Kenya’s economy loses around KSh50 million (US$574,000) every day due to its poor roads and traffic congestion, but mobile, web and SMS platform Ma3route is trying to alleviate the problem through its crowdsourcing service.
The platform, which crowdsources transport data and provides users with information on traffic, matatu directions and bad driving reports, has recently been endorsed by phone giant Nokia, which will include the application in its new range of Nokia Lumias for the Kenyan market.
Laban Okune, Ma3route founder and chief executive officer (CEO), spoke to HumanIPO, where he talked about the startup’s achievements, challenges and its future.
HumanIPO: How did the idea of Ma3route come about and was it an easy ride to your current position?
Okune: We started as a direction app where we could just send directions to users, but as we moved on there was much request from our subscribers who wanted to know where they can board the matatu as well and that is how Ma3route was born.
It was no easy ride because smartphone and application use was not that integrated in the market coupled with the hard lined tendency of not accepting new products made it quite a challenge for us. But as every other business we did our baby steps and we are at least getting somewhere now.
How was the PIVOT East 2013 experience? Did it work for you in any way?
PIVOT was a fantastic experience I must say, by the way it was our first time to pitch in such a big stage. The event was well organised and it created much awareness for the startup in general especially to potential investors.
Some Ugandan investors approached us to develop a similar concept for Kampala. We just need to perfect our model here in Nairobi first before we can move to Kampala. If all goes well next year February is something we can work on.
Before pivot we did not have an office where we worked, but because we became winners for the mobile utility category we were accommodated at the m:lab East Africa along with US$10,000 and other prizes.
You have received different partnerships after PIVOT. How are they going?
Well this is the first time we letting this one out. Nokia approached us for a partnership with its new range of Nokia Lumia devices for the Kenyan market in which they will come integrated with Ma3route application.
The new deal is almost finalised and Nokia will announce the deal soon. We were also among four startups in Kenya selected to work with IBM in its Global Entrepreneur program among other partnership with MIT.
DEMO Africa has recently partnered with HumanIPO. What are your thoughts?
Of course I am aware. I was one of the first to register if not the first and I will be launching Ma3route as well. Looking forward for the event I believe it is a great partnership between you and DEMO Africa in that it creates a great platform for new developers and it creates more awareness of different startups to investors as of what we experience at pivot.
What are your thoughts on the Kenyan startup and technology scene?
Venture capitalists should not just focus on real estate, but consider investing also in technology.The Kenyan government should as well give subsidised loans to startups.
There are many young and bright developers outside there, but lack funding to even move the first step. School institutions as well should develop students at an early age on how to develop applications.
The tech scene has been improving year on year at a good pace with Kenya being even named the technology hub of Africa but we are not there yet.