Startup Bus Africa

Startup Bus Africa


[co-founder sterio.me – Christopher Prujsen – Startup Bus Africa] (Silvia Lombardo) Hi, I’m with one of the co-founders of Startup Bus Africa and, hi! Can you tell me how the Startup Bus Africa was started? (Christopher Prujsen) Yes. Hi everyone. I’m Christopher Prujsen and Startup Bus Africa was started over 6 months ago, when Magnus, the original co-founder of the Danish Startup Bus and myself who had been involved in the UK Founder Bus, came together and “OK, let’s start doing a bus in Africa, because there is much more potential there for real impact and change.” And then we grew the team and Fabian, from Germany, took the lead of the team. He is one of the co-founders of FounderBus originally in Germany and we grew a team with local partners in Zimbabwe and South Africa. It has been absolutely phenomenal to make Startup Bus Africa happen, and such a big success it was. (Lombardo) Can you tell us more about the team and also the entrepreneurs who took part in the bus? (Prujsen) Definitely yes! So our team included for example Francis in Zimbabwe who has done some really fantastic things there, including getting EcoNet, the largest [inaudible] company in the country, on board as a sponsor. And then Stuart Minnaar, who is a serial entrepreneur from South Africa and one of the [inaudible] Global Shapers who really helped us a lot in getting the Silicon Cape on board and getting local accelerators in Cape Town to work. There is Elvis, who is the executive director of the eKasi entrepreneurs, who hosted us for our final event in Cape Town. (Lombardo) And which startups won in the end? (Prujsen) Yeah, the Buspreneurs, an amazing bunch with 15 from the African continent and 15 from the rest of the world, and 8 startups were about. Those startups include everything from healthcare, mobile and energy and the startups that won all are operating in industries that no one else is addressing at the moment, that solve real problems in Africa. So the winner is Workforce, which tackles the problem of unemployment in the construction worker market in Africa, where currently, you have lines of day workers lined up to get a day’s work. Then you have Funeral.ly, which solves the problem of funeral management in Africa: everyone dies and everyone needs a funeral at some point. In Africa, often times people who have family members who pass away, they have to take big loans, which cripple the family, and they helped to solve that. And then you have Bribed.co, which is quite an interesting one. So what they do is they are an aggregation app for market data, about the amount of bribe you have to pay to get rid of an official in any given location, so you’ll never have to bribe too much. (Lombardo) (laughs) So, that’s quite funny, so it’s like legalizing bribe, also. (Prujsen) it’s not exactly legalizing it, nor endorsing it either. It’s simply helping the briber to pay less bribe to get rid of corrupt officials. (Lombardo) What does Sterio.me do? (Prujsen) For myself, I also developed a company under StartUp Bus with my two co-founders Danielle Reid who is now in Germany, is originally Australian: she’s a fantastic designer – and Dean Rotherham who is originally from Johannesburg but now lives in Cape Town and runs an audio startup. And what our startup does – sterio.me – is run a mobile education server. We help the primary education market in Africa, so we help the teachers save time and the learners get access to the more engaging content via audio, that’s accessible to any feature phone so you can just use your old [inaudible] Nokia. Now how it works is, the teacher, he records a lesson or selects one from our Sterio marketplace. The lessons are about 10 minutes, including 5 questions. We call them “Sterio” and the process is learning out loud. So, then the teacher gives the student an SMS code and the student SMSes this code to us and about seven seconds later, we give them a call back. And in that call, the students will hear the teacher give the children questions and with a click of a button, they can answer those questions and in real time, the teacher gets the feedback and the analytics of that. The teacher can also track the student’s performance over time. And therefore, it really tackles several problems at the same time: it tackles the problem of not having necessarily books available for home work, the teachers not having time to distribute, collect and assess all the homework individually, for every student. Sometimes, parents could be illiterate: Even in South Africa, the CIA World Factbook says that 17% of the women over the age of 15 are illiterate. These parents could help their children with the audio learning in Sterio, because it’s in local languages. And also, it tackles the problem of not having internet access, that work — you know, is required for resources like Khan Academy. So, that’s Sterio.me, really: a social enterprise — (Lombardo) And the service is free. (Prujsen) It’s free for teachers, it’s free for the learners. We monetize by a different route, which is value ad messaging from NGOs, for example, you know, when the learner is listening to a message, listening to their lesson, they are in an education mindset. So, within that education mindset, we can offer 30 seconds of a 10-minute lesson to — for example the World Health Organization, who wants to spread a message about the use of malaria nets or who wants to spread a message that is AIDS-prevention related or medicines-intake related. (Lombardo) And that would be in the local language? (Prujsen) In the local language or in English, depending on what the teachers, you know, decide the lesson should be in. So teachers could do their lessons in any language they want, really. (Lombardo) And why did you decide to go on the mobile route? (Prujsen) Mobile, because — mobile is the present and, I think, also the future in Africa. Mobile penetration in Africa is over 80%, the rise of smartphones is also phenomenal, data is getting cheaper and cheaper. Here in the Western world, we see everything migrate to mobile but in Africa, it has already migrated to mobile, they’ve skipped the whole browser part where they had their desktop at home and in Africa, people do payments, people do learning, people do the health care, people do so many different things via mobile, more so than in the Western world. And really, also, it’s that access thing. Not everyone has access to a computer, but everyone has access, somehow, to a feature phone: an old Nokia [inaudible – break?], etc. (Lombardo) And how did you select the other startups on this bus? (Prujsen) Everyone was selected as an individual. We had over 200 applications, and in the end we selected only 30. So, 15 from Africa, 15 from the rest of the world and then they formed the teams themselves. (Lombardo) Thank you! (Prujsen) Thank you!

About the Author: Michael Flood

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