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Making way for startups - Doctoora and Track Your Build

01.02.2019 - Article

The magazine “akzente” by the German development agency GIZ gathered insights on the Tech Entrepreneurship Initiative “Make-IT in Africa” featuring the voices of young African experts.

Debu Odulana (29), Founder of Doctoora, a health technology startup in Lagos, Nigeria​
Debu Odulana (29), Founder of Doctoora, a health technology startup in Lagos, Nigeria​© Thomas Imo

Innovation is bubbling at the surface in digital hubs across West Africa as young entrepreneurs are determined to put technology at the forefront of development in the sub-Saharan Region. To support startups designing these solutions GIZ launched Make-IT in Africa as a pilot project on behalf of the German Ministry for Economic Cooperation. It also promotes the creation of sustainable business ecosystems for this new generation of entrepreneurs.

“We enable doctors to set up practices in Nigeria”

Founder Debu Odulana on the lack of facilities for doctors in Nigeria and the online platform “Doctoora”:

“Coming home from medical school in the UAE, I saw that the facilities for doctors in Nigeria weren’t nearly good enough. Doctors in Nigeria just don’t earn enough to open their own clinics and many end up going abroad – we lose around 1,000 a year.

Meanwhile, a lot of healthcare facilities aren’t being used to maximum capacity so I decided to create a platform that would enable more private practices to be set up by developing a space for doctors to access shared clinics and advertise their services online. I put aside 500 British pounds, my partner chipped in 100 British pounds  and I borrowed a little from friends and family to set up Doctoora, which has since grown into a network of 21 clinics throughout Lagos and the surrounding area. One of the doctors that has really benefitted is a sex therapist whose clients were too dispersed to work from a single clinic. She now uses four of our facilities and is able to be a lot more flexible in her practice.

Another is an optometrist who was just starting out when she joined Doctoora. She booked one of our clinics for the first six months while she built up her client base so we were able to cushion that market entry for her. Of course, there were challenges in the beginning, particularly in terms of finding investors, who tend to be rather risk averse here. There are a lot of startups competing for the same pool of funding in West Africa, so the support we’ve received from GIZ has been really helpful in this respect.

Those first three months were really impactful in developing new ways of working to push the business forward and track progress as we go. After that we moved onto the mentorship phase and they arranged introductions to key stakeholders in the industry. That exposure has been great, especially during the trip to CEBIT in Hanover.”

Edmond Nonie (31), CEO at the startup Track Your Build in West Africa​
Edmond Nonie (31), CEO at the startup Track Your Build in West Africa​© Thomas Imo

“It can be quite difficult to persuade African companies to invest in startups.”

CEO Edmond Nonie about the initial idea behind “Track Your Build”, an enterprise for progress benchmarking of construction work:

“A lot has changed since we launched the company in Sierra Leone in June 2016. The initial idea behind Track Your Build was to enable Africans living anywhere in the world to monitor construction work back home. I’ve seen a lot of people get duped when they can’t check up on the progress of a project. It quickly became apparent that the problem was too wide-ranging for one plucky start-up to tackle all at once so we have pared back to focus on progress benchmarking for now. Once we’ve build up our strength in this area, we can establish our expertise one step at a time.

I was really pleased when I discovered that we’d been selected for the GIZ programme. I had wanted to come to Nigeria for a while to build the business here but lacked the contacts and local knowledge so this opportunity gave me that “in”. Now we are developing our business, talking to clients and looking for investments. We already have a number of major institutional clients, including the United Nations Office of Project Services and the World Bank as well as a number of local and international engineering companies. I think we’ve found a niche in the market and there’s definitely an appetite for the services we offer.

One of our clients wants 3D models of their construction site on a daily basis and drone surveillance for security purposes. There have been some challenges though and it mainly boils down to investment. A lot of clients say come to us when you have the resources, but investors say come to us when you have the clients. It can be quite difficult to persuade African companies to invest in startups that haven’t started to turn a profit yet but now we’re making progress and I’m feeling hopeful about the future of Track Your Build.”

© akzente

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