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AfricanStockPhoto Re-tells the African Story Beyond the Stereotype of Tribespeople, Wildlife and Poverty

Quality photos are what every professional in the branding industry requires for an effective work. Many needing images reflecting the African context get disappointed as major platforms across the world can only boast of pictures stereotyping what represents the African society.

This is the problem these Kenyan startup founders are resolute in solving by welcoming photographers all over Africa to contribute their best images and get paid very competitive rates.

In this interview Sitati Kituyi shares how photographers are better of with this company, the origin of the idea, challenges, future of stock photography in Africa and more. Enjoy this short interview…

Kindly tell us a bit about the co-founders of AfricanStockPhoto.

Dicky Hokie Jr’s background is in graphic design and photography – he has worked 8 years in one of Kenya’s leading media houses. During this time he got the idea for AfricanStockPhoto from his first-hand experience of struggling to find authentic African imagery for advertising campaigns. Sitati’s background is as a software developer and so was well placed to pair up with Dicky and make this vision come to life.

Simply, tell us what your company is about.

AfricanStockPhoto is about helping people tell a more authentic African visual story, by helping them find high quality African stock imagery. There are thousands of fantastic photographers in Africa yet most stock photography websites have very limited coverage of the continent, and often a lot of the imagery is around the same old visuals that have been shared for years – wildlife, tribespeople, poverty, etc. We want professional-grade stock photography from Africa to be widely available, and for the photographers who took them to be properly compensated.

What motivates you daily to keep this platform running?

Since we started talking to people about this idea, we’ve had so much positive feedback from both photographers and content creators who would buy on the platform. We’ve had hundreds of really talented photographers sign up and contribute to the platform. The people on either side of this marketplace are our daily motivation – it’s always exciting to see what people want to do with our catalogue, and to see the amazing imagery contributed from all across Africa.

Why should African photographers be excited about your startup?

AfricanStockPhoto’s main role in this transaction is finding a market for photographers. It is a very competitive battlefield, but we invest in ensuring your imagery is seen by as many potential buyers as possible. For this, we take a 50% commission on each sale, which is very competitive compared to bigger stock image marketplaces like iStock who’ll typically keep 70%-80% of revenue from sales.

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We hope that some photographers are also motivated by our vision of re-telling the African story through imagery, but even if not, our platform has a very solid business case for making money off your imagery that will hopefully continue to compel photographers to sign up.

Since you are shifting from the stereotype of Africa, what category of photos do you encourage from contributors?

Good question! We’ve boiled it down to “people doing everyday things in their normal environment.” So this could be people in business suits catching a quick lunch at a roadside food stall, a couple boarding a minibus, kids in their school playground, etc. Stock photography of people far outsells images that don’t have people in them, and also makes for more interesting imagery overall.

Kindly share with us some rules you will like contributors to observe when uploading images to avoid copyright infringements?

Well, the first rule is that the uploader of an image should be the original owner. Additionally, people who feature prominently in the image should sign model clearance forms, stating that they agree to have their likeness used in this image and all its future uses. This can be a bit daunting to new stock photographers so we have resources on our website that help with getting started, including a template model clearance form.

As you clearly identified the problem, how did you determine there was real market to be explored?

We spoke to as many people as possible. It’s incredible how much a single conversation can change your course as early-stage founders. Over the course of the first 6 months we iterated on our business model several times based on feedback from potential consumers, potential investors, and other founders. We also had some more formal market research done, which solidified our belief that there’s a strong business opportunity.

How do you market this great initiative and who are your target users?

Our marketing is primarily digital and word-of-mouth. We’ve had a good network effect from photographers who have signed up and recommended the service to their friends, and we’ve reached more through social media advertisement. Our marketing toward potential buyers is also focused primarily on digital at the moment, though we do have plans for putting feet on the ground and knocking on doors of agencies and media houses, who are the main recurring buyers of stock imagery.

What will be your pitch to a potential investor?

Our pre-launch research and early traction shows that the market is there, but we know that to get our business to grow, we’ll need a far bigger collection of imagery. Our initial focus is on growing our database and photographer community, and this will for a while take more capital than the initial returns will merit. So we’re looking for investors who believe in the idea and share our longer-term vision, and would like to work with us to bring the business to scale through our growth plan.

