Artists can upload their content free of charge and receive 70% of every sale, while Bozza takes a 30% commission. The platform currently has over 8,000 African artists listed. Content is bought and paid for via an SMS sales code. While this functionality currently only works in South Africa, users across the continent will soon also be able purchase via mobile money, credit cards and PayPal.
Seeing an opportunity in the entertainment sector
Bozza, based in Cape Town, was founded by Zimbabwean-born entrepreneur Emma Kaye after she identified many gaps in the African entertainment sector. She saw a need to give African artists a formal platform to promote and sell their work.
“And that’s really not talking about the kind of top echelon of studios, music production companies, record labels, that’s not where we play in at all. We are really around unlocking the creative industries from the top of Africa right down to Cape Town,” noted Kaye.
Prior to launching the company in 2011, Kaye worked in investors relations in London, before returning to Africa where she was involved in a string of ventures, including feature film production, animation and mobile development.
Her work also took her to two South African townships, Khayelitsha and Alexandra. There she proved two basic assumptions around the then conceptual Bozza: there were people downloading content outside of Africa who did it out of necessity, not want; and there were micro-producers of music, poetry and film wanting to be heard.
After its launch, Bozza worked in 22 different countries with African mobile network operators so as to leverage their existing customer base and infrastructure. However, problems associated with the revenue model soon began to show.
“So what happened was that the operator sold the content and we would get [our cut], but because the operator had so many middle people, the money was so diluted. We were getting between eight and 10 cents out of every dollar, which just was ridiculous. And out of those eight or 10 cents, the artist gets 70%. So it was just untenable for the artist.”
So Bozza decided to host all its content directly on its own platform. This empowered artists to sell directly to their fan base, which proved profitable after a short pilot in South Africa.
“We were turning revenue for the first time and artists were getting money.”
Content must be relevant
Bozza has spent limited resources on marketing and attributes its sustained growth to working closely with the artists, while understanding the way people behave.
“You always see these big companies coming into Africa with this viewpoint that western models are going to work here, but they don’t necessarily. So the power of micro-communities can’t be underestimated, and those micro-communities want relevant content for them.
“And once they start getting it, they talk, and they share it on social networks – Facebook, WhatsApp. It is extraordinary.”
Entrepreneurial challenges and advice
Kaye identified two major problems her company faces.
“When I started on the road looking for investment, it was a very different ecosystem from what we are seeing at the moment. There is more activity happening, but funding is absolutely a challenge – particularly when you are customer facing. There is more money available for sort of B2B financial tech, infrastructure, etc.”
“Secondly, in terms of us monetising and turning revenue, dealing with a market that is primarily unbanked is difficult. So you have to work with all the different mobile money processors. So payment processors are definitely a pain point for us.”
Kaye also highlights the importance of picking the right team. “Your team either makes or breaks up, and if you see that someone isn’t working, cut them loose as quickly as you can.
“You can see your company turn in a heartbeat from just a couple of bad people. So the most powerful thing for me is choose your team very carefully because your team is you. Always employ people who are far better than you at what you do, and empower them.”