Kojo Ayirebi, Zished co-founder
When Africa-focused seed investment firm Savannah Fund announced its second batch of startups Ghanaian startup Zished.com was among the four chosen, receiving US$25,000 in funding and mentorship to to support them in developing their business.
HumanIPO caught up with co-founder Kojo Ayirebi, a day before he left Kenya for Ghana and he spoke about the chance to go back with funding and his ambition and dedication see the startup realise its dream potential and provide families in Africa with of happiness through his e-commerce platform.
HumanIPO: What does Zished.com do?
Ayirebi: Zished is an e-commerce platform aimed at helping Ghanaians in the diaspora connect to loved ones back home, mainly via gifting.
Once a customer visits our site, chooses a gift and checks out, we deliver and send back a picture confirmation of the recipients reaction, keeping the sender connected to the recipient back home.
HumanIPO: What drove you to establish your startup?
My co-founder Christiane Koenig and I spent sometime in the United States attending university and working. We both had family back home and celebrating special moments with them was unnecessarily painful and usually involved a lot of parties. Streamlining the process and creating Zished was the only way we knew how to make this easy for other people in similar situations. With regards to what drove us I believe we found it easy to implement since we were scratching our own itch.
What sought of gifts and loyalties to you deal with?
Currently we deal with very traditional gifts, for example cakes, flowers, balloons etc. We allow people to send these gifts with messages for their loved ones. We are venturing more into vouchers though and hope to have a comprehensive list of vouchers available for a wider range of gifts, products and services soon.
Who do you target with your service?
Zished was created for Ghanaians/Africans in the diaspora but we currently also have Ghanaians using the service. But with regards to our primary target, we target Africans abroad with most of them currently coming from the UK and US.
What do you think of the tech scene in Ghana? Are people more online?
The tech scene is growing at a rapid pace in Ghana, co-working spaces for techies are springing up allowing tech enthusiasts to collaborate and share ideas.
The Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology (MEST) is training technology entrepreneurs who can compete on the global scale and access to internet is now more prevalent allowing people who would otherwise not have had access to get online a chance to. If this trend continues, it will bode well for everyone especially the youth in the long run.
How would you like to see the tech scene change? Is the government doing enough?
I believe we are headed in the right direction and I would like to see this trend continue.
With regards to the government, they have implemented some programmes aimed at giving the youth access to basic tools they will need (free laptops for students etc). This is a great start, but building the right infrastructure will support the right kind of growth we need to develop a burgeoning tech ecosystem.
How was the Savannah Fund class experience?
The accelerator experience was great, we got access to mentors and other key resources we otherwise wouldn’t have.
We got the opportunity to fine tune and streamline our products and also got the opportunity for future collaborations with the other startups.
Was the funding able to support developing your startup further?
The funding came in handy, in our case it’ll be spent mainly on customer acquisition as we hope to grow our client base significantly within the next year. We will then hopefully raise more money to further develop our product.
Have you benefited much from the accelerator class?
Yes, significantly. The accelerator classes helped us strategise the future of Zished, thus now we have a roadmap for what we plan on achieving in the foreseeable future and how we are going to get there.
What are the challenges that you face as a company?
Since we are in the gift delivery business, logistics is our biggest challenge. Our addressing system is not up to international standards, which makes it difficult finding streets as such a lot of time is often wasted looking for our delivery locations. We are however in talks with a tech logistics company in Ghana which seems to have solved this problem to help us mitigate it.
What are some of the hindrances to growth of the tech scene in Africa in your view?
It’s mostly about perception and lack of information. Entrepreneurs don’t get access to funding because most of the VCs are based outside the continent and as such are unsure of what the challenges of doing business in Africa are.
With regards to technology adoption, people tend to have a higher preference for technology built in more developed parts of the world as opposed to local solutions, since they believe those solutions are “better” while in truth the local solution was built with them in mind and will probably suit their needs better as opposed to the foreign ones.
How do you overcome them?
Our governments and private institutions can play a role here by replicating models other countries trying to bolster their tech scenes are employing for example SEED Brazil and Startup Chile.
Helping tech entrepreneurs in the very early stages of their businesses will provide the kind of validation and support that will help get the businesses of the ground while giving potential investors a chance to properly evaluate businesses they may eventually invest in.