First of all, can you pitch us your company in just a few sentences?
Leaph is an Academic Management System that facilitates educational institutions with a suite of tools that help teachers in monitoring and improving student academic performance and development with the aid of Data Science and Machine Learning.
Can you tell us more about yourself, your personal background, your experience and how you went to this journey?
Professionally, I have a computer programmer for 2 years now. I have always found the world of programming to be overly enthralling, far back as I can remember. As such, I started learning how to code when about 13 years old. I have worked on a number of apps over the past years including, an app that could detect and classify human emotions based on their facial expressions and a distributed grid computing system. As you might have deduced by now, they weren’t so successful but they taught me a lot of lessons about business and product development which are coming in handy now.
So, while I was experimenting with a couple of ideas, I recognized how the system that was being used by my brother’s high school was a bit lacking and that there were definitely improvements that could be made to it. Initially, this was just a hobby project I did not pay much attention to but slowly realized the impact my proposed system would have on education and I decided to dedicate myself to building the system fully that night. The rest was history, took about a year and a couple of months to build the final product but here we are now.
Can you tell us more about Zimbabwe? Why this market?
We are currently operating in Zimbabwe but looking to enter the South African market very soon. We are targeting that market as there are more private schools in South Africa than there are in Zimbabwe. Private schools are our target demographic right now as a majority of the features in our system are useful mostly to private education institutions.
What are the main issues you have been facing with Leaph in Zimbabwe?
In Zimbabwe, our toughest hurdle thus far has been trying to get school administrators to understand the product we are selling. We are offering a very complex sounding product but the reality of it is that the software is very intuitive once users start interacting with it more. We understand that our solution is innovative and that it takes time for new methods of doing things to be fully adopted by the consumers.
The other hurdle we face is that there just aren’t any programmers in Zimbabwe that can maintain our system. We have a lot of university graduates with Computer Science degrees but in my almost two-year journey of writing this system, I have only been able to meet one developer who could almost understand the system, let alone add features to it and maintain it.
Who are your main competitors around? And outside of Zimbabwe, who are your inspirations?
Fedena has been around for ten years now. They have a pretty solid team, user base and system that has a wide array of useful features. Way more features than Leaph currently offers right now.
I get inspired by people that built companies that completely revolutionized entire industries. Elon Musk with Tesla proving that the world is ready for electric cars and wants them despite public perception, Steve Jobs with Apple proving that the personal computer was not just for hobbyists and Larry Page & Sergey Brin with Google proving that internet companies were viable and could be lucrative, just to name a few.
What is your point of view, as a startup founder, about Zimbabwe?
South Africa is a wonderful country full of wonderful and talented people. The culture there is one where Leaph will definitely thrive in and we really look forward to engaging that market very soon.
Is it hard to find investors there?
I think it is relatively simple to get investors in South Africa if you have a clear path for success laid out. What I mean by that is if you have a solid idea, a solid prototype or alpha, a solid team, a clear demand for your product and a fair bit of traction, your meetings with investors should go a little bit smoother than one would anticipate.
What do you think is lacking in Zimbabwe to develop it more? What are the main barriers to develop a startup there?
Zimbabwe needs a lot more entrepreneurs innovating and building ideas that could change the world. The more entrepreneurs experiment the higher the likelihood of creating a startup that could really do wonders for Zimbabwe.
The main barrier tech startups usually face in Zimbabwe is that there is a lack of technical talent. The developers that are able to do the bare minimum to qualify as having completed the task will overcharge clients in exchange for having given them very little value in return. It becomes sustainable to maintain a development team that is unable to deliver the services or products that are supposed to generate income for the business. In the rare case that a tech startup has a working product, maintaining high user retention will be difficult because a fair number of Zimbabweans just don’t have that close a relationship with technology.
What is your perspective for the next years on Zimbabwe and more regionally on Africa?
I think South Africa will continue to foster the culture of innovation which will be great for the country as a whole. Africa has a large pool of untapped customers in tech, there is a lot of potentials for startups to make it big in Africa as this market is not being saturated as the European and Asian markets. There is definitely going to be a lot of action in Africa over the years.
As you know, we are always on the look of great startups, new products and amazing entrepreneurs, could you name a few locally or regionally in Zimbabwe?
YouFarm is a pretty solid AgriTech startup in Zimbabwe with some significant traction too, I really like what they are doing.