Interview: Boniface Githinji, CEO and Founder Tusqee Systems, Silicon Valley bound

With their bulk SMS products now being speedily adopted by a number of schools and corporate firms in Kenya, Tusqee Systems is one of the few disruptive African startups to have come out of a hackathon, determined to change the face of communications.

Thanks to initial funding from Africa’s first accelerator program 88mph, Tusqee Systems has launched another product, dubbed Sematime, that recently won “a pitching opportunity” to Silicon Valley veterans in 2013.

HumanIPO caught up with Boniface Githinji, CEO and founder Tusqee Systems Kenya, to find out what he had to say about the feat.

HumanIPO: With two almost similar products launched, how will you pitch your company?

Boniface Githinji: From our foundation date, we have had two products: SchoolSMS and CorporateSMS. Both were bulk SMS products targeting different market segments: schools and corporates respectively. However, in addition to bulk SMS, SchoolSMS also lets schools send report cards and fee balances to parents via SMS. Both are PC-based apps meaning that a client has to install the app in their machines.

Doesn’t that come with limitations?

Being desktop apps, Java-based to be specific, we experienced many distribution problems. Majority of our users had problems downloading the executables from our website as they were big in size and required technical knowledge for installation.

So, back in June, 2012 we decided to build a customizable Web app that could fit different market segments. We called it Sematime, which literally means that it’s that time to talk. We have moved 90 percent of SchoolSMS and CorporateSMS users to Sematime successfully. Our future is Sematime!

What is the no-brainer experience around Sematime?

As our sales team was approaching new users, they would frequently come across guys who really loved the fact that a school could send fee balances and report cards via SMS, considering that all it took was a simple Excel file.

One of these companies is a water and sanitation company and for them, to print, prepare and dispatch water bills was very expensive. They requested whether it was possible for them to send their water bills to consumers via SMS, a much cheaper option. It’s then that we set out to include the SMS bills feature in Sematime. They are now one of our major clients.

How strong is your team? Are there plans for expansion?

We’re just the perfect fit: one techie, one operations guy who also doubles as our head of business development, one business development executive and one office administrator. We just rolled out an update that now let’s our users send text messages all over the world. Guys from other countries can also use Sematime.

Are you breaking even? Super profits maybe?

Breaking even? Yes. Super profits? Not yet.

You recently won The Next Web’s Startup World Nairobi, to pitch to Silicon Valley veterans in 2013 along with $37,000 in cash. How do you plan to use the cash?

I have a couple of products that I would want us to implement. I’ll therefore be looking forward to growing our team. I will also be looking at investing on products and services that help us cut down our expenses. I also intend to get myself a Mac, an iPhone and probably go to Seychelles on holiday. Just kidding.

Are you looking forward to the trip? How many of you are going?

Most definitely. About the number going? Well, as of now I cannot tell. Information from the organizers is a bit scanty.

What’s your advice for young entrepreneurs?

Being an entrepreneur is not easy and it’s definitely not for the faint-hearted. You are going to meet some really difficult challenges along the way. Sometimes you might contemplate taking the easy way out – quitting – but again you become a coward and that’s bad. However, that’s not to say that you shouldn’t pivot.

In fact, if it ain’t working try changing some dynamics here and there. Take as much advice from your mentors, investors, friends and colleagues but let it not preempt what your heart tells you. Most of the times it surely knows what you want. (I know you’re probably thinking, ‘Wait, but isn’t that a line from the commencement speech that Steve Jobs gave at Stanford University in 2005?’ You’re damn right it is, I just recycled it but it’s very much true) Lastly, listen to your users a lot and build something that they really love.

How do you see your Business Model evolving in the next 5 years to keep business and ward off competition?

Honestly, I’m not usually very good with long-term focus but one thing I know is that we will keep on developing more disruptive technologies. I’m looking forward to getting my hands dirty with mobile money payments very soon.

Posted in: Features

Latest headlines

Latest by Category

Tweets about "humanipo"