We are very lucky to have the chance to talk again to Kingsley. He has been active on our platform since 2013, which makes him one of our first borrowers. Let’s see how Kingsley’s first two loans changed his business and what great business ideas he would like to fund with his third small business loan.
B: Thank you for taking the time to talk to us. You are one of our first borrowers and we are very excited to interview you again. Could you start off by introducing yourself to our new readers and telling us about Tafsiri?
K: Hi, my name is Kingsley Ndiewo and I am a software developer based in Kenya. I’m a founder of Funtrench Limited and Intellect Alliance Limited, and I’ve been running technology startups since 2008. A lot of the systems I currently build have blockchain technology integrated into them.
Tafsiri is a project that I began with my colleagues in 2015 and we have been working hard to bring it to market. Tafsiri is a Swahili verb that means ‘to translate’. The product is a website and mobile app that provide translation services for local languages. We started Tafsiri primarily because services such as Google Translate do not have much support for African languages.
Eventually, the plan is to have Tafsiri as a tool of access. To bring the millions of people who understand only local languages into the information age.
B: Did you find it difficult to start your own business in Kenya? What was the most difficult about it?
K: Starting a business in Kenya has various challenges,especially in the technology sector. The key challenge is of course access to capital. Local venture capital usually comes with a demand for stake that can be very high. For most people foreign venture capital is inaccessible, as the Silicon Valley kind of capital rarely takes notice of companies in sub-Saharan Africa.
Another challenge is the market. It is not easy to compete with foreign brands, and many people prefer those to local brands. We have many apps made in Kenya, but it’s not easy to find people with locally-built apps on their phones. We are changing that (together with many other companies) by providing localized content that people can’t find on the foreign platforms.
B: Could you tell our readers about the previous loans you got on Bitbond and how they impacted your business?
K: I first borrowed from Bitbond in 2013, to work on a Bitcoin-based money transfer platform. The financing enabled my team to do a lot of work building capacity on what was then a relatively new technology. I was featured on the Bitbond blog then, as the first borrower from Kenya.
In 2016 I borrowed another loan, and by then the product had evolved into a mobile app called Ganji (which is urban slang for money). We had developed Ganji and we won a prize in the SwarmVision Digital Natives competition in 2015. The loan was for a pilot run of the product and marketing work which was done successfully.
Based on Ganji, we were able to secure clients for custom work that relied on our experience with Bitcoin and private blockchains. Ganji itself is not yet live because of regulatory issues we are working out. As with many countries, Kenya does not have a legal framework in place with regards to cryptocurrencies. This is why even BitPesa have had challenges operating Bitcoin applications.
B: What made you choose Bitbond again for your small business financing?
K: I chose Bitbond because it is very easy to use, and gives any business a global audience to pitch to for financing. This is an opportunity that is very useful to SME (small and medium enterprise) businesses. To finance Tafsiri, this was my first choice.
B: What tips would you give small business owners for their business, and for getting a loan on Bitbond?
K: For businesses, I’d say have patience. Entrepreneurship has challenges but if you stick it out you see progress. For getting a loan on Bitbond, just be clear and detailed about what you are doing and update investors on how it is going.
B: What part of the process does Bitbond need to work on? What would you like to see us introduce?
K: I think the process of rating borrowers should be more transparent. It is not clear how someone moves from E to A and so on. Also, I think there should be a benefit to paying early.
For new features, I think it would be useful to introduce other major cryptocurrencies such as Ripple, Ethereum and Monero. Also a way for borrowers to gain rating or bonuses if they actually achieve what they set out to do. Like if you borrow to build a robot, and you actually build it to completion, there should be some benefit.
B: Have you used other sources of financing and how does Bitbond compare to them?
K: I’ve used Indiegogo (crowd-funding) and tried venture capital. Bitbond is great because you actually see results without having to hire marketers and so on. With crowdfunding it’s literally a crowd clamoring for attention. Venture capital is generally biased towards industrialized countries. So Bitbond wins on the inclusivity front too.
B: What do you think the future holds for bitcoin? Is your society aware of bitcoin?
K: I think Bitcoin will continue to gain acceptance and eventually account for a significant percentage of remittances, especially international remittances. If the issues around transaction fees are resolved, then even retail trade will see more Bitcoin acceptance. Bitcoin has become very popular in Kenya from the beginning of 2017 and many more people are aware of and trading in Bitcoin than before. It has even been featured in local media.
Thank you Kingsley for taking your time to talk to us. It has been a pleasure to hear more about your business ideas and how you are working on developing them. Investors who want to back Kingsley can still invest in his small business loan for a limited amount of time.
Thanks for reading and see you on the platform.
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