Ernest Makotsi, 30, is the founder and CEO of Wayo, a Kenyan company that uses mobile technology to test customer satisfaction and track performance on behalf of its clients. Established in January 2014, Wayo also conducts evaluations of consumer responses to ideas before introduction of a new product to market. The start-up provides its clients with information they can use to resolve issues, take advantage of sales opportunities and retain customers.
Makotsi tells How we made it in Africa how he established the business, the risks it faces, and his exciting moments in entrepreneurship.
1. Give us your elevator pitch.
Wayo is a web and SMS-based location feedback service that allows organisations with several branches to collect feedback, analyse and measure service delivery in real time. Our goal is to help clients quickly resolve issues, and therefore continuously delight and meet the constantly evolving demands of customers.
2. How did you finance your start-up?
I took part in the GrowthAfrica Idea to Innovation incubator programme to develop the Wayo idea by working in the same environment with 12 other start-ups for four months. During the programme I developed a prototype, and after pitching at the demo day I was among a group of five who received some seed funding to pilot the project. After a successful pilot with one of the leading hospitals in Kenya, we got a ‘proof of concept’ and I was able to sign a partnership deal with The Grass Company, a research agency which invested additional money to scale the product to multiple clients.
3. If you were given US$1m to invest in your company now, where would it go?
From the feedback we’ve received from clients, we are currently working on version 2.0 of the service. We are also customising our tools, upon request, to suit diverse client needs in different industries. With that $1m we could hire a larger, experienced team to improve our technology, manage relationships and better serve more clients, even in different countries.
4. What risks does your business face?
Like many growth stage start-ups, our major challenges are capacity constraints, both technological and in human resources. Larger organisations and public sector clients tend to have longer payment schedules and their needs usually require heavy investments which in turn affects our cash-flow position.
To a certain extent, we are exposed to cyber-security risks as a start-up whose operations are cloud based. But we understand those exposures and have set up measures (online and offline) to secure data and keep things running smoothly.
5. Describe your most exciting entrepreneurial moment.
By far it has been getting the product-market fit after many alterations and tweaks of our business model.
6. What has been the biggest mistake you’ve made, and what have you learnt from it?
When we started working on this software, my strategy was to have a long development cycle that would go up to four months. Although it gave us ample time to finish features properly, on the other hand it meant we never got to properly compare what the client actually wanted, and what we were building.
As we kept going, I quickly realised we were having to rework much of what we had built, and as a result I started to show clients smaller versions of the feature we were building that could be developed in under two weeks, and get clients to sample it.
This allowed us valuable feedback even if we didn’t have the complete thing, and it simultaneously enabled us to move faster since we were working hard on the right things.