Get your errands run for you safely whiles outside Ghana with Beam.
How many times haven’t you heard of people in the diaspora complaining that funds they send home are not used for intended purposes. Beam is not your conventional money transfer rather you send money and they use the fund for what you actually want it be used for. This is a one in a million service.
Falk Benke, the CEO, with his dedicated team members, Gerald – Technical Lead and Kingston – Chief of Product, are the visionaries behind Beam after meeting at the Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology, Ghana. He is originally a German who came to Ghana to work as a fellow at MEST. He got excited about the countless business opportunities and the ecosystem then decided to start his company in Ghana.
Kingston and Gerald were graduates from the MEST training program whom Falk had known for over two years and well aware of their skills, “so this seemed like the perfect opportunity to finally work on something together.” he said.
With keen interest, see how Beam solves a typical African problem and how an European effectively partners up with talented Africans to start a company.
Let a prospective client have a picture of what Beam is about and when did you commence operation?
We teamed up in June, 2015 to released the first version of Beam a month later. Beam helps Ghanaians in the diaspora to get anything done back home in Ghana. Let me give you a few examples of things our customers have used us for. Imagine your best friend from high school gets married and you cannot attend.
You can use Beam to get a gift delivered to the wedding. You can use us to buy fabrics at Makola and ship them to you while you are abroad. We even can take photos of the land you want to buy or document the progress of your construction project.
Can you highlight some of the problems you tend to address and why should people be excited about your service?
Thousands of Ghanaians live abroad to make money or study, yet have strong ties to Ghana. Whenever Ghanaians in the diaspora need help with something in Ghana, they have to ask friends or family for a favor and send money over to get this done. However, in some cases they cannot be sure that the person they send money to is reliable.
We heard wild stories about money not spent for the purpose it was sent and errands that were not done properly, or even not done at all. This creates tension between friends and within families. Think of us as their trustworthy friend on the ground. But since we are a business, you can expect top customer service and hold us accountable.
Who are your target users and how do you market Beam?
Our primary target users are Ghanaians living abroad. That being said, our services are useful and being used by locals on the ground as well.
In this age where the hacking industry is gaining notoriety, how do you ensure funds and personal bank details of clients are safe with you?
We protect your sensitive data by using the latest technology and applying the highest security standards. We use SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) encryption for all communication with our website to make sure that no third party can intercept your data.
We never store sensitive credit card data ourselves, but use top-notch third party service providers that are PCI- compliant (i.e. the payment providers that meet the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard) and fulfill all regulatory requirements. Your personal data is stored safely on the servers of industry-leading data storage providers.
What are some of the things one can use Beam to pay for and how do people get started?
You can use Beam to get anything done on the ground. Get us to do deliveries, check on your construction project or let us help you with finding service providers or local products.
Getting started is easy. You just go to our webpage www.beampay.co and enter your WhatsApp number. Kingston will text you shortly after to get the ball rolling. No need to sign up or fill out endless forms.
At an instance one may assume you offer money transfer services which you don’t. What informs this decision?
We do not offer pure money transfers right now, i.e. we do not pay out money to individuals. This is partly due to regulatory requirements, and also because we heard from customers that when they send money directly, they’re sometimes not pleased with what that money is used for.
Importantly what differentiates Beam from other online payment services?
We are not primarily a payment service, but a concierge service. For example, If you are a Ghanaian in the U.S. and would like to get an electricity bill paid back home, we can help you with this. But this is only one of many things we can do for Ghanaians in the diaspora.
As Ghanaians mostly hold conservative views in relation to technology and finances, what will you suggest in order to see this industry grow opening many opportunities?
I personally think that technology needs to solve a real problem in order to be successful. The more useful, the faster the adoption. So let’s not use technology for the sake of using technology or because that is what they do in Silicon Valley, but think of real problems first and only then how technology might help here.
Most importantly, we should not be afraid to do things manually in this part of the world initially. Often the right API or integration just does not exist yet, but that should not stop us from starting.
How did you fund this business from scratch and have you had any external investment yet?
We have received investment from the Meltwater Foundation. The money we have should last us long enough to prove the business case.
How highly will you regard mentorship as playing a significant role in your business?
Mentorship is very important, but it does not always have to come in the form of a senior person formally meeting a young entrepreneur once a quarter and talking about goals and progress. At the Meltwater Incubator and MEST, I see a lot of informal mentoring happening all the time. Senior class students help newbies to find their way around. Fellows coach individuals or teams that want to pursue an idea after school.
Students do summer internships with one of the companies at the incubator and learn how things are done in a real business. It is amazing to watch this happening and it is the real benefit of being part of the MEST ecosystem – you have this amazing network of talented smart people helping each other out.
Can you share some business knowledge you have gained since starting out as an entrepreneur?
There are tons of things I have learnt. I could write a book. One thing that has proven helpful is constantly iterating. Don’t wait for months until you release your product, because you will get it wrong the first time anyways. Instead, release the first version fast, get the right people to use it, get feedback go back to the drawing board and implement the feedback. Repeat. People with a tech background easily get lost in implementing features that their customers do not even care about, so beware of that.
What advice is there for anyone wishing to venture into this industry?
I assume you mean the payments industry? You should have a good understanding of the regulatory landscape and capital requirements. Besides, you need to know the latest trends, the important players, and most importantly the main pain points. Have a plan on how to ensure strategic partnerships, because you cannot do much in the payments field without those. And always put your target customer and their problems first.
What is the number one challenge you are facing in running this company and how are you solving them?
Challenges are countless. How do we acquire customers on a small marketing budget? How do we reach Ghanaians abroad while we are physically in Ghana? How do we overcome trust issues? 99% of the challenges we face can be solved by sitting together as a team, considering the options, brainstorming solutions, and then agreeing on a course. There is no challenge too difficult if you have a great team.
As a young startup, can you share with us mistakes you made and what have you learnt from it?
Again, I have made countless mistakes and that is ok, since it is part of the journey. For me, most of my biggest mistakes were around validating my assumptions too late, i.e. I spent two months building a product that no one would ever use and I could have easily found that out by asking the right questions to the right people beforehand.
What are the core values of your company?
The team is above all. We are all in this together and everyone has the same stake in the company. We value that we have different backgrounds and views on some points, because our different perspectives and experiences help a lot when it comes to making tough decisions.
How will you pitch Beam to a potential investor?
Right now, we are not in fundraising mode. It is more important to us to learn more about the pain we are addressing and proving that we are the right people to solve the problems we see. So if we talk to investors these days, it is more about getting to know each other and telling them about the potential we see and how we think we can make an impact here.
Where do you see this business in the next five years?
In five years Beam is a trusted, well-known brand among the Ghanaians in the diaspora and the one-stop solution for Ghanaians abroad to get anything done back home in Ghana.
What will be your final message to aspiring African entrepreneurs and your followers worldwide?
Try to surround yourself with people that are smarter than you. Constantly challenge yourself and never be satisfied with what you have achieved so far. Try to be a role model for others with everything you do.
Thank you, Falk.
You have heard from the Beam team who are bring practical solutions to your doorstep. By using beam services you are avoiding needless family feuds. Don’t be the next fraud victim, simply visit www.beampay.co today.
Are you inspired? What have business lessons have you learnt from Falk Benke to incorporate into your company. Share your views in the comment section.
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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.
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.
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.
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.
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