Establishing a startup operation takes some work, irrespective of location - and scaling the business to other new territories represents a whole new set of challenges.
Data company and Kenyan startup SuperFluid Labs, supported by incubator Nest, has successfully launched its brand to the Asia market.
SuperFluid helps banks and lending firms evaluate the creditworthiness of borrowers. Many lending companies in Kenya are already using technology algorithms to offer loans through mobile money.
The startup's founder, Dr. Abdigani Diriye, speaks to ITWeb Africa about the launch of a global brand and what startups can learn from their experience.
Q: What does Superfluid Labs do?
Dr. Abdigani Diriye: SuperFluid is a data analytics firm whose simple mission is to bring tomorrow's analytics capabilities to businesses today. Our initial client focus is the financial services sector, but with future potential expansion to retail and telecommunications clients as well. Two key pillars of our current work is fostering digital financial inclusion and helping institutions better serve the needs of their customers.
Our core capabilities span personal financial tracking solutions to consumers, and a data aggregation and analytics platforms for financial institutions to understand consumer financial behaviour and attributes. This allows our clients to offer relevant products and thus foster access to credit, insurance or other financial services.
Q: Who are the founders of the company?
Dr. Abdigani Diriye: SuperFluid Labs was formed in 2015 by myself and Timothy Kotin, we are former colleagues at IBM Research Africa, to address one of the challenges facing people in Africa.
The founding team comprises world-class research scientists, consultants and operation managers from leading companies and institutions, with expertise that spans financial technology, computer science, engineering, statistical analysis and project management.
The team has also published over 45 papers, reports and patents in leading scientific journals and outlets.
Q: What is your biggest priority as far as Africa is concerned?
Dr. Abdigani Diriye: One of the challenges in emerging markets like Africa is the dearth of financial tools and information available to consumers and financial service providers which impacts people's financial well-being and makes it difficult for financial service providers to understand consumers, offer relevant products and enable access to financial services. Our experience working with leading banks and telcos in this space has demonstrated to us the need and potential impact of this.
Q: How have you found the experience of launching a global business?
Dr. Abdigani Diriye: We are still very much in the formative stages, but trying to run a start-up in several different markets requires understanding how to operate and set-up in these markets, how to find potential clients, and find talented people to help run operations. The first few months in moving into a new market can be slow, but the rewards can be great.
Q: What three key things would you advise startups looking to go global?
Dr. Abdigani Diriye: I would advise them to ensure there is a product-market fit with any new market you go after. I would ensure that the problem they are addressing is truly global rather a localised problem for one market. Finally, I would say focus on ensuring your brand, communication and advertising is suitable for the new markets you are entering.
Q: What are the factors that businesses should balance when launching local businesses whilst keeping an eye on the global marketplace?
Dr. Abdigani Diriye: Some of the factors that one should keep an eye on when thinking globally include whether the market size for the problem you are addressing or product you are developing is large enough, whether there might be regulatory hurdles in running operations in a new market, and whether there are similar market conditions, technology adoption, etc.
Q: What difficulties have you encountered in launching in two regions?
Dr. Abdigani Diriye: We mostly have had growing pains in the last couple of months: hiring superstar employees, and running operations on two continents.
Q: What kind of businesses and startups can attract international funding?
Dr. Abdigani Diriye: Businesses and start-ups that address a big pain-point that has a large addressable market and can scale would be of interest to international funders. A good example is M-Kopa where they had a product that addressed a big problem (accessibility to energy) and could scale rapidly to most emerging markets.
Q: Do you have any more expansion plans?
Dr. Abdigani Diriye: We will be looking to expand our core offerings to consumers and financial service providers in West Africa and South-East Asia.