Many new ideas are coming in every week via the VC4Africa website. On a regular basis the VC4Africa team places a new venture in the spotlights. Let’s meet Ethiopian entrepreneur Araya Lakew, founder of Mekina.
Which problem are you solving with Mekina?
“Finding the car that you want for a reasonable price is an unpleasant experience in Addis Ababa. The easiest way to find a car is through a broker or going to a car salesman. Brokers usually play a major role in deciding the price of the car, which leads to skyrocketing prices.”
Please describe your venture?
“Mekina.net is a community based website where car sellers post their cars with pictures and description. Car buyers will then have an easy way to directly contact them. Currently there are few websites offering this kind of opportunity for the car market in Ethiopia, but Mekina is different because the site is user friendly and completely community based. Not only will it ease the frustration and hassle of buying a car, but also keeps the cost of cars within a reasonable range.”
Can you tell us about your competitors?
“Internet connection in Ethiopia was first introduced as early as 1997, but for a long time it was not widespread as it should be. Internet usage was/is a luxury in the country. But after mobile internet was introduced recently, the number of internet usage seems to increase as people who cannot afford having a computer can now easily access the web from their mobile phones. Ethio Telecom says the number of mobile subscribers is currently 10 million people. As the number of people who have access has increased, websites offering services also emerged gradually. To mention some; Ezega and Betoch offer real estate listings. Sheger, Gebeya, and the international Craigslist for Addis also offer a classifieds service.”
Tell us more about your background?
“I graduated in computer science from HiLCoE, a well-known college in Addis Ababa and I have since been working for different companies in the city. For instance I have worked for the UN-FAO as a website consultant, for the Ethiopian Teachers Association as an IT-advisor. Also I worked on various freelance projects before establishing my own company Climax Technologies plc. Some of the projects I worked on includes websites for the Central Statistics of Ethiopia, the Ethiopian Elections Electoral Board, ABC Car Rent and Yahkol Films.”
What is the business model behind Mekina?
“Currently the service is free of charge for car sellers and buyers. But gradually there will be a reasonable amount of payment for the service. I have not decided whether it should be percentage based or flat rate payment. There are also banner advertisement spaces available for companies interested in reaching out to the automotive community in Ethiopia. The traffic of the website is in average 2.5 million hits a month and as it has targeted visitors many companies in the auto sector will be interested in having their ads on the website.”
What are you looking for at VC4Africa?
“The major obstacle I am facing is getting to the people who are offline. The majority of the car market community, even Addis Ababa, is still far from the internet or does not have the knowledge about how to use it. In order to reach these people I believe it is essential to use different advertisement options. I am planning to have billboards, radio and newspaper ads running continuously. Besides that, I will use different promotional materials. At VC4AfricaI I am looking for ways, this can be via funding or advice, to reach the offline community better.”
How can VC4A members contact you?