Y Combinator Application Guide
If you’re reading this, you’re probably applying to Y Combinator. That’s great news.
While YC has been accepting more African startups, African women are disproportionately represented as cofounders and CEOs.
Below is a YC Application Guide to help you complete your application. We hope this guide helps you apply with confidence and show Silicon Valley how you’re building the next multi billion dollar business from Africa.
Future Africa Venture Entrepreneurs Women (FAVE Women) is on a mission to help African women build businesses and technologies that define the future. For more info, read “Where are the Women,” and join our community here.
This YC Application Guide includes:
Misconceptions Africans/women have about YC
Advice from YC Partners
Key resources and considerations
Applications from African YC alumni
Question by question tips + examples
Misconceptions Africans/women have about YC
“I don’t think YC will get my African market.”
Perhaps YC Partners won’t know the nuances of your market, but business is business everywhere. YC has funded over 2,100 companies and seen over 10,000 applications. Chances are they can understand the tenants of your business. It’s your job to explain your core problem, technology, market, traction, team, and unique insights. This is fundamental regardless of region. By doing so, you increase your chances of making YC Partners wanting more. Simplify the complexity of your market and technology. Make it easy for a reviewer to repeat to someone else. Get to the point and storytell with numbers and traction.
“I don’t think my business it what they’re looking for.”
That’s what Kathryn Minshew, cofounder of the Muse, thought when they applied. Yet, YC accepted them, they’ve raised millions of dollars, and they’ve built a tremendous platform for career professionals. YC invests in ideas, 20M revenue businesses, cleanmeat technologies, fintech solutions and much more. Shoot your shot and apply! Here’s a list of ideas YC specifically requests. Don’t worry if your company doesn’t fit this list. Many companies get accepted outside of this list.
“They’re not looking for someone like me. I always thought YC was for young white male engineers building complicated tech.”
Not true. YC is committed to investing in outliers (ideas most people would think are crazy) and diverse companies. Now is a good time to apply as an African woman because you can present a unique market and evolve the global image of billion dollar business leaders. You got this!
“I’d have to relocate to Silicon Valley for 3 months? What about my family? I have children.”
While we won’t tell you how to raise your family, we do encourage you to explore the 3 months away. Look at it as a rare opportunity to gain lifetime access to world class founders, investors, networks, and global technologies. If you get in, the long term gains are win-win. 3 months will be a negligible trade off to building Africa’s future. We imagine your family and your continent will be proud of that.
“I don’t feel like my ______ is good enough.”
As women/Africans, we often doubt whether we’re good enough or worthy of what we want/where we want to be. It’s especially hard if we don’t know or see anyone who’s done it before. In general, we don’t have many role models who’ve come before us to pave the way. As such, we feel crazy, guilty, or like frauds. It’s called imposter syndrome. Don’t let it sabotage your potential. If not you, then who?
Candidly, there’s no time for modesty. Africa’s future needs you. You deserve to apply just like anyone else. You’ve worked hard to get here. Show it.
Look at any measure of insights or progress in your company and include it in your application (i.e. X new users/ Y new contracts/ V feature tests in Z months). This adds up to traction, expertise, and a competitive advantage that YC partners want to see.
If you’re still having trouble, ask your team to list all of the traction they’ve made in the last 6 months. Review and pick the most impressive marks for your application. Frame these marks to show what you’ve accomplished and how continued progress can lead to a billion dollar opportunity. Also, tie in how this traction and your knowledge reflect why/how you’re the best team to build this business.
“We’re not ready yet. We haven’t ______ yet.”
You don’t have to be perfect. Apply anyway. Shola Akinlade of Paystack applied as a solo founder with only $200 in revenue. Visa and Stripe are now investors in Paystack’s “Stripe for Africa.” Kudi applied without a live product. No progress is too small. Anything is better than nothing.
“I don’t know if I have a billion dollar revenue business”
No one does early on. For starters, let’s do simple math. Think for a moment about your revenue per user/customer per month. Let’s say it’s $100/mo ($1200/yr). How many users/customers can your technology and team scale to in the next 10 years. Let’s say 500,000. That means $100/mo X 12 mos X 500,000 customers X 10 years = $6B! You’ve got a unicorn on your hands. Share these numbers early in your application (definitely in the video!) so YC Partners see the opportunity quickly.
