Barely three years since its inception, Afroterminal has continued to grow in thousands, boasting of some 50,000 registered users. Forbes recently referred to it as “Africa’s Hottest Tech Startups” and right afterwards, it was featured on IT News Africa as one of the Top Ten Tech Start-Ups In Africa.
The social network site is often compared to Facebook. But it is specifically for Africans at home and abroad to meet and make friends, thereby fostering a Pan-African integration.
What else is making this social network site founded by Chioma Anyanwu, an accountant, and Charles Akpom, an MBA grad from the University of Bedfordshire, the next big thing?
In this interview, Charles (one of the founders) shares his experience as a young Technopreneur breaking into the African market. And of course, he gives answer to the most intriguing question- does Africa need her own Facebook? Enjoy!
From conceptualizing of the idea to actual creation, how long did it take you to launch Afroterminal?
It took a few years. The idea evolved in our minds, until we started narrowing it down. We had to explore and investigate ways to translate our ideas to reality, deciding on a name for the website, etc.
You once said that you and your partner funded Afroterminal. Did you seek other forms of funding? What difference would it have made?
No. Other forms of (external) funding may have helped us to actualize the vision quicker. On the other hand, it would not have helped us appreciate how to make the best out of little. We spent the inception period trying to understand our technology, market etc and focusing on our vision. We learnt a lot that way.
The concept of Technopreneurship is fast gaining ground on the continent. As a technopreneur yourself, what support do you think African government leaders need to put in place to further strengthen the sector?
It would be a good idea if entrepreneurship (I have an MBA in Entrepreneurship and Business Management) and technology were part of the educational curriculum (with appropriate funding and prioritization), right from primary school. It will help in shaping our nations for the future. Business and Technology will always be with us (mankind) and we may as well make the best of them, and use Technopreneurship to encourage self-reliance and economic growth in African nations.
Tell us more about Afroterminal. What is the goal? What needs do you seek to meet?
Afroterminal’s vision is to be the largest social network in Africa. We want our platform to be an online space that Africans can call their own and that will help Africans in the continent and overseas to meet, make friends, learn from and about each other, and promote pan-African integration.
You have been around since 2009, how would you rate the growth rate? What is your staff strength? How are users responding?
The growth rate has been very encouraging. From zero members, we have grown to nearly 50,000 members. Our members are now located in over 180 countries across the world (including 50 African countries).
Our monthly pageviews and hits have risen dramatically. We have miraculously managed to achieve this with personal funds, and a team of two and a half staff – the 2 partners and a very dedicated supporter!
Has it been profitable yet? How do you generate your revenue?
You can’t be on a journey like this and not experience many pains and rewards – monetary and otherwise. Suffice to say, we are on the right path forward.
How do you feel being constantly referred to as “Africa’s FaceBook”?
It’s interesting and humbling that others think that we may become as big as Facebook or be Africa’s (own) Facebook. We are grateful for those comparisons and we accept the challenge! Africa deserves her own Facebook- by Africans, for Africans….a platform we can all call ‘home’, and where we can appreciate and celebrate our cultural heritage and oneness.
What has been most the most challenging aspect of sustaining your business? Aside Facebook, any bullish competitor out there you are constantly mindful of?
Like any start-up, we’ve had our ups and downs, our good days and our bad days. I guess one of the challenges we’ve always faced is a time challenge (based on our current limited human resource) – with a dot com business, you’re literarily open 24/7. Also, you have to keep evolving to stay relevant. Regarding competitors, well, we’ve stayed focused on our race. Our aim is to provide a pan-African social network dedicated to connecting Africans across the globe. We’re succeeding at that.
What more should users expect from Afroterminal?
Work is in progress to create a more friendly and inviting user experience, both on the PC and for those on the go – mobile!
Any advice for upcoming Technopreneurs?
Things are not always going to work the way you want them to. People are going to let you down as well. But you have stay focus on your vision and be your own chief encouraging officer (CEO)! Be optimistic, but be practical and not just idealistic. It may take longer and be more painful than planned, but if you stick at it, keep learning and improving, you’ll soon experience the miracle of fulfilled dreams. I say to myself and others, “it can only get better!”
Thanks so much for your time. I wish you all the best with your venture, Charles!
For more information on how to join Afroterminal, please visit: http://www.afroterminal.com/
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