Zim start-up challenges Africa’s mobile landscape
By Alfonce Mbizwo, Harare, Zimbabwe
Zimbile, a Zimbabwean tech start-up, looks poised to change the mobile landscape of Africa after developing a platform that enables businesses and individuals to create fast loading mobile websites in minutes with zero technical experience.
Founder Simon Kaguramamba told BiztechAfrica that he was riding on the back of a mobile internet revolution that is sweeping across Africa and feels Zimbile (www.zimbile.com) is the next big thing in mobile applications.
The platform gives tips and instructions on building a mobile website – which he says takes as little as five minutes.
“The story of how Zimbile came to be is quite interesting, actually: less than 12 months ago Zimbile was a platform I developed aimed at corporate businesses in Zimbabwe. It failed badly. I had not done my homework and had simply assumed there was a market for what I was offering due to the fact that there were no other players in the space. I assumed my solution would be received well.”
“It was on one evening when I was reading the State of the Mobile Web Report By Opera,( June 2011), that the light bulb moment went off,” he says. “The report outlined the growing number of mobile internet users across the continent. At that point Zimbile was only available to a select group of beta business users. I thought to myself, maybe I should pivot the business idea and open up to all types of businesses and individuals - it was worth a try. A few weeks later, Zimbile was available to any individual on the street. Despite a bit of social noise, it still failed to gain traction.”
Hitting the jackpot
“A month later I was ready to give up, I was running out of the little marketing budget I had set aside. As a last ditch move I decided to spend my last USD45 dollars on an experiment to see what the rest of Africa would make of Zimbile. I set up a very quick Google ppc campaign aimed at listening into what Africa was searching for around mobile and internet.
“And like magic I hit the jackpot, and signed up 285 users who collectively created over 200 mobile websites in just 10 days.”
“Over the following 6 months I used the knowledge learnt from the short ppc campaign to super charge my SEO strategy while at the same time utilising the initial members to increase the user base into the thousands,” he told BiztechAfrica.
On the surface Zimbile may come across as simply a promotional tool for businesses to create mobile websites, but at its core the platform is actually a content creation tool that Zimbile believes will enable average Africans to start producing and publishing content quickly and easily for the consumption of other local mobile users.
Today, he says, Zimbile is growing “through referrals and word of mouth allowing me to focus my attention on developing the idea, monetisation, speaking to potential investors, recruiting, partnering with other businesses and running further experiments.”
“Due to the amount of attention and traffic we received recently from being recognised as one of the start-up to watch in the African tech space, my small team and I will be announcing some exciting new developments over the following weeks as we move Zimbile into the next exciting phase.”
Simon’s Top 5 tips for other start-ups and solo developers based on his experience
- Every once in a while stop and listen: Listen to what’s happening around you and see how your solution or platform could be used to exploit opportunities that are making the news.
- Learn to pivot: If your first attempt fails, don’t just throw it out the window, pivot! Basic pivoting may start by investigating other ways that your product could be useful under different conditions, different market, or even a different country.
- Mould your idea via small experiments: Allow your initial idea to mature naturally and allow it to be moulded by the users. You can achieve this by running small, low cost controlled experiments; this will dispel common assumptions that typically limit idea progression.
- Be prepared for opportunity: Be ready for your lucky break, some call it luck but I would describe it as the point at which opportunity meets preparedness. When the two meet, it’s a match made in heaven!
- Follow through on your idea: It may take months or years to gain traction but stick to the program in continual pivot mode and you will find your place!