“I worry about getting an unfavorable valuation.”
Your valuation is largely in your control. But, one step at a time. Fill the application, get accepted, and then we’re happy to prep you for valuation conversations.
Still feeling nervous about applying? Check out YC’s Female Founder Stories website to get inspiration and courage for women who’ve come before you.
Advice from YC Partners
“What we look for in founding teams…”
Founders who can build the product
Companies that require software in some way (with at least one engineer on the founding team that’s ideally built it themselves vs outsourcing)
Communication. They need to be able to describe what they're doing and why it matters to people outside of their domain
People who are going to build their company regardless of us
Teams that are familiar with each other with a productive/healthy dynamic
Fast. If they’ve applied before, we want to see significant progress
Working on mostly meaningful things (building/talking to users/selling vs advisors/biz plans/partnerships)
Equity split - as close to equal as possible
Team vs. solo founders (however, solo founders are still accepted. See Common Misconceptions. Shola Akinlade of Paystack applied solo until YC asked him about a co-founder and he asked Ezra. See Shola’s explanation here)
A launched product
YC Partners care about Market...
They want to know: is this a multi-billion dollar market? Can this become a billion dollar company? Is it solving a problem of significance?
YC Partners care about Traction...
They’re asking themselves: is the amount of work this company has done since starting impressive? Are they moving faster than their competitors? Have they built an MVP and if so how long did it take? If they don't get into YC - will they continue working on this company? Are they dependent on investment to move forward?
When reviewing applications, YC Partners prioritize…
Concise answers. Numbers. Team. Proof you’re making something people want. Proof they can build/execute. Answers to “Why?” and “What do you know?” Critical insight. Market.
Key Resources, Considerations, & Priorities:
Advice from Head of Admissions, Partner - Dalton Caldwell here,
Paystack’s resource guide with additional links, advice, and videos from African YC Alum here
Having a technical cofounder is strongly recommended
All founders must have at least 10% equity
There are 2 parts of the application process: written application + in person interview. A video interview between the written app and in person interview may happen if YC needs more information.
Making it to the in person interview is not guaranteed. If you do, let us know. We and YC Alum are happy to help you prepare. Email us at: email@example.com
One cofounder will submit the main application under their name and other cofounders will submit a follow on portion. All cofounders should submit by Sept 25.
Applying before the deadline ensures your application is reviewed earlier than others. However, you can still submit past the deadline.
Applying 2 and 3 times is common. If you don’t get accepted for this batch, try again and show your progress. If you’ve applied before, apply again this time and show progress.
Regardless of what stage you’re at, still apply for YC. The exercise of sharing a clear value proposition, getting feedback from alums/other founders, and seeing opportunities and gaps with your product are invaluable for your team’s growth.
Describe your company in 1 sentence without jargon.
Demonstrate your traction (i.e. what have you done and in how much time?)
Show why you are the right people to build this.
Show who is on your team and that you can build technology.
Explain how you believe you can become a billion dollar business or reach $100m in annual recurring revenue.
Applications of African YC Alum:
Question Tips & Examples:
Q: If you have an online demo, what's the url?
The demo video is separate from the 1 minute video. If your product has a demo video, submit that and a separate video with the founding team.
Helium Health: http://bit.ly/2obatZV
Q: Describe your company in 50 characters or less.
Framing African problems and solutions to a global audience can be tough. Simplifying the complexities can be even harder. One hack is to reference a well known and impressive international company. I.e. “Hubspot for informal sectors,” “Uber for motorcycles.” This approach helps you meet people where they are/what they know.
Avoid jargon or marketing speak like “revolutionizing,” “disrupting,” “innovation” etc
Be clear and simple. Imagine the reviewer repeating the description to someone else. Make it easy and repeatable so interest can spread.
CredPal - Instant credit for online/offline purchases
BuyCoins - Coinbase for Africa
VertoFx - A b2b currency exchange marketplace
Helium Health - Accelerating data-driven healthcare across Africa
Q: What is your company going to make?
