TOP 10 TECHNOLOGY STARTUPS IN AFRICA THAT WILL SHAKE UP 2012

IrokoTV

IrokoTV is the creation of Iroko Partners, a Nigerian company based in Lagos. The company had previously launched an all-movies channel on YouTube (NollywoodLove). In December 2011, Iroko Partners followed up their success with the YouTube channel by launching an all-movies streaming video website to show Nigerian home movies. Given the huge popularity of Nollywood movies in Nigeria and across Africa, it is not surprising that in the very first month of operation, IrokoTV grossed over 4.9 million page views, with 20,000 unique visitors and 962,000 visitors, and over 100,000 registered active users. These numbers are an advertiser’s delight, and Iroko Partners has been able to tap into this huge market by creating advertising space on its NollywoodLove YouTube channel and IrokoTV. Iroko Partners has generated revenues in excess of $1million, and IrokoTV looks set to provide another cash stream for the parent company Iroko Partners in terms of advertising revenue and the membership fees which are likely to be introduced at the end of the free membership period in June 2012.

IrokoTV’s business model is a simple but highly effective one. By employing the power of the internet in reaching out to millions of people with a product that has mass appeal, IrokoTV draws some of the heftiest traffic of any technology startup company. This traffic is then monetized by offering advertising slots to businesses to reach out to its viewing traffic. The best part about this model is that this advertising revenue does not depend on registered users only, but on every single hit that comes to the website. Online advertising is unique in that even one person can bring in thousands of paying customers down the line through word of mouth advertising.

In order to watch movies on IrokoTV, a visitor needs to register and get a username and password. With it, users can login and get access to all their favourite films. The story of IrokoTV has been featured on Forbes, CNBC Africa (Channel 410 on DSTV Africa), Financial Times, CNN and The Economist.

There are still a number of issues that are not yet clear about the operations of IrokoTV. Operating from a country where piracy is a big issue, it is not clear whether IrokoTV has a revenue sharing agreement with the producers and marketers of Nigerian films. One would want to believe that one exists, as it would be impossible for IrokoTV to have gone this far in such a short time without letting the film-makers in on a portion of its revenue.

Iroko TV is the brainchild of Jason Njoku, CEO of Iroko Partners. By his own account, he had a very rough start in business, losing money and drowned in debts as recently as four years ago. But as is the tradition of many rags to riches technology entrepreneurs, Jason Njoku was able to rough it out in Manchester, securing a Second Class Upper degree and being able to birth the concepts that have materialized today into IrokoTV and NollywoodLove. Jason Njoku has truly shown that trials are just an avenue to refocus and reengineer an individual.

We believe that IrokoTV will build on its business model in 2012 to create even more streams of income, while at the same time, keeping its numerous registered users and visitors coming back for more.

ShopAfrica53.com

ShopAfrica53.com is the brainchild of Herman Chinery-Hesse (who has been featured on our home page at siliconafrica.com). ShopAfrica53.com is a Ghanaian-based company that is out to change the face of e-commerce in Africa forever. Merchants will be able to list their products on ShopAfrica53.com (which will serve as an online store), and customers who shop can pay for their products via SMS.

The driving force behind the business model is the ubiquitous nature of mobile phone use in Africa. Not everyone has access to a credit card, a bank account or an e-currency solution, but nearly 8 in 10 Africans own a mobile phone. By getting customers to use a payment solution suited to mobile phones, the service offered by ShopAfrica53.com is expected to reach even areas of Africa where there is mobile telephony but no banking facilities.

How does this work? Customers are expected to purchase buying credit in the form of a recharge card. This recharge card is the Africa Liberty Card, which when loaded onto the mobile phone, provides the user with enough credit to do his or her shopping. Payments are made via SMS. This works just the way a prepaid recharge card works, where shopping reduces the credit until it is time to recharge. Delivery of goods is done using reputable courier companies like DHL and Fedex. Customers are also able to track their purchases from payment to final delivery at their doorstep, thanks to a logistic backbone provided by BKB Logistics. ShopAfrica53.com has kicked off operations in Ghana, and hopes to spread to the whole of Africa.

Herman Chinery-Hesse, the Ghanaian owner of this company, is a successful software entrepreneur who has founded companies such as theSOFTtribe. He has won numerous awards. You can see more of him on siliconafrica.com.

