In October 2018 Turbine, ran the first edition of the Test Drive Program. Connectme was one of the 30 projects pre-incubated at Turbine and one of the 4 of them that followed through into the incubation program.
How did you choose your first are of activity? Was there a specific reason why you chose to start with the education sector?
As our co-founder, Eva Graham, is an educator herself, she has an intimate understanding of the sector and has faced many of the pains all tutors on the island face. With deeper investigation into the local tuition experience, we quickly identified that parents/students were facing multiple pains of their own. Like how to find the right tutor in an industry that relies heavily on word-of-mouth?
I was surprised to learn that over 80% of children in Mauritius receive tuition (according to stats.gov.mu) There had to be a better way for parents to search, evaluate and book trusted tutors to ease the process. For tutors they needed to increase their customer reach and focus more on what they do best, teach. Rather than administrative tasks. Thus, TutorMe was created, a web-based platform connecting tutors and parents.
How did you decide that to go forward with this specific idea?
Looking at the bigger picture we realised that the issues being faced are not limited to just the Tuition industry. In fact, most customers and providers are facing these issues across all services industries. This led to the formation of ConnectMe Ltd holding company with the mission to leverage technology to ease connection and communication of customers and service providers on a hon a human level.
What are the key challenges in your entrepreneurial endeavor?
As with any business we have faced multiple challenges. After registering the company, we had difficulty opening the necessary bank accounts to start trading pushing back our launch. We are now looking at our next big challenge of raising capital to sustain our growth. This will pose it’s own challenges in terms of recruiting the right team and leading them to build the service we are looking to offer.
Where do you see the company in 5 years/10 years?
The goal would be two-fold and could certainly happen simultaneously: To expand to the African continent by starting with Kenya as point of anchorage. And secondly, or simultaneously, expanding to different service sectors as the aim of the company is to connect customers to professional and trustworthy service providers.
What advice would you give to those who want to enter entrepreneurship?
My personal advice would be to really validate your concept, the more in-depth research and understanding of your customer the better decisions you will be able to make. In addition, I would encourage budding entrepreneurs to be part of the startup ecosystem, ours was that of Turbine, it has allowed us to share our experiences and learn from others facing similar problems while always being open to change and pivoting.
It has also provided us with an ever-growing network, once you meet one innovator, you are very likely to find others. It can truly create a point of advantage to become a part of a dynamic community who are always supporting one another.
How do you plan to raise fund to sustain growth?
As we are early on in our journey, we are aiming to raise seed funding from Business angels rather than VC’s. Although they are some investors in Mauritius looking to provide seed funding, they are few and far between. This, I believe is a great disadvantage to the Mauritian startup ecosystem as small amounts of funding are essential at the early stage to ensure entrepreneurs can grow their business to its full potential.
Why Kenya as a point of entry into the African continent?
We are exploring Kenya as our future route to the African Market due to my personal connections from having lived there for 16 years. In addition, the startup ecosystem, particularly in the technology sector is not only robust but booming with a lot of international attention. Lastly with the growing middle-class access to customers in our target market is high.
How have you benefited from having Turbine Incubator to accompany you during these early stages of the company?
It has helped a lot. The Test Drive program has allowed us the opportunity to ascertain whether the business idea was worth exploring or not. We met a lot of interesting people during this program as well. Furthermore, being part of the incubation has been very beneficial to the startup as a support structure. The subsidized coworking over the past year allowed us to work with an intern at the office place, the weekly business coaching kept us in check with regards to our targeted milestones. We have also been able to consult with experts from different industries as well as get an insight into different subject matters such as accounting and marketing.