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What is the business model and how did you fund the idea?

Our business model is to take a commission on each sale made through our platform. Further down the line we might explore more variety in license model and other content types such as video and vector illustrations, and may introduce subscription billing for repeat buyers. To start with though, it’s simply $20 per image on the site, of which the photographer gets $10, and the other $10 is split between transfer costs, our run rates, and our profit margin.

The two co-founders have funded AfricanStockPhoto out of pocket so far.

How do you foresee this Afrocentric photo stock industry in the coming years?

All the trends in the industry point towards diversity and untold stories being the big growth area. The big market opportunity exists, quality photographers are out there (just have a look at Instagram!), it’s really a discovery, trust and user experience problem that we’re solving. In a few years, somebody, hopefully AfricanStockPhoto, will be established as the go-to marketplace for content on the continent.

At what point will you say your company, African Stock Photo, is finally a success?

We’ve learnt that early-stage startup life includes so many twists and turns that it’d be really hard to point at one target far in the future and choose that as our single definition of success – we’ll probably have changed our minds or been proven wrong half way down the road to that. Instead, we try to celebrate all the wins, big or small! Each step on our path, both past and upcoming, are exciting; validating our idea with people whose input we value, launching our platform, our first photographer to sign up, our first sale, hitting various milestones in terms of signed up users and number of photographers, new features on the platform, and so on.

What are some of the challenges you have encountered and how did you handled them?

One ongoing challenge is in keeping the quality of communication with our photographers high: this is important for pragmatic reasons such as ensuring all photography we get has proper model clearance, but also more so to be sure we’re keeping our users happy and motivated, and addressing their real needs. It is hard to work for an ever-growing photographer pool and maintain really good communication. Our main approach to addressing this is to talk to photographers 1-to-1 as much as possible, and where a common issue or question arises, ensure we address it for all others through our platform features or communication. It’s a challenging balancing act, but we do really enjoy talking to our users.

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What is the number one business advice you have ever received and which African entrepreneurs do inspire you?

Coming from a technical background into entrepreneurship, some of the best business advice I received was about the transition from having more fixed, shared concept of “best practice” in a technical field, to the wild world of business where anything goes so long as it helps the company. It’s a pretty stark transition that many technical co-founders will go through, and it can lead to a lot of frustration or self-doubt if you’re not instantly grasping the mindset or patterns that successful entrepreneurs use to succeed. Anjuan Simmons speaks about this quite regularly; learning that there are no shortcuts, and that mistakes should be embraced as learning opportunities, is a key part to being comfortable in the role as an entrepreneur.

As for who inspires us, so many! We always look up to big names like Rebecca Enonchong and Iyinoluwa Aboyeji for insight into how tech is growing on the continent over recent years. In our hometown here in Nairobi there’s Trevor Kimenye of Ongair who grew his social media interaction automation business into profitability in a very competitive landscape. He’s been very kind with his time and advice for us. We’ve also met the founders of HiviSasa, Lynk and many others who aren’t exactly giants yet, but are a few steps down the road from where we are and have excellent advice.

Thank you Sitati!

For photographers and branding professionals, just log onto www.africanstockphoto.com and start doing business with this disruptive startup company.


If you want to share your experience as a startup founder on TSH to Africa, send a brief detail of your business to mystartup@thespiritedhub.com


Did you find this interview inspiring? Kindly leave us your comment.

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An entrepreneurship enthusiast, who believes Africans and Africa can have accelerated development if a lot more of us embrace our God-giving talents and effect positive changes in our society.

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FOUNDERS

Rahmon Ojukotola: StartCredits Hopes to Save Nigerians Billions of Naira

High interest rates on loans are a barrier to growth and economic prosperity, which is why StartCredits has developed an innovative way for Nigerians to borrow quick online loans without collateral on its loan market comparison platform.

It is the aim of this fin-tech startup to help Nigerians access finance and save money by comparing loan providers. Rahmon, the Director of StartCredits is strategically growing this company to be the preferred loan market for a number of online borrowers.

