Today’s featured members of the VC4Africa community are entrepreneurs Stella Njoki and Kariuki Gathitu, the co-founders of Zegetech, creators of MPAYER. They won many awards and challenges and are currently raising capital. “We are excited to be part of the great technological revolution that our children will be taught about as history.”
Two years ago, at the inaugural DEMO Africa event, Stella Njoki and Kariuki Gathitu launched their product MPAYER, an app for businesses to manage income and expenses. Read the interview with Stella Njoki below.
What’s the essence of your business and why is it interesting for investors?
“Zege Technologies is a payments and communication platform. Our core strategy is to offer our products to the big enterprise market as well as the small and medium enterprise (SME) market. Through the SME market we build platforms that aggregate various industries and sectors where our clients lie, so as to offer simple tools to make businesses work.
We grow by automating simple aspects of business, like reminding customers of debts, on a large scale. We already have one such tool that expands our core system to give business a mobile point of sale: MPAYER.”
How did Zegetech develop to where you are now?
“Zege Technologies, commonly known as Zegetech, was started in the year 2010 when Kariuki was working for Equity Bank Kenya. He built the first mobile money to bank integration (for MPESA), called MKESHO. We then decided to set up Zegetech to enable other banks, microfinance institution, and SACCOs (Savings and Credit Cooperative Organizations) to integrate mobile payments. That was how the product MPAYER came about.
However, due to the nature of our startup, we didn’t have much breakthrough with other banks. We were a young startup that had just started with little track record. Therefore, we had to pivot and identified a gap in enabling other SME’s to accept mobile money and integrate mobile payments to their systems. That’s how we started the journey for Zegetech and MPAYER in helping businesses grow.
Some of the milestones we have achieved include setting up our own head office and team in Nairobi, hitting 100,000 Transactions last December, winning various awards and challenges and starting our initial fundraising round. Most recent we got some large corporate clients on board: one university, one insurance company and a regional retail business.”
What investments have you already secured, and what are you still looking for?
“Funding to date has been in form of grants from impact projects, prize money from competition, revenues and our own pocket. This has been over 100,000 USD. We are now looking for likeminded investors, preferable who would want to participate in the business. Ones with experience that can allow us to hit the markets fast and furious and may have experience in financial software selling and marketing for both B2B and B2C businesses. If this experience is in Africa, then that’s definitely a plus.”
What are your unique selling points compared to your competitors?
“We offer a payment platform closely knit with a CRM to offer client tracking out of the box. We focus on the “business” of the business rather than just payments, and in this we realized that being able to easily manage and grow customers is something every small business is yearning for, so focusing on tools that will do this is very beneficial to them.
In this case we offer unique features such as ordering, billing and an mobile cash register that integrates into the business as an affordable, portable point of sale. The system also works to give the business the power of targeted marketing and advertisement, directly from the clients interactions and payments. And last, our system is the only one that seamlessly works with multiple payment platforms for online, over the counter, remote and mobile payments.”
Which milestones do you want to reach with your investments and hope to achieve in the long run?
“With the investments we want to build the business development, marketing and sales team. We would also need to focus on product development as we have had much feedback from the industry that we feel needs to be integrated into the platform to make it easier to sell and use. At a more practical level, we want to increase our market share and publicly launch our product to further go deeper in the market segments that we have been able to gain most traction. We want to release version three of MPAYER within the next four months that will be a tremendous leap in product quality and utility for the clients. In the long run, we offer solutions to every industry in Kenya through automation of business processes in each sector. We believe we can push SMEs in Kenya further through technology.”
Could you share some of your experiences with pitching events and competitions?
“Our experience in pitching has always been great learning lessons where we are able to received feedback about our product and to get it known. We have won most of the pitching events we have participated in and have been able to get further funding in prize money. The local pitches are most memorable because we have always left there and converted a few clients from the event, or met people at the event. Most of all it has brought us exposure and opportunities to collaborate with others and learn about ‘startup-ing’ and entrepreneurship. It has helped us meet and connect to people who have been key drivers of our business this far.
Being selected at DEMO Africa and being winners at the Infodev Global Forum 2013 exposed us to networks internationally that have brought with them invaluable mentorship, and also I got an opportunity to participate at the first Mobile Startup Camp in Washington, DC. I got to interact and learn from fellow entrepreneurs from the continent, as well as mentors and got exposure to a first world economy. This experience and learnings from the camp helped me think about the company in a whole new dimension and it is one of the most memorable experiences in my life.”
Do you have any suggestions to other entrepreneurs who wonder what VC4Africa can do for them?
“VC4Africa has been great. We did not think much of it in the beginning. In fact, it was just another platform to get our name out there. However it has proven to be very helpful. Tons of emails and Skype calls across the world later, we can say that VC4A has met our need for mentorship and connection and played a huge role in enabling our company be what it is today.. We are grateful for the team at VC4Africa – you guys are amazing and always resourceful. Keep it going in helping tons of other entrepreneurs like ourselves, it’s not in vain!
Someone once said that opportunity comes once in a life time. We feel really fortunate to be in this time and place doing what we are doing because there is no doubt where Africa is going and who is driving it that direction: we are excited to be a part of the great technological revolution that our children will be taught about as history.”