OZÉ : The business insights engine in the pocket of every African entrepreneur
Explain your project in details:
After years of working with hundreds of youth-led small businesses, I recognized that the international community has figured out how to support the launch of small businesses; what we haven't figured out is how to support their growth at scale. Solving this problem became my mission. OZÉ is the solution. It takes the primary functions of a business coach, moves them to digital, and improves upon them. OZÉ is a mobile app. It collects transaction data from the entrepreneur through an intuitive user interface, aggregates this company information with peer-set and market data, and analyzes it push time- and location-specific actionable recommendations to improve business performance. Using machine learning, recommendations become more powerful over time and best practices are automatically shared across regions. OZÉ is built upon a foundation of design-thinking and behavioral economics. It is designed to encourage individuals to put in their data correctly and completely. Through a gamification model, the complexity of the information demanded increases over time as does the output of recommendations. In level 1, an entrepreneur is just collecting transaction data. At level 2, they separate out business and personal revenue and expenses. At level 3, we help them craft an effective budget and manage towards it. For example, using our crowdsourced data, we can tell a carpenter, “carpenters who spend 15% more on communications earn 20% more. Do you want to increase your budget?”. At level 4, we probe on assets and liabilities to craft financial statements. At the final level, “investment ready”, we connect the entrepreneur to affordable and appropriate capital through our partner network. Over time the entrepreneur is building skills that will allow them to put that capital to work effectively to create jobs and wealth in the community.
Impact of your enterprise on sustainable development
With the largest youth population in the world, Africa’s youth unemployment rate threatens the current and future stability and economic growth of the continent. In West Africa, more than 60% of college graduates are unemployed. And even though they are more educated than the previous generation, youth remain twice as likely to be unemployed as their parents because the skills they are armed with do not match market demands. Not only does the exclusion of young people from the workforce perpetuate generational cycles of poverty, but also breaks down social cohesion and can be associated with higher levels of crime and violence. Over the next 10 years, 10-12 million African youth are expected to join the labor market annually. If nothing changes, the market will not be able to come close to absorbing this labor. To create jobs through entrepreneurship, we need to focus on the small and medium enterprise sector (SMEs). SMEs create 80% of formal employment in developing countries. Unfortunately the failure rate is high; more than 80% of startups fail in the first 18 months. Some of the main drivers are that businesses run out of cash, the entrepreneur does not differentiate their product and/or communicate this differentiation to customers, and the entrepreneur does not understand their business model of revenue streams. Put another way, a lack of accesses to capital markets, a lack of training, and a lack of financial understanding cause business failure. OZÉ trains entrepreneurs on what they need to know through an understanding of their performance vis-à-vis their competitors and uses the information gained to provide access to capital. It does this through the most scalable platform—the smartphone.
Sustainability and future plans
We are a for-profit, social enterprise so returns from the business ensure its sustainability and growth. The app makes money in 3 ways. First, it is a freemium model. To access level 3 and above, they entrepreneur will pay approximately $1 per month. At this point, we will have the data to show them that since they have started using OZÉ their profits will have increased by more than $1 a day, making it a good investment. The second way is by monetizing the data to third parties. We are an entrepreneur-first platform and recognize that if OZÉ scales that we will have one of the most valuable datasets on the continent. We take this responsibility seriously and will never do anything that compromises the trust, autonomy, and performance of our users. The third way is at the “investment ready” phase. Depending on the type of capital the business is connected to, we will charge the bank a service fee or take a small % of equity in a venture capital deal. I see OZÉ as part of a system. My vision is to create a suite of mobile-first applications for small businesses in Africa that help them grow. Profits from this venture will be used to invest in further products.
Your profile as an entrepreneur
I have been a serial social entrepreneur my entire life. I started my first social venture at age 10. There is nothing I love more than solving old problems in new ways using business model innovation. I am a strategist, innovator, and systems thinker. I strive to design programs with self-reinforcing components because I believe that they are infinitely scaleable. While I am driven by my work, I also enjoy spending time with family and friends (and my dog!) and going to the theater. In 2011, I graduated from Georgetown University and joined the Peace Corps. I was sent to Guinea and my life forever changed. It was during my service that I started Dare to Innovate (www.daretoinnovate.com), Guinea’s first social business accelerator and seed fund. Over the last 5 years, I have grown Dare to Innovate from a $15k Peace Corps project into an organization with an annual budget of nearly $1M this year which supports 1000s of youth annually, has launched over 40 companies, and provided $160K in seed funding to youth-led social enterprises. OZÉ is a for-profit spin-off of this non-profit. I am also currently a dual-degree candidate at the MIT Sloan School of Management and the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. At MIT, I am a Legatum Fellow and served as a delegate to the Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES) in 2016. OZÉ won the MIT FinTech Prize for emerging markets among various other accolades from leading research institutions. OZÉ’s development has been supported so far by PayPal, The Westly Foundation, the MIT Sandbox Fund, and the Priscilla King Grey Service Center.