Fayaz Valli, 25, is the founder of Tanzania-based software development company GetCore Group. The business provides solutions such as web designing, mobile applications, software development and graphic designing.
Valli started his business while studying software engineering at a Tanzanian college. Initially he developed mobile apps for businesses, government agencies and NGOs. In 2013 GetCore formally began operations.
1. Give us your elevator pitch.
Our goal is to enable businesses to trade efficiently using technology. We have built a web-based point of sale product called GetPOS, after conducting research in areas like Dar es Salaam’s bustling central market Kariakoo, where thousands of businesses operate. The system is simple to use and affordable compared to software which comes with a hardware terminal. We have a lot of power outages in Dar es Salaam, and when they occur terminals don’t work. So most traders now use my software as back-up since it’s accessible, even on their phones.
2. How did you finance your start-up?
I saved money from small jobs I did while still in college. Last year I got US$14,000 funding from Tanzania Commission for Science and Technology (COSTECH). Looking for investors here can be tough. It is difficult to convince them to invest in a start-up. Any investor would ask you to show them your three year financials. Now, where would I get that?
3. If you were given $1m to invest in your company now, where would it go?
The first $100,000 I would invest in a payment gateway I am building. I’d also invest about $250,000 in other technology start-ups so that GetCore Group would own shares in other promising companies. And I’d also buy better office equipment and recruit more people to work on developing more software.
4. What risks does your business face?
The biggest risk is that Tanzania is not tech-savvy yet. Most business owners prefer face-to-face trading and will need a while to get used to e-commerce. Although smartphone usage is increasing, people’s knowledge in technology is still low.
5. So far, what has proven the most successful form of marketing?
I tried using flyers but it just did not work. From my experience what’s best is when I demonstrate to a potential client how the service works. I joined the global business networking organisation BNI through which I have met many other businesses who are now our clients. I also attend many networking sessions where I meet potential clients.
6. Describe your most exciting entrepreneurial moment.
I get excited when I face new challenges. I like to build software that solves a particular problem then move on to the next challenge. I have found this journey in entrepreneurship very inspiring. I am a very technical person but am now looking to invest in businesses outside the IT industry. I recently went into agribusiness. I have a 10 acre farm in Morogoro [169km west of the capital] where I am growing oil seeds, and am looking to go large-scale with additional crops such as sisal and cashew nuts.
7. What has been your biggest mistake, and what have you learnt from it?
When I started the business I trained three junior developers with the hope they’d improve their skills and eventually work with the company for a couple of years. But they all gave up at some point and I’d spent a lot of time training them. Human resources is challenging here, but I have learned how to operate within the environment. When I get large projects now I sub-contract to people in both India and China who have better expertise and good work ethics.