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Start-up snapshot: Capitalising on the continent’s mobile marketing opportunity

Patrick Palmi

Justpalm is a South Africa-based mobile and web marketing agency, with regional offices in Nairobi, Kinshasa and soon Abuja. The business works with clients to integrate a mobile aspect into their marketing strategy.

The company has also released products like ChiChi Sponsored Call, which allows brands to sponsor customers’ phone calls in return for 15-seconds advertising time prior to the call connecting. Another solution is mBongo Recharge, a mobile marketing platform that offers consumers mobile money and airtime as a reward for their engagement.

“Africa is the fastest-growing continent in terms of mobile-phone penetration. The majority of the African population is made up of young people discovering the world for the first time through their mobile handsets. So, there’s a remarkable opportunity for a mobile marketing agency like ours to help brands better utilise mobile phone technologies to connect and engage with African consumers and convert them to customers,” remarked Patrick Palmi, the founder of Justpalm.

Palmi answered How we made it in Africa’s questions.

1. How did you finance your start-up?

My father and elder brother lent me an initial sum of US$20,000 when I started back in 2009. But that first business failed due to lack of experience. Four years later, I self-funded a brand new start for the business with personal savings, and have since grown the business into a $1.5m asset with a presence and blue-chip customers across Africa.

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

Building a stronger local presence across more countries in Africa. We believe there’s a huge demand from big brands for our type of services, and African consumers are ready to start engaging brands on their mobile devices. So, we must just unlock this huge potential with a strong local presence in the top-10 African markets for a start.

3. What risks does your business face?

The local regulations could vary from country to country for these type of activities. Hence, there’s always some potential risk in “unstable” countries whose digital or telecommunication regulations aren’t too clear or well established.

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

There isn’t one form of marketing strategy that can live on its own. We always talk about an “integrated” marketing strategy as that usually provides better return on investment. However, we are seeing more success from our social media marketing and public relations compared to traditional marketing.

5. Describe your most exciting entrepreneurial moment.

Striking the very first mobile advertising deal that spurred our current growth. When one of our largest clients decided to invest into our ChiChi Sponsored Call advertising platform to reach and engage their consumers in South Africa. That was the most exciting time in my business life. We went from zero revenue to what we are today.

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

Like any other start-up, back then, we wanted to run too fast and release cool products we thought would make us millions of dollars instantly. But we never spent time understanding exactly what the market needs.

So, for three years, we paid the so-called “school-fees” of learning the business and failing a lot along the way. The most important lesson is persistence, determination and never ever giving up – no matter the level of failures and obstacles.

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