Saturday, May 5, 2012

Onto the Next Hill

“After climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb.”

This is a famous quote by one of the world’s greatest human beings, Nelson Mandela. I can’t think of anything that is more relevant to our business right now.

On Februrary 10, 2012, Mobile Transactions closed a $4m Series A investment round. It was a lot harder and took a lot longer than we originally thought, but as the first ever technology start-up in Zambia to close international venture capital financing, this was truly a great hill to climb (you can read our full investment story here). We’re immensely proud of this achievement and have some great new shareholders, including Omidyar Network, Accion Frontiers, and MEDA. We also have the foundations of a great board of directors, including Arjuna Costa (Omidyar), Monica Brand and her alternate Michael Murai (Accion), and Donovan Nickel (MEDA’s board observer).

But as Nelson Mandela wisely warned, we have only made it to the base camp of Mount Everest. Our vision is a Cashless Africa. Our goal is to build a billion dollar pan-African payments business. Raising $4m seems miniscule compared to these challenges.

So how do we get there?

It all starts with our team. Teams are simply collections of individuals through which the output of the whole is greater than the output of the sum of the parts. We’ve got a good team right now, but we need to add the missing pieces and develop our talent to make it a GREAT team. This won’t happen automatically – it will take a lot of hard work by everyone and there will be casualties along the way. But for those who rise to the challenge, there will be a stream of opportunities and rewards.

Next come our customers. In a start-up business, customers are like a good mechanic in Zambia: they are hard to find but once you do you don’t let them go. Customers pay our wages, test our products, and when we get it right, they do our sales and marketing for us. This is why we have made “Delight our Customers” a key strategic objective of our business, supported by our new Customer Experience department. This department is tasked with listening to and learning from our customers to understand what they love, hate, and desire from us so that we can continuously improve.

Third, we must evolve our products and services with a focus on achieving SCALE. In the short term, this means investing in our technology to develop a scalable platform, expanding our cash agent network in Zambia to lead the market with our Consumer and Agent Payments product lines, and taking our eVoucher Payments product line across Southern Africa. Looking out into the future, we want to open our platform to connect with third parties to accelerate the volume of transactions and push the boundaries of payment innovation in Africa.

There are still many more hills before we reach the summit, but if we get these three things right I have no doubt we will get there.

This post was written by Mike Quinn, CEO of Mobile Transactions

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