Start-ups gear up for 88mph Demo Day

Time flies when you’re going 88mph. For Steve Ngethe, founder of Manyatta Rent, it must have felt like he was moving even faster. It has only been a month since 88mph welcomed its 2012 cohort of budding entrepreneurs, but with the much-anticipated Demo Day approaching on December 13, for Steve it has been a month in which he has come full circle.

“I lost my co-founder right at the beginning of the programme, and that was very difficult for me,” he says. “But I have been very fortunate at 88mph because they have a team of very talented Entrepreneurs-in-Residence who have really helped me to shape my business.”

Back on track after that difficult start, Steve is now fully focused on the Demo Day that will give him and the other entrepreneurs in the programme the chance to showcase their start-ups to an investor audience. Against all the odds, he is ready to face the challenge.

“We have met with several consumers and the general feedback has been very positive,” he says. “Speaking to the consumers has been a great learning experience for us. Their feedback helps us improve our product.”

He believes Demo Day will only serve to further benefit Manyatta Rent.

“We are very excited to showcase the fruits of our labour on Demo Day, as we think we will definitely generate more interest from the consumer till then,” he says. “It is a product that makes their lives so much easier so we are positive about the uptake from consumers.”

Steve’s journey from being almost beaten to now being ready to introduce his start-up to a wider audience may have been a rocky one, but there are plenty of other teams at 88mph who have been working hard on their ventures and are already looking forward to unveiling their exciting achievements at Demo Day.

88mph is a seed fund that invests in Web/mobile start-ups targeting the African continent.

Demo Day is December 13, 2012, where 88mph invites investors and interested parties to come and meet the start-ups. The start-ups will showcase their businesses and progress.


Batch of 2012


Problem: Artists can’t make money out of selling music to phones.

Concept: The heart beats to music. Mdundo makes is possible for artists to monetize music downloads to phones. This is done through scratch cards similar to those used for airtime credit. The cards are distributed free of charge to the artists, who then sell them directly to their fans – and the artist keeps all the cash from sales, disrupting the current payment system through the telcos where the artists typically gets just 10 percent. The main stream of revenue is through selling music directly through the Mdundo mobile site.

Progress: Mdundo has already signed up +30 artists, including some of Kenya’s biggest names. The first 50k cards have been printed and are being distributed to the artists. Mdundo also landed a sponsorship agreement with Airtel Kenya, who has agreed to pay for all printing costs for 1 year.

Manyatta Rent

Problems: Kenyans cannot pay rent through mobile money. Landlords/agents spend huge resources on collecting payments. Fraud is widespread.

Concept: Manyatta Rent will enable tenants in Kenya to pay rent via Mobile Money by offering an estate management system (EMS) for commercial real estate agents in Kenya. The EMS makes it easy to pay rent for the tenant and receive rent for the landlord by automating accounting/payments. Manyatta Rent charges a fixed fee per transaction to generate revenue.

Progress: The EMS has been sold to more than 25 real estate agents, managing more than 14,000 tenants. To prove the concept with mobile money pilots with 2 major financial institutions will start in October.


Problem: Kenyans have poor access to credit. Employers don’t want to deal with paycheck advances.

Concept: Mpepea provides emergency micro-credit through mobile money transfers. With sparse access to banks and ATM’s there is significant demand for easy access to immediate or emergency credit. Mpepea can provide instant loans through mobile money transfers. To reduce risk, Mpepea signs contracts with Credit Unions (SACCO’s) or Employers, who guarantees the loans against paychecks or savings. Primary source of revenue is a fixed fee per loan.

Progress: Mpepea ran a pilot for 1 year with 30+ employers and is currently starting the second run with a subsection from the pilot.


Problem: Few phone games focusing on Africa with African content.

Concept: Gamsole makes games for mobile phones targeting African users. A team of 4 Nigerians are building social games that stick out to the African user. They base their games on local history, customs, games, and current events. Revenue comes from paid apps and in-app purchases.

Progress: More than 50k downloads and $3000 in revenue from paid apps. Two new games will be launched in October, 2012.


Problem: Difficult for customers to access variety and quality fashion clothes in Kenya. Many small traders have problems reaching bigger audience.

Concept: Closet49.com is an online marketplace for women’s fashion, targeting the African market. The platform works as an intermediary between the trader and the consumer, and allows traders to easily reach a wide audience and the consumers to easily browse through a large number of goods. Closet49 handles logistics and distribution and holds payments in escrow until the transaction is completed. Revenue comes from commissions on sales.

Progress: Average growth rate of 35 percent a month in site views over 8 months with more than 2000 site visits in September. Up to 5 weekly sales.

MatchMKR.com (Bongalove.com)

Problem: No quality dating sites in Kenya. Difficulties finding quality partners in a busy life.

Concept: MatchMKR.com is a mobile dating platform targeting the African market. All profiles are approved to ensure quality and users can rate each others pictures. Users receive one new profile daily and can upgrade to a paid premium account to see more profiles, see who is looking at your profile, see how their pictures are rated, and send messages.

Progress: 1500+ users and paying customers to prove the demand.


Problem: People run out of airtime when they are not near an airtime reseller

Concept: MoVAS emergency credit lets users take airtime (prepaid phone credits) loans when they run out. The loans are repaid next time the user fills up the prepaid account. The product is sold to telcos and historically increases the telco’s revenue by up to 20 percent. By analysing historical user data from the customer telco, MoVAS creates credit scores and decides who is eligible to take airtime loans.

Progress: MoVAS has a contract with Wataniya (Qtell) in the Maldives to launch the product in October 2012. More promising contracts are in the pipeline. MoVAS is founded by James Mwaniki, who previously co-founded Mobile Decisioning as a CTO.

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