We speak to Oluwasoga Oni, co-founder of the $1.1 million…
He is referred to as an ‘accidental entrepreneur’, one with no intention of starting a business who saw a problem and set out to fix it.
Introducing… Sesinam Dagadu, the founder of a Solutions Company called tinyDAVID. tinyDavid was set up to develop solutions for the developing world, and SnooCODE, their first product was launched in 2011 and in June 2017 won the Africa Tech Pitch London Competition. SnooCODE was designed primarily to solve a major problem in the developing world: the lack of definitive addresses.
How would you describe your startup?
SnooCODE is the first tinyDAVID product. We have ideas to come down the line but are focused on this for now. SnooCODE is, in simple words, an addressing system for the developing world.
Usually when people create anything for the ‘developing world’, it’s a sort of tacit indication that there have been compromises made to make it in such a way that it is slightly less than what is available in the western world. We, however, saw this problem as an opportunity to create a solution that is better than what’s currently being used in most western countries.
Can you explain how it works?
SnooCODE is an addressing system that’s available to the public via the SnooCODE app which is available on Google PlayStore and iOS AppStore for free.
When you download the app, you stand in your house or workplace (at the gate, preferably) and tap the Generate Code button, and the app generates an accurate ‘knock knock’ that gives you a code you can share.
This code is like a postcode in the UK or a zipcode in the US except it is way more precise, over 230 times more precise than the average UK postcode. With SnooCODE, you can pinpoint particular places in a compound. For example, my house and boys-quarters have different codes.
With this code, if I call an ambulance, food delivery, or any other service that uses the SnooCODE app, I share my code with them, they enter it in their app and they can find me on the map whether they’re offline or online.
How did the idea for SnooCODE come about?
I was in Ghana a couple of years ago, and because of my job I had to move around a lot. This experience made me think that there had to be an easier way to find addresses and get around in the cities.
I have lived in England so I know you can have findable addresses and get things delivered to your doorstep, but in Ghana it wasn’t like that.
I set out to fix the problem and worked on it while I was still in school. When I graduated, I got some investment to come to Africa and see whether I could make it work.
What markets are you in currently?
We have recently released a beta for the entire African continent; every country is covered including the little islands like Madagascar, Seychelles and Mauritius.
What this means is that everybody in these countries can download and use SnooCODE. We have started with Africa and are looking to develop for other parts of the world.
We’re also working on improving the current product with user feedback. I encourage everyone who reads this and lives in a country in Africa to download the app, get codes for their homes and workplaces, and send to anyone who needs to find you.
For people like grandmas and older aunts, you could go to their houses, generate codes for them, write it on a note on the fridge, and ask them to send that to anyone who needs to get to the house.
Only people you share your code with can locate you. So if you don’t make it public, no one, not even the SnooCODE team, can see or share it. We ensure that no one’s privacy is breached through SnooCODE.
How has SnooCODE been funded so far?
We are just about to go into Series A fund-raise. So far, we have been funded by an angel investor and it’s been a good experience. They gave us time and independence to build a mature product that suits our initial market.
Now, we are looking to raise more funds to scale across the continent, and start monetizing/franchising for specific organizations and countries so that people, developers and governments can use it in various ways at different levels.
We are building tools for developers to enable them to build on top of SnooCODE and take advantage of all it can do for them. Imagine an app that shows all the best jollof spots in Accra: with SnooCODE, they can show precise addresses.
What’s your 10-year vision for SnooCODE?
When we first built it, we thought about the obvious things: ambulances, police calls. But now, we have seen interesting cases like city sanitation and fintech companies.
We are interested in seeing how different people use SnooCODE and what developers build with it. We want individuals and businesses all across Africa to find value in it, and use it for business and social engagements like conferences, weddings and party locations. We want to see e-businesses use it for things like drones and driverless cars.
Please allow me to add that the best thing about SnooCODE is the technology is not reliant on the internet. Right now, I have a device in my hand running SnooCODE that can give me directions from where we are in S.A to my house in Accra without the internet and that is powerful because this is Africa-first. We are eager to make sure that no geographic location, no demographic is excluded.
What has been your biggest entrepreneurial challenge?
Being an entrepreneur in Africa is hard. It builds your character. We were in Ghana around the time when we had an electricity crisis. Entrepreneurs in developed parts of the world would go into their offices in the morning and switch on the light but us in Ghana and most of the countries in Africa would have to get to the office, get a generator, get fuel or an inverter system just to switch on the light.
Working with government has also been a mixed experience. The processes and institutions are not set up to accommodate, facilitate or even take advantage of the work that innovators are doing. I get the sense that this is changing for the positive, however.
Overall, It’s been an experience I wouldn’t trade for anything. The challenges informed the design and eventual product of SnooCODE which is a competitive advantage.
Finish this sentence: In 2020, Africa will be…
Africa will be addressed with booming businesses at the bottom of the pyramid and governments that are able to manage resources better and provide better services because everybody has an address.
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