In 1996, Larry Page and Sergey Brin started developing Google as part of a Stanford University research project. Two 23-year-old Malawian students have recently launched a local search engine called cfinder, which they hope will one day also achieve global success. How we made it in Africa interviews Kondwani Chimatiro and Daniel Chiwinga, founders of cfinder.
Give us an overview of cfinder
Cfinder is a search engine that aims to centralise Malawian information. In Malawi there is a lot of information that only exists in hard copy, such as academic materials and books. We will scan this material and it will be available on cfinder.
How did the idea for cfinder came about?
We are university students studying Information and Communication Technology (ICT) at Mzuzu University. We thought of contributing something to Malawi and after we evaluated different ideas, we opted to develop a search engine.
Google has launched a localised version for Malawi, which gives priority to Malawian content. How will cfinder compete with this?
The information that Google has is different from that of cfinder because as Malawians we really know what we need and some information is in hard copy, which they cannot access on Google but we as Malawians will have a chance to digitise it.
Do you plan to generate revenue from cfinder?
Yes, we are planning to generate revenue from cfinder and are currently devising plans on how we can best do it. One of the ideas we have already brainstormed is through subscriptions, mainly for the tourism industry, whereby companies need to pay a fee to appear on the tourism section. Other ideas include sponsored links as well as banner adverts.
Cfinder is hosted in South Africa; why is this?
Cfinder is being hosted in South Africa because in Malawi we have electricity problems. If we can secure investors we can solve this problem with generators.
What do you foresee as the main challenges of making cfinder a success?
Internet connectivity is expensive in Malawi; hosting space is too small; and the cost of running cfinder is high since we have not started generating revenue yet. But if investors may come in we believe that we will grow very fast and stand out in the market because our products will be unique and they will be the best in Africa and the whole world.
What are your future plans with cfinder? What other projects are you working on?
We have a lot of plans for this search engine. If investors may come we are planning to have the cfinder data centre in Malawi. We are working on several sections for cfinder like web mail and ecommerce. We are also working on a product called Giantplus, which will be used by rural and urban people to sell/market their products using basic mobile phones. If all goes well we might also develop our own content management system (CMS) as well as our own social networking site. Maybe even our own Malawian-made operating system. We are also planning to extend the cfinder search engine to be global.
How would you describe Malawi’s internet and ICT landscape?
In Malawi internet is expensive. There are only a few people who are experts in the ICT industry in Malawi. There are also no organisations or institutions that support IT entrepreneurs.