Fundraising: mPawa, connecting Africa’s job market by mobile

Learn more about the entrepreneurs selected to fundraise in VC4Africa’s June Cohort. Below we interview DEMO Africa 2012 winner 
Maxwell Donkor of mPawa, Ghana’s blue collar job matching platform, expanding in Africa. “My advice to all entrepreneurs in Africa is to apply for DEMO Africa 2013!”

What’s the essence of your business plan?

“Our business plan has a very simple objective: to bring the blue collar sector in Africa up to the technology level that can make matchmaking effective and efficient. We are building a movement where the blue-collar sector in Africa can have its own Linkedin to facilitate easy, faster and more effective recruitment in the lower sector of the labor industry.”

The last time we interviewed you was in September last year, before DEMO Africa 2012. What has happened in the mean time?

“After we were selected as one of the Top 40 entrepreneurs to pitch in Nairobi at DEMO Africa 2012, we came out as one of the Top 5 DEMO LIONS to represent Africa at the DEMO conference in San Francisco later this year: this October we’ll give a new pitch to a world audience in San Francisco!

mPawa was again selected by the World Bank’s infoDev as one of the Top 50 Global Innovation entrepreneurs from emerging markets and was subsequently selected among the Top 20 from this list to pitch at the Global Forum on Innovation & Entrepreneurship in South Africa.

After we participated in DEMO Africa we saw a big growth in our initial market Ghana and also some partner interest in both Kenya and Nigeria. Our most recent big successes have been media reach and recognition, and of course company value delivery and customer satisfaction.

We have over 12,000 job seekers now in our system, and over 60 employers currently signed up to mPawa. Of this number about 55% actively searched or have employed blue collar workers trough mPawa. Our revenues have grown steadily over the last 6 months and we’re still testing out best pricing strategies to increase revenues and our cash flow in the next 6 months.”

What was the single greatest challenge you faced to date with your business? And how did you overcome this?

“Our greatest challenge has been the management of the change that we are bringing to the blue-collar sector of the labor industry in Africa. Our cherished clients – employers & job seekers – have not experienced innovation for a long time and the sudden change by mPawa is having difficult reception. We overcame this by taking time to engage with our clients. We are learning from them and iterating quickly to fit our product to their needs and bring them up to the innovation and technological level we envisage the industry to have. Our key solution has been consumer education.”

How have you financed the business to date? And how can you proof to investors that your business will deliver?

“mPawa has been operating since August 2012 and we received seed funding from the Meltwater Foundation. We equally received not just monetary support from the Foundation, but operational, advisory and managerial support as well. With this support, we have tested out over three business models and two revenue-generating channels. We have a fairly solid model that is working really well in Ghana and has helped the company to quickly grow its revenue nearing cash flow positive in less than 12 months of operations. We see the need this sector has and we are solving it in the most efficient and effective way using technology, and we are building value for our investors.”

What investment are you looking and which milestones do you want to reach?

“In our present round we are raising US$ 280,000. This will mainly be to grow the mPawa brand  to enter three of the key market economies in Africa and build a network of blue collar workers platforms. We are growing steadily to be the go-to platform and only name when people think of blue-collar recruitment in Africa. This is our greatest aim over the next three years.”

What advice would you give to entrepreneurs who are presently considering to apply for DEMO Africa 2013?

“Participating in DEMO Africa 2012 was really awesome. We launched mPawa at DEMO Africa and this immediately shot us into the limelight, even though we wanted to get our feet solid on the grounds at that time. We met with like-minded young Africans who spark up more innovative ideas to make Africa a better place. We also saw future collaborations and partnership during the conference and I must say, we have grown this far because of our involvement at DEMO Africa. The platform was an honor and the media reach for the conference was wonderful.

My advice to all entrepreneurs in Africa is to apply for DEMO Africa 2013! This is a rare opportunity to launch you product to the whole of Africa and the world. DEMO Africa is the platform of choice to reach Africa’s 1 billion people with your Innovation. Investors who understand Africa’s startup scene and mentors and advisors who have the development of Africa as their interest are ready to discuss and help take your business to the next level!”

For more information see mPawa’s VC4Africa venture profile. Only investors registered on VC4Africa can get access to private documents and all other details of the ventures, and express their interest to invest. Inspired to launch your product in front of a global audience? Apply to be a part of DEMO Africa 2013!