My name is Mike Quinn and I’m CEO of Mobile Transactions in Lusaka, Zambia. We are on a mission to turn Africa cashless by connecting organizations of all sizes to the mass market using mobile technology and a country-wide agent network. Our products and services cover money transfers, social cash transfers, electronic vouchers for food and agricultural subsidies, microfinance loan disbursements and repayments, and salary payments to the unbanked and unconnected.
This will be the first of a weekly CEO update I will post here on both business progress and setbacks. I look forward to following the discussion.
Mobile Transactions has continued to make progress in August, although much of the focus has been on consolidating our business in preparation for a big push to become cash flow positive on transaction revenues. We have continued to make great strides as a business, but disproportionately off the back of our system development team in Cape Town. The immediate challenge to our team in Zambia is to improve our implementation and client management, while generating new business to see us into the black.
The past week has seen the completion of three foundational pieces of work that will help us achieve this goal:
First, Natalie, Leanne, Santiago, and Simon from Oxford’s Said Business School delivered a very thorough presentation that provided an implementation framework up until the end of 2010. Their presentation focused on two parts: 1) improving operations and analysis of our agent network, and 2) launching our bulk payments product with tailored value propositions to focused market segments. They struck the right balance
between strategic insight and practical recommendations, and if we follow their plan I have no doubt we will see results.
Second, Sara, our very own “legal department” and intern from the Grassroots Business Fund finished up six weeks of helping us get “investment ready”.Sara added huge value from day one by drafting new contracts for all of our staff, preparing standard agreements for our voucher and bulk payments products, reviewing and submitting formal comments on proposed e-money regulations from the Bank of Zambia, and doing the background work on a corporate structure. Sara was a model of what “technical assistance” can and should be – a unique skill-set combined with a fantastic attitude and an ability to roll up her sleeves and get things done.
Last, but certainly not least, Ben, a volunteer with Engineers Without Borders Canada who has been living in Katete for the past 4 months, delivered a summary presentation on our farmer payment project with Dunavant. While we did not make as many payments as we planned (around 3,000), we learned many lessons that will enable us to achieve full scale in 2011. Notably, our payment system was successfully integrated into Dunavant’s outgrower system and adopted in the field, and 8 Dunavant sheds were set up as Mobile Transactions agents. We were hindered by a late start and a disappointing cotton crop, but Ben was instrumental in achieving some significant wins.
We are sad to see everyone go, but are very appreciative of the tremendous contribution they have all made to Mobile Transactions.
On the downside, we had to replace one of our Champion agents in Lusaka for performance related issues. This was disappointing for many reasons, but it is a reality in a start-up business and many lessons were learned. Graham and his agent team will be implementing improved controls and agent management structures as a result of this setback.
Looking ahead, we will be implementing a new organizational structure that will bring us more clarity and focus. Dave will take on increased responsibility in operations as his role expands to CFO / COO. He will manage Graham, Hans, and Claudius who will focus exclusively on agents, voucher projects, and NGO / microfinance payments respectively. This will free up my and Brad’s time to do what we do best – sell our products to customers and sell our business to investors.