FIVE THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW BEFORE YOU START THAT TECH-START UP
(One on one with Joseph Peters Wafula, CEO AND FOUNDER ONE-TAP TECHNOLOGIES)
The bittersweet truth is; we have reached an era where technology is ruling our lives. Everything is being computerized down to even wanting just a random hook-up. And if you are a tech-savvy, you have probably thought of tapping into this market. Not the hooking up part. The business that is technology part.
You have been thinking of starting up a system that maybe makes food access easier or makes transportation easier; or just anything that has tickled your fancy. This article is for you, spoken to you by someone who, just like you, tapped into the market earlier. His name is Joseph Peters, and for him, the School System is the area that he decided to focus on.
He is a former Computer Science student at JKUAT but now studies at the United States International University(USIU) for the same course. His start-up, cleverly named SchoolCloud, is an advanced High School system like no other and has already been adopted by seven schools, among them being Maryhill Girls High school Thika, which was among the top ten in the past KCSE exams.
Here are five things Joseph Peters says you should know before you start that start-up:
- Look for a glitch in the system and fix it.
If you are planning on developing something completely new, I have bad news for you. Everything has already been developed. Okay not everything, do not bite my head off. But almost everything has been developed. You might rack up your brain trying to have the most original idea to no avail. The thing is though, it has been developed, but not by you.
All systems have something missing, some little detail that has been overlooked. If you can find that one thing and perfect it, your system can surpass all the ones that have been developed before.
For Joseph Peters, as you already know, the system he fixed was the existing School System, and the glitches were many. The old school system, at least the one that was in my Highschool (which was Maryhill btw) just allowed you to be registered in the system upon admission, pay the school fees, store the pocket money for you; I actually do not remember much about interacting with the computerized school system back then.
But with School Cloud, Joseph Peters adds features that would not normally be in any school system. They include:
- A biometric system that registers all students upon admission and signs them out when they leave school.
- An NFC enabled card that students can just use to check-in and out of school.
- An SMS service that notifies a parent when a student has left school.
- Yet another biometric system that is attached to the bus when the students are going out for functions that ensured the safety of the students.
- A merit point system that gives merits and demerits students according to their behavior.
- An alert that notifies a parent if a student has been visited by a person, not on record as a visitor.
- A web-app that all teachers have access to and can add or subtract the merit points.
And many more that are still under development.
- GET IN TOUCH WITH NEW TECHNOLOGIES:
NFC-enabled MiFare cards used for checking in/out
Technology is fast-moving. There is no denying that. If you are starting your start-up, you have to be informed about a lot of technology news, updates, and use it to your advantage. ‘
For SchoolCloud, the one technology I noted Joseph Peters invested in was The Biometric system and the NFC technologies. They are not necessarily new technologies, but they are up and coming. The Biometric system, students to check-in/out with their fingerprints, while the NFC them to check-in/out with their MiFare NFC-enabled student’s cards.
But new technologies take a long time to reach here in Africa, and when they do, they are barely new anymore. Joseph Peters mentions how it is important to outsource new technologies from advanced countries. He says, in his own words:
“I think it is very important for start-ups to outsource some technologies. You’ll keep struggling with a company if you do not look outside the borders. They’re so many technological advancements happening in other countries and you should be able to borrow them to your motherland. For SchoolCloud, we outsource the biometric tablets from China. They are custom made since we have an agreement with a Chinese Manufacturer. We also have a good relationship with Africa’s Talking who are our main SMS service providers in Kenya who do an excellent job for us. “
- THINK ABOUT DEVELOPERS AND INVESTORS.
No man is an island, and no developer is either. You cannot start a start-up and expect to do so alone. You have to have assistance, developers who help you with the coding and adding the functionality of the system.
This is no different for SchoolCloud which has a team of 4 developers who keep the system running and updated. We all know a system cannot remain forever in version one. Right now, SchoolCloud is in version 2.3.
At first, when you are just beginning the star-up, you might not have enough funds to have your own developers. There, you can have a few of your friends to help you out, or, look for interns. As the system develops, you can be able to pay your interns and hire other developers.
Also, as the system becomes something “big”, you will be faced with a major decision; either look for investors or decide this is my company and company alone. Joseph Peters chose the latter and has decided, come rain come sunshine, that this is his company and investors have no part in it.
Both options have their advantages and their disadvantages, and while Joseph Peter’s option ensures the complete copyright of your company, it can also be a little tricky to handle when it comes to having funds for maintaining your system. So, whatever option you choose, choose wisely.
- CUSTOMER IS KING
If you have ever taken a class on Business, you know about Customer Sovereignty. It basically states that the customer is always right. We know that is not always true because in most times we are the customers and are rarely right, but for the good of your business, always treat your customers as kings.
First, know who your customers are, know their needs, their preferences, and take care of them. School Cloud in this essence does this by ensuring every school has its own customized web-app and several Biometric Systems engraved with the name of the school.
Also, when a particular school wants customized updates; e.g. one school wanted an update that crosses off all students who have not reached certain merit points from external school activities, and another wanted a Wallet system that monitors the pocket money use of students; so when all these schools ask for an update, Joseph Peters and his team are ready to cater to their needs.
- PATIENCE WITH YOUR START-UP
A Start-up is like any other business, and in every business, patience is the most paramount thing to have. SchoolCloud was once just an idea that existed in the mind of Mrs.Barasa, the former principal of Maryhill Girls High School and the one that urged Joseph Peters to develop it back in 2016 when Joseph Peters was assisting in teaching the Computer students.
Right now, four years later, it is being used by seven schools, and doing well at that. However, Joseph Peters insists that you should not bite more than you can chew. For him, he has been asked by many other schools for the SchoolCloud system, but he bids his time. He understands he does not have enough funds to support all those schools as per now, and quality has always been better than quantity.
However, at the same time, with tech you cannot go small for long according to him, so if you have the funds for it, expand your system. Pertaining to this, Joseph Peters is looking to expand his market, and has already met with developers from Rwanda, Ethiopia, and Tanzania who have all been interested in helping him get SchoolCloud global.
There are many lessons you can learn from SchoolCloud, which I believe is changing the world in terms of School Systems. Unfortunately, I could not mention it all, so I do hope the little I wrote of Joseph Peter’s story inspired to go out there and start your own start-up. It is now or never.