The power of the internet was made evident during the Arab Spring in North Africa last year. Rachid Dahbi founder and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of social polling company Averty speaks to Ventures Africa about the company’s pursuant ambitions to empower people to make their voices heard.
Averty was born out of the context of the Arab Revolution which took place as throughout 2011 in North Africa and the Middle East, displaying the importance of the internet of social media in connecting people and providing an avenue for people to speak up in society.
Founder and CEO Dahbi explains: “internet has been credited with helping to propel the Arab Revolution in North Africa and Middle East and it’s today one of the main outlets for free expression in the region creating a virtual ecology of civil society, debating contentious issues and topics. The idea of Averty is born from this context in order to empower people’s voice and make it heard.”
With the above described background as a starting point for a business model, Dahbi realised the potential of social polling in a business context, helping enterprises to connect with consumers and respond to customer needs. This impact becomes particularly apparent in an African context, where consumers may be spread across vast cities and territories; often including rural spaces- as such Averty helps businesses communicate with a profusely expansive consumer base.
“Opinions are today dispersed in different places (social media, forums, emails, chat rooms…) and it’s usually very difficult to combine them in one place and organize them in such intelligent way to support individuals, organizations and businesses’ decisions making. Get the right answers from the right targeted people at the right time and all this in the same place!” says Dahbi, explaining the significant service Averty is providing to the business arena.
Given the unique service that Averty provides in the business market, the company has found it important to partner with other innovators in order to fill the important communications gap in the business sector, with pivotal partners being members of the technology and research industries.
Dahbi comments: “Averty joins the best of online technology to advanced market research techniques to give individuals, organizations and businesses a user-friendly platform that collects, aggregates, analyses and transforms opinions to a valuable information that can influence perception and decision making.”
Despite the substantial progress of Averty since its inception only months ago- boasting thousands of active members instigating and participating in social polls -, Dahbi concedes there is still some way to go before the company achieves its goal of becoming “a principal source of information about what people think and regional leader in terms of online market research.”
The CEO reveals big plans for the company over the coming period, disclosing upcoming plans: “Our first objective is to enrich our services offer by developing advanced self-service polling platform for businesses, empower our technology with rich media features (video, audio and flash), create a suitable interface for Smartphones.”
There are further plans in store involving international expansion, saying Dahbi: “Secondly, we aim to expand our coverage to the rest of North African countries such as Tunisia and Algeria in near future.”
While ambitions are high, Dahbi notes that there are a number of challenges to setting up a business – in particular with respect to online-based companies operating in Africa.
“Being a web company, our activity relies very much on the penetration rate which is still below the average in Africa,” says the CEO.
However, challenges are there to be overcome, and Dahbi feels Averty is making good progress in succeeding any obstacles it meets; noting: “we have started our business in a country where almost 50 percent of the population is online and we are observing where there are more opportunities for our future development.”
Finally, Dahbi has some pertinent advice for entrepreneurs hoping to launch on the African start-up scene.
“Make sure your product or service is bringing real value and believe in the adage: Think big, start small, grow fast.”