Building a mobile web start-up in South Africa


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A presentation about the experiences of the Founders of Motribe (, a mobile web start-up emerging out of Cape Town, South Africa.

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Building a mobile web start-up in South Africa

  1. 1. Building a mobile web start-up     Nicholas Haralambous and Vincent Maher
  2. 2. We are NOT CEO's <ul><li>Technical Ninja </li></ul><ul><li>Operations Ninja </li></ul>
  3. 3. Motribe Mobile Networks <ul><li>The elevator pitch: </li></ul><ul><li>Motribe is a platform that allows anyone on web AND mobile to build, manage and monetize their own mobile social communities. </li></ul><ul><li>The difficulty is creating one sentence that sells the product, explains the model and appeals to the problem that you are solving.  </li></ul><ul><li>This took us MONTHS to get right (and we're still not sure we've got it right). </li></ul>
  4. 4. Assumptions that entrepeneurs make <ul><li>My idea is unique and brilliant </li></ul><ul><li>I can do this alone </li></ul><ul><li>Business plans need to be really, really long </li></ul><ul><li>My idea will make me rich (no, it's the execution) </li></ul><ul><li>Ideas are timeless (timing, timing, timing) </li></ul><ul><li>My business has nothing to do with my experience </li></ul><ul><li>It's all about sacrifice (it's give-give) </li></ul>
  5. 5. My idea is unique and brilliant <ul><ul><li>No, it's not. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>NDA's are NOT a dealbreaker </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Your idea is not unique </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Your idea is not brilliant </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Does your idea solve a problem? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Does your idea create a problem and then solve it? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>HOW ARE YOU GOING TO EXECUTE YOUR IDEA??? </li></ul></ul>
  6. 6. I can do this alone <ul><ul><li>Some people might be able to </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Partnerships are imperative </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Working alone makes your job much more difficult </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Finding the right partner is very tough </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Be sure to build in exit clauses </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>What if one of you becomes a drug-addicted pimp working out of Hillbrow? </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Be realistic about your expectations </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Don't build a relationship while building a business </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Does your business partner compliment you or cancel you out? </li></ul></ul>
  7. 7. Business plans need to be really, really, really long <ul><ul><li>Business plans need to explain your business </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>They need to be concise and to the point </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>They need to have:  </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>financial projects </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Competitor analysis </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Domain relevance </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Market research </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Don't focus on designed (unless your pitching a design company) </li></ul></ul>
  8. 8. My idea will make me successful <ul><ul><li>Can love buy you bread? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Execution makes you successful </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Money makes you rich </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Revenue streams make a business </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Ideas WONT get you investment </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Investment WONT make you successful </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Venture Capital is NOT a business model </li></ul></ul>
  9. 9. Ideas are timeless <ul><ul><li>Timing is everything,  </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>nothing lasts forever,  </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>move quickly </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Market analysis and understanding </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>A second too early and you're &quot;Before your time&quot; </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>A second too late and you're &quot;Last in&quot;.  </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Timing is everything </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>You have a small window of opportunity </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>This is why we needed money, fast. </li></ul></ul></ul>
  10. 10. My business has nothing to do with my experience <ul><ul><li>Domain expertise is imperative </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Your idea, your knowledge, your experience, your success and execution are ALL tied together. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Without experience you seldom encounter problems that need to be solved </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Without domain expertise you are not able to execute </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Without execution you don't have a business </li></ul></ul>
  11. 11. For old people it's going to be about sacrifice <ul><ul><li>Suffering is a good thing </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Suffering is NOT the only thing </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>You start a business to be free and have fun </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Sacrifice is not fun </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Building a business is not always fun </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>A means to an end; sacrifice for a purpose </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Have fun </li></ul></ul>
  12. 12. The Motribe time-line <ul><li>Month 1 </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Decision to come up with an idea that can become a business </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Brainstorms about ideas </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>What problem do we want to sell? </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>What are we really good at? </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>What is likely to make a lot of money? </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>What can we do that doesn't involve reinventing the wheel or developing completely new IP? </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Identify who we need to approach for investment </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Write a funding proposal </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Find someone to talk to for advice </li></ul></ul>
  13. 13. The Motribe time-line <ul><li>Month 2 </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Validation of the proposal </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Submit the proposal to several likely investors </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Get rejected quickly by all but one for the following stated reasons: </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>&quot;too early-stage&quot; - catch 22 </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>&quot;business model won't work&quot; - subjective bias </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>&quot;I just don't undertand you're business plan&quot; - What? </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Get one hit, in the sense that the answer is not an emphatic no </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Make the decision to resign from comfortable corporate jobs with 6 months notice </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Wife and kids conundrum </li></ul></ul>
  14. 14. The Motribe time-line <ul><li>Month 2 continued </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Investors accept the funding proposal, request a business plan </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Business plan = </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Description of business </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Description of founders and their expertise </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Market analysis </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Market positioning </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Summary of go-to-market strategy (PR, marketing, launch) </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Budget </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Projections </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>10-12 pages, simple language, clearly communicated points. Almost completely non-technical. </li></ul></ul></ul>
  15. 15. The Motribe time-line <ul><li>Month 3 </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Darkness and paranoia </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Month 4 </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Draft of the term sheet agreed </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>The term sheet: </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Outlines the short form of the agreement </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Acts as a blueprint for the long form agreements </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><li>Month 5 </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Darkness and paranoia </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Month 6 </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Darkness and paranoia </li></ul></ul>
  16. 16. The Motribe time-line <ul><li>Month 7 </li></ul><ul><ul><li>High-speed action </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Final handovers at current job </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Sign term sheet </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Create bank account </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Appoint accountants </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Appoint legal firm </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Create company </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Sign ± 1000 pages </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Relocate to Cape Town </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Preparing for the first production sprint </li></ul></ul></ul>
  17. 17. The Motribe time-line <ul><li>Month 8 </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Start first sprint </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Major components  </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Web Site </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Web payments </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Mobile portal </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Mobile payments </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Dashboard </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>CMS </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Analytics and reporting </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Mobile networks </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Device detection and content adaptation </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Alerts and notifications </li></ul></ul></ul>
  18. 18. The Motribe time-line <ul><li>Month 9 </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Finish sprint and test everything </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Complete legal components </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Terms and conditions </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Privacy policy </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Commercial terms </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Go live on 13th, light PR push </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Start mobile marketing campaigns </li></ul></ul>
  19. 25. First month results <ul><li>Users </li></ul><ul><li>42 000 registered users and growing by 1300 a day </li></ul><ul><li>140 000 unique users (33% conversion rate) </li></ul><ul><li>65 000 friend requests </li></ul><ul><li>Content </li></ul><ul><li>4 000 photos </li></ul><ul><li>4 300 blog posts </li></ul><ul><li>10 000 comments on photos </li></ul><ul><li>6 800 comments on blogs </li></ul><ul><li>14 200 photo ratings </li></ul><ul><li>Engagement </li></ul><ul><li>45 mins average time per visit </li></ul><ul><li>90 pages a visit </li></ul>
  20. 26. Assumptions you make looking forward Look back at your initial plan.  What you sold was good enough to start with, it's good enough now. What you plan for, what you experience and what happens are all different.
  21. 27. Thank you and discussion