What your company does and how it works
What your company is building/has built (particularly the technology)
What user/customer you serve now and potentially later
What value you’re bringing
Verto is building the first decentralised b2b currency exchange marketplace with a particular focus on illiquid currencies. Verto provides a transparent, safe, fast and cost-effective market for African businesses to facilitate their foreign exchange needs.
By connecting Liquidity providers, FX Brokers, and Payment Institutions, businesses can determine their exchange rates at the time that suits them, therefore, providing a constant liquidity flow cheaply. In addition, Verto offers faster settlement periods and facilitates onward payments for goods and services.
We're a Lagos-based healthcare tech startup with a vision of accelerating Africa's transition to a digital, data-driven healthcare system.
Our flagship product, also called OneMedical, is a cloud-based health records/hospital management (EMR/HMIS) solution that is simple, robust, easy-to-adopt, highly customizable and built around the peculiarities of the African market. It's accessible on any device, runs offline, syncs to the cloud and requires minimal or no data to operate. It's by far the most frictionless and instant way for healthcare facilities (regardless of their size or attributes), in this part of the world, to go-digital. Furthermore, OneMedical ties all healthcare stakeholders (clinics, labs, insurance providers, etc) into a single, connected network providing them with real-time actionable data (through an elaborate API & analytics platform) — and is the first of its kind in West Africa.
Our platform enables healthcare facilities to deliver better care by simplifying and streamlining their records and processes. We also plan to release a handful of other interoperable software products that will be connected to the OneMedical network into the healthcare ecosystem in the coming months.
We are on a quest to make healthcare radically more lean, efficient and accessible for Africans and to house and make useful all actionable healthcare data in the process.
Please enter the url of a 1 minute unlisted (not private) YouTube or Youku video introducing the founders. (Follow the Video Guidelines).
See YC’s video guidelines and adhere to them closely
The video appears at the top when reviewers read it. It frames how reviewers will read the rest of your app so it should give an overview of your company
Be concise and get to the details that truly make your specific business exciting and investable (traction, market, team, insights, etc.)
Ensure all cofounders are in the video (either in the same room or separate videos spliced together)
Don’t shy from showing your personalities
Have good video and audio quality (a bright, clean setting/room, minimal audio interruptions, clear video, etc)
While YC prefers that videos not feel released and scripted, we strongly recommend practicing your pitch for audio, video, timing, and content flow. YC Alums have admitted to scripting and rehearing their pitch video numerous times before submitting the best version.
Q: How far along are you?
Demonstrate traction: users/customers, revenues, product/feature updates, pilot/test results, licenses, waitlists, partnerships, markets
If you’re having trouble remembering all of your progress, or feeling like what you have is good enough, ask your team to list all of the wins in the last 6 months. Select the best ones that tell a story about how much traction you’ve made in a short period of time.
Since inception less than a year ago, we have managed to achieve many significant milestones including:
becoming an FCA Authorised Payment Institution licence holder in Feb
completed phase 1: front & back-end platform development in May
Launched private beta testing in June
Signed agreements with a couple of liquidity providers
Launched a paid private pilot (8 clients) in July with monthly MRR ~ £5k
Signed contracts with key banking and payment institutions to facilitate account settlements
Q: How long have you been working on this? How much of that has been full-time? Please explain.
Demonstrate your team’s commitment overtime
We started working on this on the 5th of June 2017 and launched the P2P exchange in October 1, 2017. The software development process was done part-time. However, since the beginning of this year, 2 co-founders (Timi Ajiboye & Eke Urum) have been working full-time while the third remains part-time. There are 3 other employees that currently work full-time.
Q: If you've applied previously with the same idea, how much progress have you made since the last time you applied? Anything change?
Progress between applications is a positive indicator for YC
Demonstrate how much your company/product has improved, increased traction, pivoted, gone live etc
At the time, we had just launched bitkoin.africa, so there were no users. Since then, we have:
Done a total trade volume of $93,073.27.
Signed up 1653 users.
Added 3 new digital currencies (Ethereum, Litecoin, Bitcoin Cash) to bitkoin.africa.
Almost completed building the Buycoins mobile application
Q: Why did you pick this idea to work on? Do you have domain expertise in this area? How do you know people need what you're making?
This is a great time to communicate the market opportunity, why YC should care, and your unique knowledge/research/diligence/track record.