Bandeka.com

This is indeed the era of social media, and Africa is definitely not lagging behind. Two young Africans who are alumni of the prestigious Harvard Business School, Yaw Boateng (Ghana) and Tunde Kehinde (Nigeria), have tapped into this phenomenon by creating Bandeka.com. Started in October 2011, Bandeka.com is an exclusive social media network for young and educated professionals to do everything they would probably do in a real-life setting; connecting, networking, making business deals, falling in love, and having fun. Unlike Facebook where every Tom, Dick and Harry can just create a free account and start networking socially, Bandeka is an invite-only social media network. You have to be invited by an existing “Bandekan” to join in. Bandeka takes the concept of social media up by a notch to include offline events to provide an avenue for members of Bandeka to meet personally and socialize.

Bandeka’s concept is a fantastic one considering that ordinarily, young professionals tend to meet the same people everyday in their work setting, and even when their jobs expose them to a broader section of the public, the interaction is probably too formal or too brief to provide any meaningful opportunity for networking, partnering or socialization. But by joining this elite group of professionals, members of Bandeka have these barriers broken by just a few clicks of the mouse button.

Bandeka is open to Africans living in Africa and in Diaspora. Members can search for other members using a variety of demographics such as profession, country of origin, schools attended and country of residence. Without a shadow of doubt, one of the unique selling propositions of Bandeka.com is the dating angle, as the site gives a lot of emphasis on singles getting to hook up for love and companionship. This is enhanced by the enlisting of established members who are dubbed “matchmakers”, to give invites to singles they know to join the social network.

Bandeka’s name is an adaptation of the Swahili word “Bandika” which means, to “connect”. At the moment, it is difficult to identify the revenue model of Bandeka, as the company is less than five months old. But an advertising-based revenue model cannot be ruled out. The company is presently being supported by angel investors.

Njorku.com

Jobs and employment are a key issue. Visit any jobs website operating out of Africa and check out the number of hits a month each site gets and you will be amazed by the numbers. Jobs are a key issue in Africa, and if there is a website that can help people get jobs, such a websites would get popular very quickly. This is what Churchill Mambe Nanje, a 25-year old Cameroonian technology entrepreneur has tapped into by creating Njorku.com, a search engine and jobs aggregator website. This site caters exclusively to African job seekers. Njorku’s logo carries the head of an elephant; “Njorku” means “elephant” in the local dialect of the Dikome Balue tribe of Cameroun where Nanje comes from.

How does Njorku operate? By serving as a jobs aggregator, Njorku surfs the web for African employment and job opportunity websites, and puts them all in one place for users to benefit from. Usually, job seekers can be served jobs that are closest to their locations.

Njorku’s revenue base is from user subscriptions and payments made by human resource companies and organizations.

PAGA

As mobile payment looks set to replace conventional banking as the method of choice for sending and receiving payments, we look onto PAGA, a mobile payments solution company based and doing business in Nigeria.

As Nigeria looks set to implement its cashless society initiative, PAGA has stepped in as one of the pioneers in the budding mobile payment industry. It is estimated that as much as 83% of the Nigerian population is unbanked, and in an effort to reduce the flow of physical cash, reach out to this huge unbanked population, reduce the cost of cash transactions and in compliance with tighter money laundering regulations, the Central Bank of Nigeria has handed out licenses to companies to provide mobile payments services.

PAGA works on the most basic of mobile phones. Users have the opportunity to use PAGA by themselves (through owning a PAGA account) or by going through any of the PAGA-accredited Agents.

PAGA also offers its users several other products such as: buying/sending airtime credits, bill payments, and retail payments. Users have the choice of using PAGA through several channels such as SMS, through the PAGA website, a mobile application, USSD, or IVR automated lines.

PAGA is not just for private use. PAGA Merchant Services allows businesses to collect payments from all spectrums of the population, banked or unbanked, through the use of the PAGA e-widget. Businesses can also integrate an online checkout e-commerce process on their own websites. PAGA has an extensive agent network to help businesses collect payment for goods and services or provide customers the convenience of paying via SMS or online at PAGA’s customer portal. PAGA is surely one of the hottest startups of 2011 that looks set to explode in 2012.

