Ethiopian start-up bets on high-tech beehives

Abiye Tadeos

Anabi is an Ethiopian agritech company that incorporates smart technology in beekeeping. Internet-connected sensors are installed in beehives to help in tracking the status of the swarm and honey production. The company was started in 2019. Founder Abiye Tadeos (26) answers our questions.

1. Give us your elevator pitch.

Anabi provides a sensor unit, installed in the beehive, that enables beekeepers to monitor what is going on in the beehives from a remote location via the internet. This allows beekeepers to plan ahead in terms of expected production capacity and it reduces the cost of operations as the beekeepers do not need to constantly travel to the location of the hives.

Our sensor units send hive information to any mobile device creating a transparent monitoring system between small beekeepers and their contractors, simultaneously alerting and notifying hive operators to guarantee zero loss in production.

2. If you were given $1 million to invest in your company now, where would it go?

We would manufacture hundreds of thousands of smart beehives to reach over a million beekeepers in East Africa. These costs will go towards chip manufacturers, wood supplies and injection moulding. At the same time, we would increase our service capacity by leasing better, larger and sophisticated server systems. It will also be used to demonstrate our service at various beekeeping sites for customer acquisition.

3. What risks does your business face?

The lack of high-speed internet connection in Ethiopia, especially in the rural areas is a major challenge. We often struggle to download the data from our beehives.

The other is poor access to finance. Our vision is to go continental and it will require substantial investment to allow us to market our product on that scale. Even if we find the product-market fit, we may not be able to achieve our continental reach.

Anabi provides smart beekeeping solutions by installing internet-connected sensors in beehives to track the status of the swarm and honey production.

4. So far, what has proven to be the most successful form of marketing?

Word of mouth and telephone marketing have been the most successful because we currently have a limited number of potential customers we target. Bee research centres in various co-operatives have also been introducing our products to prospective clients.

5. Describe your most exciting entrepreneurial moment.

I was at the incubation programme blueMoon, which crafted my entrepreneurship journey. Jack Dorsey, CEO of Twitter was there when I pitched my early concept. It was extremely exciting.

Another moment was the first time we conducted our product tests. Despite those early shortcomings, it was exciting nonetheless.

6. Tell us about your biggest mistake, and what you’ve learnt from it.

Not giving my team sufficient time to finish their duties. I used my own assumptions to come up with unrealistic deadlines. This led me to change engineers continuously, causing delays in project delivery timelines. I learnt that sometimes we undermine the work the engineers put in. Today, I engage with them to understand the requirements and how long it will take.

For over a year, my life was my start-up. I used to think my world would come crashing down if anything went wrong. A lot did go wrong; I spent too much money on prototypes that were never successful and I lost so many angel investment negotiations. It made me extremely stressed but I learnt that my life and my start-up are two separate entities. Entrepreneurship is a journey; although painful at times, we need to enjoy the steps.