YC wants to back multi billion dollar businesses. Show that your company has that potential and what background your team has to get it there.
Tell a story around your years of experience so it’s a no brainer why your team is meant to build this business. Don’t undersell yourself here. Concisely share impressive details.
When i founded my first startup in 2010, we needed a way to accept payments online, there was no solution locally, we had to work around using Avangate BV and creating accounts in the UK. 5 years later, there’s still no easy way.
I spent the entire 2014 implementing payments and disbursement solutions for Banks and i realized that most of the infrastructure needed to build a full stack payments API already existed, and it just needed someone to do the hardwork of putting it all together and doing all that is necessary. I finished the engagement in Nov. 2014 and immediately created Paystack.
The demand for Paystack is amazing, we haven’t done any PR or Marketing and we’re growing our waiting list at 10x monthly, just from word of mouth. I’ve personally spoken to over 150 merchants and everyone is excited and waiting. Our pilot merchants need it so much that they started using it without a settlement system, so they did not mind leaving their money with us for over 6 weeks.
Nigeria (our launch country)’s deteriorating healthcare system is ripe for tech disruption and this is aided by the skyrocketing internet/smartphone penetration and tech literacy among the nation’s ~200m population. We’re experts at building scalable cross-platform products (using Elixir, Phoenix, etc) and addictive user experiences particularly for Africa; plus we have close relationships with the key stakeholders in the healthcare sector (from the presidency/ministry of health to the private hospitals and even the banks that fund them). An underlying factor that has fostered our work is the existence of a general consensus in healthcare that digitization increases efficiency and is inevitable and necessary — our goal is simply to accelerate this process across Africa.
Paper, which accounts for over 97% of records in hospitals has created serious inefficiencies. Long wait times, poor overall coordination and heavy impact on the quality of care in hospitals are just a few among many. In Africa the issue is much worse than in the West. This has stifled the progress of the healthcare system, leaving invaluable data walled-off and inaccessible to stakeholders.
We believe our lack of prior expertise in healthcare gives us a fresh perspective on the eHealth space, as most of the EMRs (electronic medical records systems) we’ve encountered are way too complex/traditional and this has contributed to their failure. However, our 2-year deep-dive into the healthcare sector gave us valuable insight.
An idea like OneMedical is needed on several levels: 1st is the actual electronic health records (EHR) aspect. We’ve seen the inefficiencies first hand in hospitals caused by paper records. We have also found that several facilities that have adopted tech solutions have decommissioned it within 2-4 months of purchase due to terrible user interfaces, high complexity and lack of support. 2nd is the data aspect. A complete vacuum of healthcare data exists across Africa. No proper data collection mechanism makes it difficult for stakeholders (private sector, NGO’s, governments) to make impactful decisions. They all require a reliable source of rich, precise and timely data to understand and address specific deficiencies across the sector. We plan to design several products around making use of this data in a way that benefits each stakeholder.
Q: What's new about what you're making? What substitutes do people resort to because it doesn't exist yet (or they don't know about it)?
Answer how your company is unique, first, taking a different approach/model. What are you bringing to the market that’s indispensable? What are the pains that you’re alleviating considering what’s available in the market?
If there are other similar companies in the space, give yourself the credit for what you’re doing differently. Highlight that difference or newness - even if simple. Don’t undersell yourself here.
Banking is not new, neither is the concept of messaging but the seamless fusion of the both is new. There are substitutes for some transaction types while others (e.g. handling recurrent bills) do not exist.
The main substitutes are in 3 categories:
Traditional banking - visiting banking halls to complete transactions like funds transfer, bill payment etc.
'Digital' banking - using clunky banking services on web or mobile to perform transactions. It's a big drag for people with flaky connections.
The use of SMS via shortcodes & USSD codes to perform transactions. E.g. to send some money to a friend, the following message can be sent to a shortcode:"TRANSFER 5000 0123454400 4499"
Key: The first token is the action, second is the amount, third is the recipient account number and 4th is the users PIN.
USSD - AN example of a code is: *737*1*AMOUNT*DESTINATION_ACC_NO#
The SMS/USSD approach are the 'easiest' but very insecure and has a high learning curve as the user is required to memorise the codes and message formats. In addition the user incures a cost on all messages sent. To move funds from peoples account all you need in these cases is to get access to an unlocked device.
