Felix Macharia is founder and CEO of Kotani Pay. Key competencies in entrepreneurship, strategy and research. Felix was an affiliate scholar in the Institute of Blockchain Studies with a focus on ERC20 tokens during the "ICO Boom". He co-founded EOS Nairobi, a node validation company on EOS, Telos and ICON networks.
Kotani Pay, https://kotanipay.com/index.htmlLeader's Viewpoint
Backgrounds to launch your company/service
Kotani Pay was started just over a year ago. With six team members, the startup has achieved extraordinary growth in the short period. We have been the overall winners at two major hackathons, with several awards at other hackathons. We have received funding from the UNICEF Innovation fund for promising and upcoming startups, and have just raised VC funding in our pre-seed stage. We are currently live in Kenya, Ghana, and Zimbabwe and are working on new integrations as we expand our reach and service on the continent.
Of the 1.2 billion people in Africa, 770 million are mobile phone subscribers. However, 440 million of these use feature phones. Feature phones have limited access to the internet and have limited storage space. Blockchain solutions and cryptocurrencies are built with smartphone users in mind, locking out this large African population from accessing these services. We launched Kotani Pay to offer financial inclusion to this large resident population and to enable easy access to assets and services on the blockchain.
Points where the service is differentiated
Internet penetration currently stands at about 40% in Africa. This is expected to grow by 11% by 2025. Internet costs are especially high on the continent when considered against the living standards. In Kenya, for example, the average cost of a Gigabyte of data is about $2.73 while 86% of the population lives under $5.50 per day. The lack of internet penetration and the prohibitive cost of internet are why mobile services like SMS and USSD will still be one of the strongest enablers of technology services for the foreseeable future. Our service addresses the problem of lack of internet access and inability to access the blockchain and cryptocurrencies by using USSD technology. USSD (Unstructured Supplementary Service Data) is a Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM) protocol that is used to send text messages. USSD can be used on feature phones (push button phones), low end and high end smartphones. Many users with high end smartphones still prefer to use USSD services to purchase data bundles, check their account balances, withdraw money, send money, pay bills etc. There is therefore no limitation for platforms who have end users that predominantly rely on smartphones. For users with low end smartphones, there is no need for application installation, or extra requirement for storage space on their devices.
We see ourselves as enabling the shift from smartphone-centered blockchain and crypto services to enable the large resident population on the African continent to access financial services that are life-transforming. We look to serve as many African countries as possible, with almost complete coverage in the next 5 years. We hope that our service will touch the lives of those we serve and their loved ones to improve the standards of living on the African continent through financial inclusion.
Interviewer: Takushi Miyao, StartupReview
Interviewee: Felix Macharia, CEO & Founder, Kotani Pay