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Meet Rasello, the Foursquare SMS disruptor from Tanzania

The Tanzanian startup Rasello is aiming to become the platform where businesses can interact with their clients – via their mobile phones. When co-founder Natalino Mwenda visited Nairobi recently, VC4Africa met with this ambitious entrepreneur from Dar es Salaam. “Rasello has the potential to reach large groups of people in Africa much faster as the availability of smartphones is still low in comparison to basic SMS enabled phones.”

What is Rasello?

Rasello is a communication platform that enables businesses to broadcast updates, news and offers directly to the people who matter most; their clients and followers who choose to follow updates from their businesses on their mobile phone via SMS.

Everyone has a business that they love, and via Rasello they can be instantly informed when that business has something great to say. The best way to stay in the loop is through our mobile broadcasts – they are instant, direct, and always keep you updated on your favorite bars, hotels and stores.”

Rasello is aiming at the two sides: the businesses and their clients/followers. A business signs in, writes a broadcast, publishes it online on their public page, and instantly pushes the broadcast to the mobile phones of their followers. Mobile broadcasts have strong anti-spam features which enables users to comfortably get information from different businesses they follow.

There is no major reason behind the name Rasello besides from the fact that “Ras” in Swahili means the peninsular and “ello” from Hello – put them together and you’ve got Rasello.”

Why are you different compared to ‘Facebook Places’ and ‘Foursquare’?

“Facebook and Foursquare are social platforms. Rasello on the other hand is a business to consumer communication platform that focuses on businesses being able to broadcast information to their clients. We also make targeted communication possible through analytics that we provide to businesses, helping them to communicate smarter and faster.

Rasello has a slight social element to it, where anyone else who is interested in receiving broadcasts from a specific business they are interested in can ‘opt in’ to follow broadcasts. As a result they get instant information on their mobile. Rasello broadcasts are more effective to get a message across since they are instantly received and it is more direct that Facebook or Foursquare. Rasello has the potential to reach large groups of people in Africa much faster as the availability of smartphones is still low in comparison to basic SMS enabled phones.”

Can you describe the process that resulted in what Rasello is today?

“Rasello began as a business directory with the ideology that many business in Africa don’t have an online presence and we wanted to get them online to be reached by the rest of the world. We later discovered through a survey that there is little demand to dormant business listings, so we pivoted to enabling these businesses on the platform to activate their broadcasts; enabling them to communicate to the public.

This led us to having a platform with active businesses constantly communicating updates, news and offers publicly and pushing those broadcasts to their followers mobile phones.”

What’s the business model behind Rasello?

“The Rasello technology architecture will enable the platform to make money in multiple avenues, at the moment we are focused in businesses buying SMS broadcasts enabling them to reach out to their followers faster than most platforms. Beyond that, Rasello will also launch online sponsored broadcasts program that will enable business to get more online awareness on their broadcasts which will lead to them generating more followers.”

You took part in the Seedstartup program in Dubai. Why did they select Rasello and how has participating helped you to date?

Seedstartup is part of the Techstars network – the worlds leading accelerator program. This program enabled us to dedicate our time and focus on developing the product further, but most importantly gave us access to world-class industry experts as mentors who have been a catalyst to what Rasello is today. Together with excellent mentoring, Rasello received seed investment through this program giving us more resources to build our idea a step further.”

What are you looking for now in terms of funding, and how are you going to use this?

“Rasello is looking to raise additional capital, which should enable us to grow the service across more countries in Africa. We want to establish a stronger footprint on a service that is already making a difference in how businesses communicate to people everyday. Some businesses outside of East Africa are already using the platform and we also have some businesses in the MENA region (Middle East and North Africa), USA and Europe who have found a liking to the simple yet very practical user interface and experience – evidence that Rasello has massive growth potential.”

What are your future plans with Rasello?

“There is only one direction we can go once we have met our Africa growth objectives; scale out towards the MENA regions.

Puspa Raj Bhattarai, Rasello co-founder and CTO (picture on the right), has a strong background in data-mining and software application development. He envisions Rasello to being a strong global player on an enterprise level – aiding large corporates to communicate smarter in reference to their vast client base through the use of Rasello customized enterprise broadcast features.”

How can people reach you?

“For general information people can e-mail to info [at] rasello.com Businesses who want join in the fun can reach us via places [at] rasello.com We can be reacher via founders [at} rasello.com and my VC4Africa profile.”