Furthermore, transactions involving recurrent bills are not handled by any company. This is because till recently, no one had (at least no one used) the PCI DSS license required to store card details in Nigeria. The shortcode approach to banking can be seen as a 'poor man's conversational banking'. This hints that banks already realise messaging is a huge channel to make such things work, they simply do not know it is possible yet. We can help them do that with Kudi.
Before we decided to pursue OneMedical, we learned that many private facilities and government entities in Nigeria had prior experiences with failed systems, with many even commissioning their own IT departments to build a system for them in-house (we are yet to see this pulled off). None of those efforts had created anything useful or sustainable, so we investigated and identified the key factors that contributed to the lack of digitization:
Imported solutions do not work. Attempts to use US, European or Indian systems have been futile because Nigeria has a very peculiar healthcare system for which systems need to be designed around. Usability and pricing model is huge here.
One-size-fits-all does not work. Due to fragmentation and a lack of a universal standard, medical facilities/professionals often develop their own unique treatment methods (forms, etc). The solution has to adapt to this and not the other way around.
EMRs that look like EMRs do not work. Traditional solutions are complex, look uninspiring and require several days/weeks of training. This makes it impossible for them to gain traction.
Isolation does not work. Patients are constantly moving between facilities (hospitals, labs, etc), so the solution must be able to connect them altogether in the same network.
OneMedical takes all of the above into account, making it easy for healthcare facilities, regardless of their size or structure, to adopt and use a digital solution:
It’s designed specifically for Nigeria (and sub-saharan Africa).
It so simple that it doesn’t require any training. It mimics the Facebook/Whatsapp interface that the entire country uses everyday, so there’s no learning curve. Users get addicted to it in less than 24 hours.
It runs on any device and even offline. Large facilities have the option to use our unique on-premise solution that runs on a local server and syncs to the cloud whenever a connection is re-established.
It doesn’t change the way facilities operate. They get to build out their exact flow/forms/etc in real-time.
People resort to imported EMRs or rely on paper as a substitute for OneMedical. A few local EMRs have entered the market but have failed to penetrate because of the aforementioned factors.
Q: Who are your competitors, and who might become competitors? Who do you fear most?
Be honest here. If necessary, share their limitations and your competitive advantage.
Our competitions include e-commerce platform like Zerofinance who offers selffinancing to their customers, emergency loan apps ( Paylater and Branch ) and Micro finance institutions who offers micro loans however though a more tedious and stringent processes. We fear the emergency loan apps most.
A few systems that have been developed locally (such as Genesys and SmartDoctor) have seen some adoption but are small and have failed to make impact. They’ve all failed either because of the points addressed in the earlier response or the points addressed in the next response.
Q: What do you understand about your business that other companies in it just don't get?
Think carefully about the specific and unique insights your company has over others.
Address what your competitive edge is.
We believe cash loans are expensive and relatively more risky. It’s easier to give out cash loans and hence a large number of players in the space however, cash loans are risky as the terms of the loans cannot be controlled especially in emerging markets thereby leading to high interest rates to offset high default rates.
However with our model, we pay the merchants directly meaning we control the terms of the loan. We get commissions from merchants which increases our revenue sources and makes it possible to open up our platform to third party financial institutions letting go of a large part of the risk.
We think people undervalue the importance of customer experiences. Nigerian companies have historically ignored customer satiation and have paid the cost (Search Twitter for tweets about some of our telcos like glo and mtn - heavy negative sentiment) with little customer loyalty, persistent customer pain.
Emerging crypto companies are increasingly doing the same: lack of local presence to pay attention to user pains, non-adaptability to evolving customer needs, difficult to navigate UIs etc. With Bitkoin, it has been essential from Day 1 that users feel joy in using our product.
One of our founders, Ire, is one of the best Front End Developers in Nigeria, we have praises in our Twitter DMs and mentions about the patience and diligence with which our customer service helps resolve their difficulties and “shhh! Little secret - our Google Analytics data increasingly shows that more new users visit our site by typing the url than through any google search; which means primarily referrals”.
