients faster whiles widening our clientele. Strengthening supplier driven linkages with market women and farmers to also aid in faster and efficient delivery whiles helping market women and farmers achieve less loss but more earnings. To gain prominent web/online presence to gain us more recognition both in and outside Ghana. We look forward to serving clients with same day order and delivery.

What does your company need to grow, scale and prosper?

We currently need funding to help us acquiring a truck for transporting goods and a bigger working space. We also look forward to including more human resource to aid in marketing and general operations.

What message would you like to convey the readers of AFRICA INNOVATES who are thinking of investing in Africa?

There are several opportunities to look out for in Ghana and Africa. It is not easy executing business ideas in our part of the world with all the irregularities but with determination and consistency, we strive and stand tall in our local setting. To the investors/mentors/VCs, there are many innovative ideas/startups here in Ghana/Africa that are not getting adequate mentoring, coaching and funding to commercialize. We need to open up the spectrum for inclusive African startups growth and investment. 

Tony Idugboe, Vice President, Itanna, Nigeria

Tony Idugboe is Vice President, Head of Investments at Itanna, an investment vehicle that drives and supports Nigeria’s most promising tech-enabled startups through Honeywell Group’s business acumen, investment and mentorship. 

Could you introduce your company?

Itanna is a Corporate Venture Capital platform backed by the Honeywell Group. The platform is conceived to be a place where Africa’s top talent can bring their ideas, visions, expertise, and resources to create a new wave of businesses. At Itanna, we invest in early stage and growth stage technology enabled businesses across Sub Saharan Africa. We do this in two ways. The first is through an Accelerator Programme where selected investment companies receive both financial investment and hands-on advice from business experts to accelerate their business growth. The second way is through a Direct Investment scheme where we provide strategic investments to growth stage companies.

Why was Itanna created, and to what extent is it achieving its purpose?

Itanna is a core component of Honeywell Group’s innovation and sustainability strategy, and was created out of a recognition of the impact of technology on businesses. We just concluded our pilot cohort which was a huge success. The pilot cohort was very impactful to these startups, as they were able to validate their business models and strategy, grew their businesses by reaching more customers and increasing revenue. During the program these startups received training and mentorship in form of UI/UX Sessions, legal and HR workshops, classes on technology enhancements, business and marketing, and reviews of revenue/pricing model and operational metrics. During the course of the Programme, the startups had industry experts and entrepreneurs like Interswitch’s Mitchell Elegbe, TLCom’s Omobola Johnson and VGG’s Bunmi Akinyemiju, come share their success stories and lessons with them. Furthermore, several of these startups are currently having conversations with investors they met on Demo Day.  We at Itanna are happy to see the impact we have made on these startups. I will also note that through Honeywell’s network, the accelerator’s inaugural cohort has secured eight partnerships which are expected to have positive impact on the startups’ top line.

How is Itanna funded?

Itanna is currently funded off Honeywell Group’s balance sheet. However, our future plan, once we have built a track record, is to seek other funding partners (both investors and corporate).

What criteria must a startup meet to merit support from Itanna?

For the Accelerator Programme, we have 2 sets of criteria – primary and secondary. Our primary criteria are public, while our secondary criteria are private. We view the secondary criteria as our secret sauce. Our primary criteria are:

Pan-African Market Potential: Startups with potential to scale across multiple African countries.

 Strong Founding Team: Strong founding teams with a clear vision, technical capability, domain/sector knowledge, executional skills, and strong sense of integrity.

MVP with traction: Startups with a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) that have been launched. Also, Startups should be able to show traction either in the form of user growth/adoption or partnerships.

For our Direct Investment Scheme, where we focus mainly on growth stage startups. We like to see startup companies with over 10% month-over-month growth, high lifetime value / customer acquisition cost (LTV/CAC) ratio, large target market, Pan-African market potential, and strong management teams.

What area most needs improvement in the Nigerian ICT startup sector?

There are 4 key areas we have identified, they are talent, funding, regulatory oversight and infrastructure improvement.

One of the most difficult challenges ICT startups face in Nigeria is attracting and retaining talent. Most seasoned talents prefer to avoid the hassle of the startup life by working for larger corporations that can pay more for their services. The implication of this is that it is expensive for most ICT entrepreneurs to find good, quality talent that they can rely on to run their businesses. To improve this, the benefits of digital entrepreneurship needs to be taught in both our secondary and tertiary institutions.

Despite recent efforts by the government, the regulatory environment remains challenging for Nigeria’s ICT startups. The regulatory framework for many tech startups is yet to catch up with the impact of technology in businesses. Regulators will need to get a better understanding of technology and create a framework that properly enables growth while continuing to protect all stakeholders.

Funding is one of the major challenges inhibiting the growth of startups in Nigeria’s ICT sector, particularly seed and pre-series A funding. Honeywell is trying to solve this problem via Itanna. However, there need to be more players in the space providing support to early stage ICT startups via funding.

The cost of doing business in Nigeria remains high due to lack of basic infrastructure such as power, good roads and the high cost of internet. We need to do more to improve on our existing infrastructures and create new ones.

What does Itanna need to grow and reach more startups needing support?

A key thing we need to do is expand our outreach outside of Lagos, Abuja and Port Harcourt. We plan to do this by partnering with other incubators and hubs outside these regions. Also, we want to broaden our Pan-African outreach to attract startups outside of Nigeria. Lastly, we want to source and invest in more growth stage companies via our direct investment scheme and plan to close our first direct investment before the end of the year.

What is the latest news from the company?

We recently held our first Demo Day (on the 30th of November) at our Enterprise Factory. The day saw our four pilot cohort startups (Accounteer, KoloPay, PowerCube, & TradeBuza) pitch to Honeywell Group’s extensive network of high net-worth investors for investment, corporate banking and strategic partnerships, for their companies. The Demo Day also hosted a panel of leading players in the Nigerian tech and business ecosystems, who discussed the role of corporate Nigeria in achieving win-win collaborations with tech startups. Panellists included Deji Oguntonade, Head Fintech & Innovation, Guaranty Trust Bank, Lola Ekugo, Head Digital Innovation Lab, First Bank, Obi Emetatom, Managing Director, Appzone and Seun Faluyi, Managing Director, Uraga Power Solutions.

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