Q&A: Ngugi Gikonyo on contacts backup, a momentous trend on the mobile space

Kenya’s phone backup solutions developer Binary Science has been exploiting cloud computing by enabling individuals to save and manage important phone contacts.

The company’s products, 6ix Degrees and The Phonebook, complement each other as they offer cloud solutions for contact storage featuring events calendar and free automatic SMS reminders.

In an exclusive interview with HumanIPO, Binary Science’s founder Ngugi Gikonyo gets into how tailor-made solutions for SME’s and corporate firms can catapult business operations.

HumanIPO: Tell us about 6ix Degrees and ThePhonebook.co.ke

Ngugi Gikonyo: I first developed 6ix Degrees for my university third year project to help people find their friends contacts using the principle of six degrees of separation. Over the past year, the idea has morphed into a platform from which network-dependent services run. One of this, Thephonebook.co.ke, makes use of the 6ix degrees platform to intelligently manage organizations contacts and calendars.

You’ve brought into the market two contact service apps, but why would mobile users want to sign up?

Mobile users want to know that while their contacts are backed up, they can be accessed from wherever and whenever needed. Unfortunately, nearly all backup services are tied to specific vendors and service providers. The 6ix degrees platform is not only free but independent. It can also be accessed from anywhere, with any connected device.

More than 25 million people in Kenya are now connected to mobile services and its 2-3 years down the line for you. How’s it going? 
Slightly over a year old, we’ve realised that users want solutions that bring immediate value to their life. We’ve therefore taken a keen focus and extending back-up by building innovative services on top of these contacts. Once such is Thephonebook’s event notifier, which automatically sends text reminders to contacts invited for an event on your calendar.

If memory serves us right, there was a problem with the support system in the industry, to be specific, Safaricom Blocking International Bulk SMS. Are things easier now?

There have been a number of challenges especially when depending on infrastructure controlled by industry giants. To this end, we’re exploring ways and means of shifting our delivery methods via independent technologies. At the moment, I cannot go into specifics in order to prevent our competition preempting us.

Smartphones are putting more focus towards mobile platforms such as Android. What of feature phones?

Smartphones are rapidly gaining market share, but since ours is not a niche product, we are forced by market dynamics to use a mass product strategy. However, we’re currently doing a lot of research and thinking into how smartphones and feature phones can be leveraged to form one echo-system.

Youthful CEOs are the phenomenon of the 21st century. What’s the most intriguing as well as challenging thing about being one?

I don’t consider myself a CEO but the leader of a great team trying to bring ‘a bit of magic’ into the tech scene. It’s been a long and trying journey, lots of mistakes have been made and an equal number of lessons have had to be learnt. However, I wouldn’t trade it for anything as I consider this the most interesting and exciting time I’ve had.

What can you say about the future?

Over the past year, I’ve interacted with industry innovators and leaders. They have come to strongly reinforce my belief that building platforms (while not at all easy), is the best way to make a lasting difference. As I always say, platforms are for tomorrow, apps are for today.


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