Fundraising: DUMA Works, Kenya’s revolutionary mobile job networking service

Learn more about the entrepreneurs selected to fundraise in VC4Africa’s June Cohort. Below we interview Arielle Sandor & Christine Blauvelt of DUMA Works, Kenya’s revolutionary mobile job networking service. 

What is your background and what’s the story of how you’ve set up DUMA Works?

“We started DUMA together with three people, we all met while students at Princeton University. Eric is originally from Kenya and had been dabbling in startups focused on Kenya for a while. And we, Arielle and Christine, spent a summer in Kenya doing community focused projects. We realized that most of our friends in Kenya were trained in many skills but did not know how to find a fitting job, and came up with the idea for DUMA. Several competitions later, we realized this could be a viable solution. DUMA began a pilot in September 2012 in Nakuru, Kenya and has since expanded to Nairobi for further development.”

What is the business opportunity you address and the essence of your business plan?

“In Kenya, there is a fantastic web of family, friends, and colleagues spread throughout the country. People often do not trust the typical job matching system, especially for short-term tasks that involve company property, or personal possessions. For these tasks, you need to have a friend, or an employee, vouch for the worker.

The problem with this “word-of-mouth” system is that you do not always know who has a qualified worker with the skills you are looking for. DUMA is a service that makes the system easier by systematizing the process. We offer employers information about skilled workers nearby whom they know through an employee, a friend, or maybe the friend of a friend. We also offer a post-job rating system for employees so workers can be held accountable for the quality of their performance. This will not only create solid linkages between workers and employers, but also creates a database of jobseekers and a map of job openings across the country.

DUMA is free for employees to use. We charge employers a one-time commission of between 2-10% of the salary of each applicant whom he wants to contact (based on the job salary and duration, the number of job openings to be filled, and the recruitment time). We also earn money from employers by offering subscription-based premium services for HR management, bulk hiring, CV viewing, and advanced search filters.”

Who is the team behind the business?

“As co-founders we’ve studied History and Antropology at Princeton and have professional experience in market research & marketing and in public health organizations, respectively. Eric Kuto, DUMA’s lead developer, studied Computer Science and IT at Princeton, has experience in two other Kenyan-based startups, and worked as a software engineer at Ashoka. The other members of our tech team are Jack Mwangi and Kenny Rachuonyo, recent Computer Science graduate of the University of Nairobi. Kelvin Wainaina, who studied Medical Laboratory Technology in college, has been in charge of customer relations for the past 10 months. On top of this, our advisory board includes the co-founder of Venmo, a US-based startup that deals with mobile money and social networks, a consultant in the World Bank Group’s GICT Department in Nairobi, a former US Ambassador to the African Union and the Managing Director at Total Impact Advisors, and others.”

What milestones have you reached with DUMA to date?

“We have matched over 1,500 people to jobs around the country. We have over 2,300 job seekers in our database and relationships with more than 20 companies using DUMA to hire. We have paying customers – some who use the basic service, and some the premium service. These customers are both SME’s and larger corporations. Our most recent big success has been winning the Rockefeller Foundation’s Centennial Innovation Challenge. And we won the Google Innovation Award for Social Equity and Poverty Reduction at the Connected Kenya 2013 Summit.”

What kind of investor(s) are you looking for and for which amount? And which milestones do you want to reach with the investment?

“We are not looking to raise more funds immediately, but we are interested in making connections with potential investors for our Series A round. The milestones we have for our first round of investment are the finishing of the DUMA software, establishing a large network of employer and employees around Kenya, and optimizing our matching algorithms.”

How have you financed the business to date? And what makes DUMA interesting for investors?

“We have been financing DUMA through our competition winnings from the Intel “She Will Innovate” Award, Ashoka Youth Changemakers, Princeton TigerLaunch, and Princeton e-Lab. Furthermore, we have raised a seed round of investment that has been driving growth in the company.”

What are your unique selling points compared to your competitors like m-Kazi?

“DUMA provides a different solution to m-Kazi and focuses on a different segment of the market. DUMA matches employers with top ranked workers based on skills, location, past employer ratings, and professional network connections. This last component sets us apart from our competitors: DUMA takes into account the social connectivity of employer and employee, producing a result akin to if an employer had asked an employee to recommend a friend for a job opening and ensures a greater degree of trust and accountability. Also, DUMA does not focus on just the Nairobi market; we have job seekers from all around Kenya in our database and have matched jobs in several major cities such as Mombasa, Kisumu, Nakuru, Naivasha, and Eldoret.”

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

“The greatest challenge we faced in the business was the initial learning process of how to run a company in Kenya. Since we as co-founders did not have experience managing a company, let alone in Kenya, it was a steep learning curve concerning day-to-day operations, planning strategic growth, and communicating with the team. In order to overcome these obstacles, we focused our energy on surrounding ourselves by people more experienced. Through mentorship, we have grown the company and learned management skills.”

How do you see VC4Africa as a platform and as a community and how do you use it?

“We see VC4Africa as a community of people with similar interests who can work together to help each other: to meet new mentors, other entrepreneurs, and potential investors.”

For more information see DUMA’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.