In order to create real sustainable impact in healthcare, technology must be treated as a ‘service’ and not a product. Other companies focus on ‘making a quick sale’ to hospitals, which almost always leaves them devastated; this is because hospitals in Nigeria are run by doctors and not business/tech people and they’re unable to foresee the myriad of challenges that the approach gives them. We do the opposite. Instead, we treat each facility as a partner, we understand their problems and we’ve created a community around the technology, so facilities are collaboratively solving problems and coming up with creative ways to leverage the tech/data even further.
Q: How do or will you make money? How much could you make? (We realize you can't know precisely, but give your best estimate)
Break down with numbers.
If possible, indicate a revenue goal are revenue per user, number of users, and timeframe (i.e. we expect to make $2500 per user/ year with a minimum of 2 million users in the next 10 years). Translation to YC: In 5 years we plan to make $5 billion in revenue.
Our current revenue is a split between the fee we charge on every crypto trade on our P2P platform and some basic market making activity. With BuyCoins we expect to earn a spread from market-making. All told, we expect to make around per active user per month, and our goal is to have not less than 1 million active users within the next 7 - 10 years.
How we will make money:
We're charging a % on every transaction that passes through our platform - funds transfer, bill payments and product purchases. In addition we have plans for a B2B product offering for financial institutions that will help them handle frequent customer interactions that have a standard format e.g reporting/locking a stolen card, PIN reset, FAQs, existing shortcode based services that require rigid message format.
How much we will make:
If we have about 200,000 users that signup within our first year and 35% are monthly active users, we'll have a revenue of $400,000 at the end of the year. This projection is based on our initial product offerings and excludes any B2B initiative.
We charge partner facilities between $1.5-$3 (location dependent) per patient annually. The hospital or clinic purchases registration credits up front and they are dispensed as patients come in. After 365 days has elapsed, at the time of the patient’s next visit, that facility must pay half of the registration fee to renew each patients file. Cost is typically passed to the patient.
Large public facilities, however, get a significant discount for purchasing credits upfront. For example: UCH Ibadan (largest facility in West Africa) adopting OneMedical is paying $350k ($1 per patient) instead of ~$500k because of their large volume. For large enterprises, we also charge additional support and maintenance fees.
There are an estimated 10 thousand hospitals and clinics in Nigeria alone (because of it’s 200m population). We foresee entering other countries (Ghana, Kenya, etc) in the near future. We believe we can create the name brand of digital healthcare across Africa.
De-identified data will be collected and monetized. We’ll provide real-time analytic tools (APIs, visualization portals, etc) to empower government, aid agencies, large pharmaceutical companies, etc.
Q: How will you get users? If your idea is the type that faces a chicken-and-egg problem in the sense that it won't be attractive to users till it has a lot of users (e.g. a marketplace, a dating site, an ad network), how will you overcome that?
We’re already getting users by word of mouth. We’re active in the local developer community, we’ll reach out to merchants directly, and we’ll signup merchants via integration with existing services (Shopify, eventbrite, woocommerce) Our banking partner has also asked that we onboard thousands of Merchants that are their customers.
We acquire users through the following means.
We leverage on merchants to drive customer adoption. Today we have signed up two of the largest retail giants in Africa including Jumia & Konga.
We plug in directly into payment channels, offering users credit option alongside direct payment through platforms such as Visa’s mVisa QR Payments, mobile money mCash and other channels in the pipeline. We currently have a partnership and grant from Visa to drive this.
Referral Model: We have a rewards program built into our platform that rewards existing users to recommend friends and family to enjoy more benefits. This is also useful to us on the long run as referees can serve as social guarantors. About 21% of our customers at the moment are from referrals.
We also intend to market directly to customers to establish our brand and make us the preferred credit brand before direct competition sets in.
We did a soft launch in late Dec 2016 and we're now live in ~10 hospitals across Lagos that reach a combined 75,000 patients annually.
We have a waitlist of 25+ facilities which we'll be deploying at in upcoming weeks. We also have a much longer waitlist from our reseller partnerships reaching hundreds of facilities.
One particularly valuable facility that we're deploying at in upcoming days is the University College Hospital Ibadan, which is the largest healthcare facility in West Africa and one of the largest in Africa, reaching over 350,000 patients annually.
