Estifanos Kiflo is co-founder of Kinehintsa.com, an Addis Ababa-based start-up that is creating a database of buildings, service providers and professionals in the construction industry in Ethiopia. The platform enables users to make informed decisions when hiring and implementing projects. Architects, contractors and other professionals in the construction industry can showcase their services while clients can rate the services offered by various professionals and companies. The platform seeks to promote transparency and accountability in the industry.
1. Give us your elevator pitch.
My co-founders and I have a background in architecture and while at university realised it was not easy to find architects and companies engaged in the industry. There is a lot of construction going on in Addis Ababa so the services of professionals are in high demand. Kinehintsa is helpful for investors and others interested in identifying companies and professionals in the sector. Someone can go on the website and find an architect, engineer and information on where to source raw materials. A lot of buildings are popping up, and as this trend continues our services will come in handy.
For example, at the moment there is no culture of documentation but it will be important in future. So our platform will be useful for companies to document a portfolio of projects they have worked on in the past and other service providers they know. A user would then easily know ‘company A’ worked on that building, and if they like the results they can hire them. Eventually it will help promote quality, and SMEs which don’t have lot of money to advertise will also be able to compete by showcasing their strengths.
2. How did you finance your start-up?
We raised money ourselves which was a few thousand Birrs. Although we were still at school we had to work part-time to raise money. It is not easy to access financing for start-ups in Ethiopia. Now that we really have to go deep into the data and customer acquisition, we need even more money. We are struggling with that at the moment.
3. If you were given US$1m to invest in your company now, where would it go?
We would use it to market Kinehintsa. We would also develop new products within the company to address other challenges, because in Ethiopia there is lot to be done.
4. What risks does your business face?
Some companies are comfortable with the existing systems and would not easily adopt our service. And not all companies would want this kind of transparency.
5. What has been the biggest mistake you have made in your start-up, and what have you learnt from it?
The whole process has been a learning curve. We felt like we’d built a million websites. We would build, realise it had a mistake, then build again. We changed the approach many times. But I think the biggest mistake is that we did not actively look for financing in the early days. We focused a lot on trying to build something that would work in the Ethiopian ecosystem. Now we have a good product, but financing is a big hurdle. We should have looked for money in parallel to building the product.