Dealdey

If you are looking towards one of the fastest growing Groupon look-alikes, then Dealdey will surely take the cake. Dealdey is a Nigerian company whose business is providing group-buying discount deals. Dealdey was launched in March 2011 and has succeeded in changing the scope of the e-commerce industry in Nigeria, a country which has traditionally been quite slow to catch-up with its African counterparts in this area. Dealdey primarily caters to the population in Lagos and Abuja, providing discounts on a range of products and services in restaurants, fast-food joints and retail shops.

Dealdey has been able to rack up a subscriber-base of over 100,000 members on its platform in a space of 11 months. Dealdey.com has indeed done a first; being able to launch a concept which on face value would look to be a hard-sell to the Nigerian public, but which has turned out to be a phenomenal success. The company’ success has been boosted by the funding it received from its parent company e-Motion Advertising to the tune of $1m.

How does Dealdey work? Users first register on the website to get an account. In order to start receiving deals and be able to pay for them, users can make deposits to four selected banks, or can pay on Dealdey.com using their ATM/debit cards as well as through the use of mobile payment platforms. You would then receive your coupon by email or SMS. The user can then present this coupon to the retailer and claim the item paid for.

Dealdey’s revenue comes from the payments it gets from companies to have their products listed on Dealday. According to its CEO, Dealdey is presently adding 500 new members a day and sells about 200 restaurant deals a day. With the concept of discount online purchases catching on fast in Nigeria, Dealdey looks positioned to increase its market share, especially as the mobile payment reforms introduced by the Central Bank of Nigeria kick in fully in June 2012.

Dealdey.com is the brainchild of Samdul Shagaya, an entrepreneur from the middle-belt state of Plateau in Nigeria. With over 11 years experience in New Media and Investment Banking, his working experience includes stints at MicroStrategy, Lucent Technologies and Real Networks.

 

He has served as the Africa lead for Google Inc, and as the West African Principal for Rand Merchant Bank. A graduate of George Washington University and Dartmouth College, Shagaya also holds an MBA from Harvard Business School.

Presently, he is working on opening a central logistics office in GRA Ikeja, Lagos State. This centre will serve as a centralized pick-up point and also a point from where non-perishables can be stored for onward delivery to the doorsteps of customers.

iSign

Have you ever found yourself in an unbelievable bind after having lost an important document such as a business contract? What of the high-profile cases that have resulted after the deaths of wealthy personalities, stemming from allegations of doctored wills? Or are you the kind of person who has a natural difficulty in preserving and keeping track of important documentation? Or perhaps, you simply want a place to store away documents in an electronic format, away from prying eyes who may want to use the information contained in them against you?

This is what this iSign is out to help you with; providing a platform to securely stow away your documents in electronic format. iSign offers a secure and permanent online storage environment for the  management and sharing for legal & other important documents. Individuals & businesses have the opportunity to use iSign’s services to store wills, legal agreements, investment records, and other security information, and to share them with just the parties that they want to have them, securely.

Lately there has been a lot of push towards greening and conservation of the earth’s dwindling resources, such as trees from which paper is derived. iSign has delivered on this mandate in addition to providing a highly sought-after service.

We live in a world where information is king. Information has made people rich. It has taken down governments. It can make or mar a person, a company or a country. People have lost millions of dollars to the machination of stolen sensitive information. Control of access to certain kinds of information in the 21st century is highly desirable, and this is what iSign has provided.

How does it work? Users pay a $9.99 usage fee every month, and can upload and share documents for online signatures. Gone are the days when people need to be present to sign signatures physically. iSign prides itself in its military-grade encryption technology that provides security for its users’ documents.

iSign is owned by Refer-X Technologies (Pty) Limited, a South African company. The services of this company has caught the eye of Seedcamp, a European microseed company that funds early start-up companies, and this company is one of 11 companies that have been selected for a potential investment of 50,000 Euros.

TruSpot 

The African music industry has experienced a powerful renaissance in the last decade, helped to a large extent by music channels such as MTVBase, Channel O and TraceTV, which have provided a voice for African musical talent. Not everyone has access to TV, but a large population of Africa has access to mobile phones. Indeed, more people own mobile phones than own televisions. It is on this platform that TruSpot has launched its business to become Africa’s largest social music platform. TruSpot has developed several strategic partnerships record labels and artistes in Africa. TruSpot has the largest African music database online. The company has also leveraged on the widespread use of the Blackberry smartphone to develop its own Blackberry app, to provide streaming music to its users via the Blackberry device.