Q: Anything else you would like us to know regarding your revenue or growth rate?
We have not spent much on marketing, as we have used most of our funds to build out our product. Most of the variation in our revenue is influenced by crypto prices. We expect a much higher growth rate once we start our growth push with our mobile wallet.
After our soft launch in Dec 2016, we began onboarding 10 of our 35+ waitlisted facilities. We selected facilities in different locations with varying attributes to ensure that our live product fulfilled a diverse set of requirements, just like it did during the pilots. We capped it at 10 facilities till we complete our seed round ($1.5m) and we complete building our version 3 early next month. Our revenue so far has been from these 10 facilities. However, early this week we signed a $350k deal with one of our waitlisted facilities. Our reseller partners have lined up hundreds of facilities for us, so starting late next month, we'll be expanding our team and onboarding several more facilities.
Q: Who writes code, or does other technical work on your product? Was any of it done by a non-founder? Please explain.
The co-founder, Fehintolu Olaogun wrote the entire code for the first version of the platform but we currently have a development team of 5 developers including the cofounder working on the product.
Two co-founders wrote most of the code initially; I (Timi Ajiboye) did the back-end and Ire Aderinokun wrote the front-end. Now we have two developer employees working with us.
Goke is the CTO and writes a lot of the code. However, from the initial stages he has worked alongside independent developers whom we have long-term relationships with (that have worked with either of us on past projects). They are typically experts in building low-latency scalable systems (using languages Elixir, Phoenix, etc). We're gradually migrating development fully in-house this year.
Q: Please tell us something surprising or amusing that one of you has discovered.
This is a great opportunity to share market specific learnings you’ve gained (perhaps the hard way) that have informed your product/company.
We discovered that just changing what term you called a loan in Nigeria determines a customer's reception. Most Nigerian's don't want to take loan but will "pay small small" which is a hire purchase term popularized by cooperative societies in Africa. So for marketing we sometimes use "pay small small" as it fits directly into our system and also goes well with the culture.
Nothing (especially when it comes to remittance and transferring money) is truly instant. It's up to us, the creators, to make the consumers experience instantaneity. I was aware of this before, but only somewhere at the back of my mind. Now I'm painfully aware of it and it makes me laugh out loud sometimes.
No matter how scripted a chatbot is, or how many scenarios the developer considers, users will always find a way to deviate from the 'script'.
One of the common interactions people tend to have with bots is to test it's stupidity by typing in gibberish.
For instance in some of our early tests, we frequently have conversations along the lines of:
Kudi: Hi, I'm Kudi your personal finance assistant. What is your name?
User: Hey Kudi
Kudi: Hi hidigaihnefl
Obviously the users name can't be: 'hidigaihnefl' but the users initial dumbness test for Kudi made things go awry here. It's also hilarious how much people swear at the bot failing to relate with it like the piece of code it is.
The frequent gibberish typing made us implement a gibberish detection logic into Kudi to avoid persisting such false information about users. You'll see this in the demo.
The other thing that's also been quite hilarious is whenever we mention AI in our meetings with people from the banking sector, their first reaction is usually along the lines of: 'how can we be sure that the bot will not become smart one day and steal people's money?' like its some sort of autonomous agent. We've consciously started tuning down the use of those two characters; 'AI'.
Q: Please tell us about an interesting project, preferably outside of class or work, that two or more of you created together. Include urls if possible.
Pick an impressive project(s). Results, impact, takeaways etc that show how your team, expertise, market understanding and background are fit to build your business
About 4 years ago we noticed that a lot of Nigerians wore second hand clothes but had to buy them at night so that people won’t see them going to the thrift market to buy the items. We wore a few ourselves too in times past so we could relate to it. We also noticed how huge the market was for a developing country with a population of over 190 million people. So we decided to set up a thrift store online that delivered discreetly to customers. It was an instant hit and we got a lot of customers mostly from the working class who didn’t want to be seen shopping for used clothing. We also had a business model that allowed customers order for a certain quantity but the delivery person took a larger quantity, so the customer had other choices and in most cases bought more than they ordered for due to its affordability. We ran the website for a little over a year but had to discontinue the service as the government put a ban on importation of used clothes and we couldn’t get enough local supply of used clothes to meet our demand.
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