Let us, for once, commend the youth of Ghana; I mean those doing great things, for their hard work. I am particularly impressed by the way some young men and women are making strides in the Ghanaian IT space. A case in point is what is featured on this week’s Inspiring Start-ups.
Three young men, David, Nii Osae and Kofi, in their days in the senior high school, came together to launch an operating system which eventually turned unsuccessful. But they didn’t give up. They came up with another idea that has now made it possible to send money to people across all networks free of charge. Read as they tell B&FT how it all began.
Who are they?
David Letsa is in his early 20s and is currently in medical school at the Semmelweis University, Budapest, Hungary. He is seen by members of the team as the ‘idea box’, as he is the one who normally brings up new ideas for the team to implement.
Nii Osae Osae Dade, also in his early 20s, has a degree in Computer Science from the University of Ghana. He is the Director of Software Engineering, the main IT brain in the team. He takes responsibility for integrating the APIs to the Telcos, and ensuring that every idea that the team comes up with is implemented.
Kofi Genfi is also in the same age group and is the Director of Strategy. He graduated from the Ashesi University, with a degree in Business Administration. His main role in the company is to market the products and come up with business strategies that will promote the products.
How it all began
The whole idea started in the Presbyterian Boys Senior High School (PRESEC), Legon, when in 2011 the three teenagers at the time, came together to launch an operating system that will make phones more useful in Ghana. But it couldn’t materialise because their human capacity wasn’t enough to do that.
Following that, the three friends didn’t give up, but decided to narrow their focus, this time, to something that Ghanaians have been eagerly waiting for—a payment system that will bring about interoperability among the telecommunication companies.
The birth of CYST
With the help of their families, they raised money to kick-start an artificial intelligence company which they registered and named CYST – Creative Young Smart Technologies.
Then, they introduced their first product – Mazzuma – which has become their flagship project and offers unique services that most of its competitors do not offer.
No charges apply for using the platform to transfer money from one network to another. It is also possible to buy air time and pay some bills via the platform. The application can be downloaded and installed on android or IOS. But the team makes money from selling the software to companies.
Aside the Mazzuma application, the young men have introduced another product called ‘Bots’—an artificial intelligence system which enables customers to send and receive money using Facebook as the platform.
The Mazzuma platform has been simplified in such a way that it takes just about three steps to send money to another person on a different network.
Currently, there are over 2000 people who have subscribed to the platform.
Of course, no one will set up a company without encountering some challenges. A major challenge the team faced was convincing the telcos to accept the product.
“Some of the Telcos took like six to nine months to get the integration teams to come on line and work and do the various testing to ensure that everything works in line.”
Another challenge these young men faced is something embedded in our culture. Many people give much prominence to age, feeling that one has to attain a particular age before he can be trusted to do a particular work. And that was the exact situation they encountered with some of the industry players.
“Our average age is like 23 and most of the people we approached with this idea are people who have years of experience in working. So, some doubted what we can really do, considering we don’t have much experience in life.”
How they overcame the challenges
“In our initial efforts, it was hard approaching the Telcos because we were about 18, 19-year-old guys. And so, some of them didn’t take us serious. But we kept pushing and eventually they trusted us and gave us access, and now we are conquering the market.”
Another noteworthy thing about these boys is that they are not intimidated by the big names in the same industry within which they operate.
“For us, it’s not about the big guys in the industry. There will always be big guys. If you go back to history all the big companies were once small. A big company like Amazon started from the garage. So, for us, we are not intimidated by anybody. We will just keep on working hard.”
CYST Company Ltd wants to use the Mazzuma platform to help achieve the financial inclusion that successive governments have all included in their development agenda.
The three gentlemen also want Mazzuma to be the preferred payment platform in the nearest future.
How education has contributed
All three gentlemen were in the same class and studied Science in school. Even though Kofi diverted to business when he went to the university, he explains that, studying Science in senior high school increased their quest to find out more about things and how to improve their lot.
“One thing about science is that it gave us that element of curiosity—always questioning systems, and asking why things are not like this and why they are like that. Then, it comes to how we can make things better after finding the problem. So, the curiosity about things has made us become innovative to find solutions to problems around us.”
Advice to the unemployed
The three ‘wise boys’ want their colleagues and friends who are unemployed to take advantage of the digital era we find ourselves in to create jobs for themselves.
“We are in the 21st century; we are in a digital age and there are more opportunities now than there were ten years ago. If you don’t have skills, you can now learn on the internet and start something on your own. If it is writing a blog or anything you can do on your own, start it. Mazzuma is a dream we had and we chased it. So, people should chase their dreams and work very hard to achieve them and with persistence and determination, they will succeed,” Nii Osae said.
credit – B&FT