Acha Nelson, chief executive officer (CEO) and co-founder, of QuickTicket.
Acha Nelson, chief executive officer (CEO) and co-founder of QuickTicket, has launched the online bus ticket reservation service in Cameroon. Nelson spoke to HumanIPO about the service and the challenges facing tech startups in the West African country.
HumanIPO: How was the technology behind QuickTicket developed?
Nelson: I had met Absalom Shu, co-founder and chief technical officer (CTO) a year earlier to learn more about tech development from him. I admire the work he did on the wasaMUNDI, wasaTEXTO and wasaHOSTEL.
Once I got the concept of a ticketing service, I knew he was the best person to work with, with the experience he already had. We founded QuickTicket.
He is a passionate and creative software developer and has greatly contributed to transforming our idea into a product. He focused more on the platform development while I focused on business development.
How long did it take to have QuickTicket up and when was it launched?
QuickTicket has been in the works for seven months and is currently being tested online, and will be launched later this October.
What categories of tickets do you sell, and how many bus services are on board presently?
We are beginning with bus tickets, of all classes. We have pitched our idea to five bus companies who have already expressed their interest in working with us.
When QuickTicket is up, how will users pay?
QuickTicket allows users to pay for their tickets at the bus agencies when they travel. We are also working with local micro-finance companies as well as other merchants that have national top-up points, even those who accept MasterCard, Visa and even MTN and Orange mobile money, but we want to make sure that these merchants are secure and reliable, before we incorporate them into our platform.
We also intend to work with other merchant companies in Africa as we grow to these markets.
What is the current status of tech application in Cameroon’s transport sector?
All transportation arrangement, transactions and management of transportation companies is being done manually, which involves transfer of files from one town to the other. Commuters also have to present themselves at travel agencies, to reserve and purchase tickets.
Starting something no one has done before across a country comes with scepticism. From where do you get confidence the venture will be successful?
We have carried out market research which shows that there is a high demand for services like ours, with over 92 per cent of Cameroonians depending on public transportation, and with the traffic and congestion problems faced in Africa and other emerging markets.
Given the interest the public and some bus companies have shown interest in our solution, I am confident that QuickTicket will be the travel solution for commuters and travel companies in Cameroon and emerging markets.
Also, our solution connects users directly with travel agencies, who will endorse QuickTicket and promote QuickTicket with their existing customers.
What is the business plan and how do plan to generate revenues?
We shall charge bus companies a yearly subscription fee for our administrative and accounting back-end, for the tickets they sell through our platform and also from our bus and parcel delivery notification SMS.
We also intend to charge our users a small fee for their reservations and to serve ads messages through the parcel delivery messages and to all travelers through our bus status notification system.
Apart from the bus agencies, what other partnerships are you working on, or considering?
Our priority right now is fundraising, but we also intend to partner with other companies that can sell our solution both nationally and internationally. We also intend to upgrade our platform to accommodate other means of travel and work with such travel companies.
How much do you plan to raise?
We have launched a campaign on Indiegogo and and we are also seeking angel and venture capital (VC) investments.
So far, how has the response been?
Our crowdfunding campaign hasn’t been successful, but we have had a few offers for investment,. We hope to get more and better offers.
Why are we not hearing more about Cameroon’s tech scene, like we do about Nigeria, Kenya, Ghana and South Africa?
Cameroon has a lot of great tech startups and I see a bright future for these tech companies, but I still think Cameroonian tech startups lack funding to breach the difficult phase faced by most startup companies.
Most of these companies have to rely on personal savings for financing and so cannot expand rapidly into the international scene like others. I have to admit that the adoption of new technology in Cameroon is not as high as in other countries and the amount of internet users is not as high as in other countries, but this is rapidly changing.
I just attended a startup boot-camp with a lot of great and smart startups and what differentiates Cameroonian startups from the others is their attention to details. They carry out thorough market research and understand the mind set of their consumers.
Most of them have dissected the problems of their users, put forth great solutions, but lack the capital to take these solutions to the market. They try to overcome their obstacles and solve their problems not with money, but by understanding their users.
If a solution can survive the startup scene in Cameroon, I am confident it will explode internationally. I am sure in five years Cameroonians will dominate the tech market in Africa. If I were an investor, the one place I will put my money will be Cameroon.
How soon do you think Cameroon would catch up with the above mentioned countries?
By 2015, Cameroon will be competing with these countries and will dominate by 2018
That is not very far away. How prepared are the regulatory bodies?
The have always been ready, but didn’t see the need due to lack of emerging tech startups. But with an exponential growth of startups mounting pressure on those responsible, and with the president’s promise to transform Cameroon into an emerging nation, I think the change will be swift and well received by both consumers and the government.