Tanzanians Mwasapi Kihongosi and Godluck Akyoo are the co-founders of TiME Tickets, a mobile app which allows event-goers in Tanzania to purchase tickets via their mobile phones using mobile money. After purchasing a ticket via TiME Tickets, the ticket in QR Code will be stored in the user’s phone. During check-in to an event or movie theatre, the ticket will be scanned for validation.
Kihongosi and Akyoo tell How we made it in Africa about the opportunities in the ticketing business.
1. Give us your elevator pitch.
Kihongosi: Our goal is to make ticketing easy. We started mid-2013 to fill a gap in the market. If you want to buy a ticket to an event in Dar es Salaam you must go to a physical outlet. We wanted to enable people to buy the ticket via mobile money and save the time and money spent commuting to buy tickets. Our ambition is to become a one-stop shop ticketing solutions provider. We do a lot of ticketing in our daily lives and most people use mobile money. The potential is big.
Akyoo: We first presented our idea at the regional IT conference and competition dubbed Pivot East. Although not named winners, the experience gave us the courage to pursue the business. Our target clients include event organisers, movie theatres and travel agents. We make money through commissions.
2. How did you finance your start-up?
Kihongosi: In the early days we bootstrapped and mostly used our own money raised from doing other IT jobs like graphics design and software development. We won the 2013 Vodacom Appstar challenge which came with a cash prize of one million Tanzanian shillings (about US$550). Last year we got a $15,000 grant from the Innovation Fund programme organised by the governments of Tanzania and Finland. These funds made it easier for us to fully concentrate on building TiMe Tickets.
3. If you were given $1m to invest in your company now, where would it go?
Kihongosi: Our focus now is to scale the business. So we’d use the money to buy scanners and do some marketing. The TiME Tickets app is currently available for the Android platform. We would like to use other mobile operating systems such as Windows and iOS. So we’d need a bigger team of developers to execute that. Basically, we need more tools and talent.
4. What risks does your business face?
Kihongosi: A very small percentage of Tanzanians have smartphones. Just over nine million people have internet access. Now this can be a risk or an opportunity, depending on whether you take a short-term or long-term view. Our hope is more people will acquire smartphones, and when they do they’ll find us ready with a ticketing solution.
5. Describe your most exciting entrepreneurial moment.
Akyoo: For me, this was when we finished building the app.
Kihongosi: When we presented at Pivot East in 2013 we only had an idea, and still we were among the finalists. The fact we could convince the judges this was a viable idea was eye-opening. It made me realise just how much they believed in our dreams. It showed me we had a valuable idea that we could either sit on, or go out there and make it work.
6. What has been your biggest mistake, and what did you learn from it?
Kihongosi: Perhaps we should have released the product into the market faster than we did. We have learned a lot on our journey. At one point, when really hungry for money, some potential partners approached us with an offer. Although they were going to give us money we were sceptical about their goal and how they would have changed the direction of the business. We refused their $5,000 which was difficult because we needed money at that time, but we knew taking it would have led us to a totally different route. And a few months later we received the $15,000 grant, enabling us to continue working on an idea we are passionate about.