CFA is currently at the World Trading Centre in Dubai for GITEX Technology Week, he speaks with Emeka Akano, the CEO and Co Founder of Jara Mobile Limited, one of the Nigerian startups at the event. Enjoy our chat with the young boss
My name is Emeka Akano, the CEO and Co Founder of Jara Mobile Limited.
Basically, what we do is to help business and brands convert consumers to customers in a way that they are measurable. What we have done is to build an app that helps our customers to pay within bills easily via their phone. When they do this transaction, they earn up to 50 percent in cash back, which is like discount coupons. These coupons get redeemed at places, the Jara Apps users go to, it could be either shopping or restaurants.
Where is your base and how practical is your business?
We are based in Lagos, where we have done our initial pilot. It’s very clear to the consumers. Everybody knows what the word Jara means; it means getting extra value. When you use the Jara App to pay bills like data bills, PHCN bills, Airtime, you get 50 percent back of the value of your payment in the form of Discount coupons on the places where you go to.
How long have you been in business?
We started March 2015, that was when the journey began. We started doing our research and molding up our business models. Earlier this year, we started building the first version of the product. By June the first release of the App was ready. We got our early adopters, about 300 to 400 who tested it out. After getting all our feedbacks, we fixed all the problems and got more brands on board. We launched a few days before coming to GITEX. The prospects has been encouraging and with 15,000 social media fans it has been encouraging.
We have talked to some of your colleagues here, and one issue that keeps occurring is the problem of ease of doing businesses, taxation and all that. What are the biggest challenges?
Yes, I agree with them is much harder to do business back home. We are happy that the government has done what they did, they are increasingly supporting startups. For we that are doing tech business, the issue of power is germane. We use servers and we are expected to be online all the time. Sometimes we are being forced to use servers out of the country; you know what it means storing up data on a server that is not in Nigeria. So the issue of power is critical. Its affects us.
On the issue of tax, I heard some reports from my colleagues who have offices in Yaba, where tax doece members come into to tax them. At the early stage, we already had issues like that on the ground, be it funding, power and all that. Sometimes they just come to harass us. We are supposed to be cheered and supported. Unnecessary levies are not meant to be coming up. Some of our colleagues, who for some reason complained that one tax force members came and knocked down her building, a startup that has about 20 staff. Issues like this are not encouraging at all especially for us that look up to them.
What’s your experience and feeling with regards to the GITEX Technology Week?
I am very privileged to be part of this. An excellent experience per se. I will encourage the government to do more in this regard. The exposure has been remarkable, some of us had the opportunity of pitching, many of us have had the opportunity to interact one-on-one with investors who are interested in knowing what we are doing. We have had several interactions. We are supposed to even to move around to mingle with other people to see if we can get ideas on how these things work. I wish it were just one week longer.
For your business, how many are your team members and what’s your plan going forward?
We are a small team of five Co-founders. We have part time staff as well. As a startup, you don’t need to incur overtime, or people working on full time when not necessary. We have freelancers that can also do things remotely. We are 7 in total.
Then for plans, after GITEX events, that’s going to a be lots of follow ups, which is even ongoing with interested business partners we have met here. Although, back at home, I have already missed the action, we have gone life and am happy seeing the dashboard increasing. The next thing is to capitalize on what I have learned here, as well as the information gathered from the workshops. It’s important to try and implement them quickly. Right now, it is scaling up the business that’s the top priority.
NITDA has done a lot, can you say this is the way they are supposed to do things going forward, so we can be on the right track, or is it just 100percent gotten right?
There is nothing like 100 percent; there is always room for improvement. We are happy, last year, it was eight startups, this year it’s doubled. They would also do well to increase it next year. With more PR that would come out of it, more startups would be interested in this journey because it’s going to change them. Even the management that is coordinating us, they have done a lot. There were lots of lapses in the area of communication, an area which should have been done better. It’s paramount they keep engaging and collaborating with us to know exactly where we are because most of the things we have gotten from here might take the time to implement. So it’s key for them to follow up on us to know what we are doing.
How are the Co-Founders equally split?
We are not evenly split because 2 of the Co-Founders are not full timers. However, for the full timers, their shares are equal and a bit higher than those who are not full timers and of course that arithmetic is very clear.
How much are you looking to raise?
At this stage, we want to raise $200, 000 for a 12 months run way and $400, 000 revenues done or accumulated within the period respectively.
What is the minimum time before an investor can exit?
The business would break even in 6 months firstly, and it would be operating by itself. The earliest we feel and the investor can exit five years. Our plan is even to go beyond Nigerian market; we need to go across Africa, and that five-year timeline is what we have to achieve that, that’s the landscape. It would be advisable for them to wait before they can exit.