Saya Does America

Last week I had the opportunity to sit down with Robert Lamptey, CEO and Co-founder of Saya Mobile (“Saya”), fresh off the plane from his whirlwind trip to San Fransisco and New York. Robert and his partner, Badu Boahen, were invited to pitch at TechCrunch Disrupt 2012 in San Francisco – the first African company to do so.

Saya is a Ghanaian company that offers instant messaging and SMS services to the billions of non-smartphone users around the world. The service is 1000 times cheaper than traditional SMS messages. It’s a cross platform application, meaning smartphone users can use it to keep in touch with their non-smartphone user friends. Though the app is available to anyone who has internet on their phone, the company’s main focus is the emerging markets. Saya was started by partners, Robert Lamptey and Badu Boahen, in August 2011. They received seed funding from the Meltwater Foundation and are currently looking to raise another round of funding.

For the last few weeks, Robert has been jumping from one investor meeting to another, and though he had been running on stolen naps here and there, his enthusiasm and energy never fell below a 9 on a 10 point scale. When I asked him about his experience at TechCrunch Disrupt he immediately started rattling off all of the investors and CEOs he and Badu had the opportunity to meet during the event. At Disrupt, all of the startups were pitching non-stop to anyone and everyone. Even for such an upbeat person as Robert, it was difficult to maintain enthusiasm after the 1000th pitch. Sometimes it took everything he had to keep smiling, but was it worth it? Absolutely! According to Robert, the networking was superb and it was an incredibly fulfilling experience for the Saya team.

Though the team didn’t end up winning the Disrupt Cup, just pitching at Disrupt opened a lot of doors for the Saya team. Roughly 90% of their contacts came through TechCrunch. They had investors reaching out from all corners of the world – even Russia! – that had watched them pitch onstage or heard about them through other TechCrunch publications.

After the conference, Robert and Badu headed off to the Big Apple for a little bit of relaxation, and by that I mean more investor meetings, just minus the craziness of the conference.

Back in Ghana, Robert has continued conversations with investors – both abroad and at home – but he is also focused on recruiting new talent. Saya is searching for the brightest engineers and product managers out there and they’re looking all over the world! If you’re reading this and you have what it takes, I suggest you jump on this opportunity to work for one of the best disruptive technologies coming out of Africa.

So how did this talented duo get together?

Robert and Badu at MEST Graduation

Robert and Badu met when they were both Entrepreneurs in Training (EITs) at the Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology (MEST), a two year program that teaches Ghanaians how to develop, launch, and operate their own software companies. Badu had studied Business Administration in university but he was the best developer while at MEST. On the flip side, Robert had studied Engineering but by the time he was 15 years old he was running everything from his family’s bakery to their car rental shop; business came naturally to him.

The reason Badu and Robert work so well together is that, while they each gravitate to their own areas of expertise, when either of them gets stuck on a problem the other is able to provide the necessary support and input to resolve it. The pair also provides each other with the emotional support that is essential for any startup environment where things are chaotic more often than they’re not.

As Robert puts it, “I am the guy who freaks out. Badu, he’s the backbone, he calms me down.” And with that, he rushed off to another meeting.

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