TruSpot presently boasts of over 8 million unique visitors and about 80,000 registered users as at December 2011. TruSpot makes its money from advertising sales and commissions from albums sold on its Afritunes platform. It also augments its income by selling ringtones and wallpapers of African celebrities. In the future, Truspot might adopt a paid-subscription model. Given the fact that mobile telecoms companies are making money from ringtone downloads and caller tunes, there is very little doubt that registered users would not mind paying for good musical content.

TruSpot operates out of South Africa and is owned by Ikena Orizu. Orizu and his small team are still experimenting with different revhenue models to monetize its traffic and boost revenues.

Rupu

We turn our attention to East Africa, and on Rupu, Kenya’s version of the Groupon concept. Rupu started operations in January 2011, and even though it was not the pioneer of the group-buying discount deals market in Kenya, it has grown to become the most successful. Rupu has been able to integrate a group-buying recruitment process by promoting the use of social media websites like Facebook and Twitter for this purpose.

Rupu offers daily deals at 50-90% off the usual price if the deals are purchased by a group. Group-buying works where a minimum amount of people have to sign up for the deal in order in order to be able to claim the benefits. This enables retailers make more money from the numerous orders, and helps the group members save money. Rupu’s market is on the major cities of Nairobi and Mombasa.

Rupu is closely modelled after the Groupon brand, but has adjusted slightly to address the peculiarities of the Kenyan market. The Kenyan mobile payment platform, M-Pesa, which sends payments through mobile phones, is crucial in the success of Rupu. Rupu’s CEO Ben Maina lent credence to this by saying that Rupu tried to make the purchasing process as user-friendly as possible by integrating local mobile payment methods. This has obviously worked out well for Rupu.

Rupu also offers gift cards to loyal customers.

A lot of factors have worked in Rupu’s favour. Kenya has a relatively high internet and mobile phone penetration when compared with its counterparts in Africa. Mobile payments have been going on in Kenya for at least 6 years, and by adopting this payment model, Rupu has achieved greater market penetration. Rupu has sold over 3,000 coupons and have saved our subscribers just under Ksh 5 million” ($56,333).

Ben Maina is the CEO of Rupu.

Bongo Live!

Bongo Live is a mobile services company based in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania. It’s range of services includes group messaging, targeted SMS offers, tailored SMS services (e.g. surveys and raffle draws) and custom applications that cater to organizations and individuals.

How does Bongo Live work? Bongo Live users can register as subscribers or as broadcasters. Subscribers register for free on the website and build their profiles in order to receive the latest SMS deals available. Broadcasters register and add contacts to their account for the purpose of group messaging. This is suitable for businesses who want to send out a mass alert about their products or an offer that they have. This is a solid business foundation as studies have shown that most people hardly go anywhere without their mobile phones, and mobile phone users are hardly desensitized to advertising they way people generally are when presented with print, electronic or outdoor media advertising.

Bongo Live gets its revenue from advertising fees and purchase of broadcast SMS credits. In essence, broadcasters can purchase SMS credits and get the chance to send out information about deals to users who have registered as subscribers.

In the words of its CEO, Bongo Live was developed to provide businesses with a platform to reach consumers without spamming people with junk SMS. Bongo Live is generating a lot of interest in and around Tanzania, as its service is catching on.

Bongo Live is the brainchild of Taha Jiwaji. Educated at the International Schools of Tanganyika and Bangalore as well as the Lafayette College, Jiwaji has had working stints as Project Manager of Engineer Without Borders and as a Consultant with Capgemini. He is also a co-founder of CampuSMS, a venture which no doubt, prepared him for his current endeavour as CEO of Bongo Live.

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About Mawuna KOUTONIN

Mawuna Koutonin is a world peace activist who relentlessly works to empower people to express their full potential and pursue their dreams, regardless of their background. He is the Editior of SiliconAfrica.com, Founder of Goodbuzz.net, and Social activist for Africa Renaissance. Koutonin’s ultimate dream is to open a world-class human potential development school in Africa in 2017. If you are interested in learning more about this venture or Koutonin’s other projects, you can reach him directly by emailing at mk@linkcrafter.com.

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