Rahmon Ojukotola currently sits on the advisory board to the Florida schools group and previously worked at the Bank of England and UBS. Our startup founder, is also a Chartered Accountant and a member of the Chartered Institute for Securities & Investment, the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales and the Royal Economic Society.

With these credentials, he surely has what it takes to lead the competitive loan market. Let’s find out what Rahmon has brought into the market and his life as an entrepreneur.

 

How is StartCredits disrupting the traditional borrowing in Africa as you suggest?

StartCredits is disrupting traditional borrowing, as our product provides transparency and increases competition in the market to reduce interest rates for qualified borrowers. It also provides a new channel for Nigerians to borrow money.

From your enviable background why did you decide to leave all that to start a startup in Nigeria?

I worked in investment banking and central banking for a number of years and gained a finance MSc from the London School of Economics and chartered qualifications in accounting, investments, securities and finance. I decided to build a startup in Nigeria because there were opportunities and issues that needed tackling, and I thought I had the right skill set to do so. So I gave up a well paying job and decided to come back to try and build something that would hopefully contribute to the growth and development of Nigeria.

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How unique are features of StartCredits?

We are the first and only business in Nigeria offering our services to all Nigerians who need loans. We have developed innovative proprietary risk models that accurately measure the borrowers probability of default. This improves our partner lenders’ ability to assess risk, and enables them to disperse more loans to qualified borrowers.

What has been the major achievement StartCredits has chalked since you commenced operation?

We have helped thousands of Nigerians to save millions of naira in interest rate so far and hope to save billions of naira in the coming years.

As much as people really need loans, Rahmon, what is your advice to stay out of debts?

My advice to Nigerians is to ensure you do not take out loans to fund lavish expenditures, loans should be used to finance good business plans. Also remember to budget for interest and other fees in any loans you do take, to stay out of debt. For more technical advice on debt management visit our website on http://startcredits.com

One of the notable features of your company is the stress on Data Science, how relevant is it?

Data science is at the heart of what we do at StartCredits. We utilise big data analytics to build innovative credits risk models, which help facilitate affordable lending to underserved qualified borrowers.

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What great challenge are you facing in running your startup?

It’s pretty much to do with the adoption of the technology. Technology in general is all about finding the best ways to do things. In certain industries it’s easier to have the incumbents accept that, whereas in finance, people have become entrenched in how they do things. It’s highly profitable, so there’s more resistance to changing a winning formula. Finance is highly resistant to change, but people are slowly starting to adapt as you’re seeing with Blockchain technology, which I think has the potential to revolutionize the finance industry. The banks are slowly coming around, but are still highly resistant to change given the nature of the business. In Nigeria, it’s mostly trying to get the people to use the technology. People are highly suspicious of new technologies, so it’s a bit of a challenge

How do you foresee this industry going into the future?

The lending market in Nigeria will be one driven primarily by digital lending in the future, as it is more efficient. I also feel we will continue the cultural tradition of thrift lending (Ajo, Esusu), as it fosters community cohesion.

Tell us which African entrepreneurs inspire you and why.

I think all African entrepreneurs that have built successful business in the face of significant challenges deserve commendation. Saying that I find Ola Orekunrin’s work saving lives with flying doctors to be truly inspiring to all Nigerians and especially young girls. She is a role model who shows them if they study and work hard they can have a significant impact on the lives of many in Nigeria.

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What financial advice can you share with fellow startup founders and aspiring entrepreneurs across Africa?

My advice to entrepreneurs across Africa is to make sure that everything you’re doing is simultaneously helping you achieve your goals and make profits as well. Don’t leverage too much and try not to grow too fast. Also, make sure that what you’re doing is what people want. The whole point of doing business is addressing the needs of society. So make sure you do your extensive research, go out and meet people to listen to what they’re saying, and make sure you have the right skill set to execute your plan. Once all of that is in place, you’re good to go.

Thank you, Rahmon!

To find out more about loan rates and the company, kindly visit startcredits.com.


If you want to share your experience as a startup founder on TSH to Africa, send a brief detail of your business to mystartup@thespiritedhub.com


Did you find this interview inspiring? Kindly leave us your comment.

Follow #TSH on Facebook and Twitter for more change making interviews.

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