The best start-up ideas have come from a ‘eureka’ moment when one suddenly realises that they have discovered a solution either in form of a product/ service to solve a real life problem. Some billion dollar ideas have come from academic research such as the number 1 search engine, Google whilst some have been stumbled upon by accident such as Irish beer, Guinness and some from pure recreation such as Facebook. Whilst there are many success stories of start-ups with these unusual and accidental beginnings; however, for most entrepreneurs, a successful start-up required a lot of hard work, sleepless nights, capital injection and a bit of luck (being at the right place at the right time).
According to the Forbes Magazine 100 most promising companies for 2015; 24 of the companies on this list are in the business services and supplies (B2B) space, 18 in the information technology (IT) sector, another 18 in the personal services space making up 60% of the list. Of all the companies on the list, three caught my eye on the potential of implementing the innovation behind the companies here in Zimbabwe and unlocking some value from the business models. Whilst our economies, culture, technological advancements are worlds apart, I believe after a little bit of tweaking to suit our local environment, these ideas would blossom in Zimbabwe. From the data from Forbes; an average American start-up makes $60 million per year in revenues and employs 200 personnel.
Zimbabwe Applicable Start-Ups
Event aggregation and ticketing
Of note in IT space is SeatGeek, an event aggregation and ticketing company which has operated in the secondary ticketing space since 2009. The company had sales of $27 million in 2014 on an investment of about $41 million. SeatGeek focuses on mobile platform which earns it 45% of its revenues. In South Africa, Computicket rules that space and is the only notable player operating in the primary ticketing sector. Ticketmasket is the global leader in the niche industry racking in more than US$5 billion in commissions annually.
In Zimbabwe there are a few start-ups in that space and a simple google search led me to webtickets.co.zw and a clearly defunct zimticket.com. However, this was my first time to learn about these interesting start-ups. What these start-ups lack however is the lack of presence in the market and lack of a reputable and easily accessible payments clearing partner such as Ecocash or Zimswitch. I tried to book a show on webtickets and when it came to payment method, the options given where credit card OR bank transfer and ecocash. The proof of payment, however has to be sent by email for you to then receive your e-ticket to be able to enter into the show. This lacks the immediate action that customers seek when looking at booking a show or bus ticket.
Imagine a web and application based solution on which consumers can view and buy tickets from reputable travel (bus, air) companies, sport events (rugby, cricket, soccer) and music events and they just show their e-ticket which is scanned and they get access to the service, without queuing up and producing cash-upfront. Ecocash is best poised as the payment clearing partner to implement this idea as they can allocate each service provider a merchant account on the back-end which will become easier as provision of service can be validated by phone number. This will also be a solution to the cash crisis which is currently dogging our nation.
Pet and Veterinary Insurance
Petplan is a Philadelphia based veterinary insurance company with revenues of $69m in 2014. The founders met whilst studying at Oxford University in the UK where there was already Petplan UK operating. They put together a business plan and obtained the exclusive rights to use the name Petplan in USA and accessed 30 years of actuarial data from the UK franchiser. Petplan as a global brand is the biggest player in the world in the space of veterinary insurance and is a subsidiary of the world’s biggest insurer, Allianz. Pet insurance covers unexpected illnesses, accident and injuries for dogs and cats. Policies provide coverage for all hereditary and chronic conditions – including cancer, diagnostic testing, prescription medications, non-routine dental treatment, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), computerized tomography (CT) scan and ultrasound imaging as standard – for the life of the pet.
In Zimbabwe, a good number of us own pets; dogs, cats, parrots, horses etc and I have personally spent more than $100 on my dogs in one visit to the vet. An affordable pet insurance policy of say $5/pm would be something I wouldn’t think twice about. One way of breaking into this space would be if existing medical health companies started offering pet insurance as an add-on onto your already existing policy. That way they will quickly tap into their existing customer-base and obtain the necessary economies of scale quickly. The only difference would be instead of partnering with physicians, this time they will be partnering with veterinary doctors and animal scientists. There aren’t as many vet surgeries across Zimbabwe, but there are many freelance vets who would be willing to be on the roster for any home visits. This will be especially handy for another possible add-on of veterinary insurance for livestock: cattle, goat and sheep. Vet officers who are dotted around the country can make village calls, treat sick livestock and make claims to the vet insurance company.
Human Resources Videos
Guidespark is a $10 million a year dollar company which produces video content for corporate communications. It focuses on Human Resources (HR) issues and aims to replace emails, brochures, and seminars on HR topics like benefits, health care reform and compensation programs with video. Guidespark’s focus is on making internal communication with employees more efficient through web information technology and engaging mediums.
In Zimbabwe, most corporates still rely on manual HR policy files which are handed to new employees and as the documentation changes, new circulars are sent either in hard copy and/or on email. In this modern day and age whereby we are swamped with information overload; reading the HR manuals and keeping tabs with HR emails can be quiet challenging. However, by converting all HR manuals into videos whereby a company can educate its employees about different aspects of health and safety, dress-code, training and development, etc. HR becomes a fun topic to spend spare time on. Video is much easier and quicker to watch and comprehend as opposed to reading. Another convenience is that employees can watch the videos in their own spare time and management can then track who has watched the videos through the online tracking modules. That way companies can save time by eliminating HR training seminars which remove employees from doing their productive economic duties within the company.
The investment needed to do HR videos is quite minimal, what is needed is an understanding of the labour laws of Zimbabwe, have the necessary videography tools and a couple of good actors to act out a few scenarios to keep the videos engaging and not be simple narratives of the law. A majority of such video content available is from first world countries and talks about issues which are more relevant to their laws; and the niche of having customised HR videos for local consumption is wide and ready to be tapped into. Most blue-chip companies would welcome this move which will give plenty of business to whoever starts first.