Yapili-Best Social Impact Startup at Southern Africa Startup Awards 2018
“Make sure you are surrounded by colleagues who are invested in the mission and believe in the vision.”
What are you most proud of achieving with your team recently?
ES: “Last week, we launched our Go-to-Market product: our new app and online platform to connect African users to local and international health professionals.
With this improved product, we are further pushing the mission of Yapili: to enhance access to healthcare in Africa by leveraging mobile technology. We are building an international market place to offer affordable and confidential health advice for an African market.
This progress also means that we officially launched our business model to work towards making our social enterprise scalable and sustainable. We are most proud of this milestone since we went from a proof-of-concept pilot to a scalable product without any financial support. This is thanks for our hard-working and dedicated small team; which is spread across 7 countries.”
What would be a single piece of good advice to young entrepreneurs entering into the scene now?
ES: “Surround yourself with people who inspire you. Make sure you have mentors who can provide guidance and support. Reach out to your local impact hub or innovators community. Depending on the foreseen scale of your innovation, grow a broad network of professionals inside & outside your sector. Lastly — your team is the single most important asset when starting up. Make sure you are surrounded by colleagues who are invested in the mission and believe in the vision. Unfortunately, team members will come & go and that is just part of the journey.”
What’s next for Yapili? What do you anticipate most the next year will bring for the company and the team?
ES: “We are engaging with small African businesses who are interested in exploring how they can empower their workforce by offering our services to their employees. On our app or online platform, employees can store their health information and connect with health professionals to confidentially discuss any potential or ongoing health issues. We hope to scale in Nigeria, Kenya & Botswana through such model in order to create impact by enhancing health access.”
In your opinion, how has Botswana’s regional startup landscape changed and evolved over the past couple of years?
TT: “The Botswana startup ecosystem is best described as nascent. Our government has invested and continues to fund numerous enterprise development programmes through a number of different initiatives through various parastatals/agencies/bodies (e.g.; Citizen Entrepreneurship Development Agency, Local Enterprise Authority, Botswana Innovation Hub FSVC/Innovation Fund and Ministry of Youth Sport and Culture Youth Development Fund, Gender Affairs Women Empowerment Fund etc etc). This government-heavy approach has produced mixed results and has proved to be a double-edged sword. Due to an inherent lack of resources skilled in knowledge economy ecosystem development, the support in the past has tended to skew towards start-ups who pursue traditional brick and mortar projects rather than focusing on innovation and tech. As a result, homegrown tech and IP based innovations with potential to scale are scarce. To compound the problem, unfortunately, private sector involvement is still lagging behind. As one can imagine this is highly frustrating for the unacceptably high number of unemployed, talented and ambitious STEM, creative and business graduates, the country is churning out on a yearly basis through our government-sponsored tertiary education system.
What is encouraging though, is to see the number of regional initiatives that have taken popular root in Botswana such as Southern Africa Startup Awards, Seedstars, SAIS II, SLUSH, Creative Business Cup, Tony Elumelu Foundation, Stanford Seed, Technoserve/Tokafala and the like. These are playing a pivotal role in addressing gaps that local government programmes can’t easily fill and are acting as a welcome catalyst in stimulating our entrepreneur/startup ecosystem.”
What were the benefits of participating in the competition?
ES: “Gaining more exposure is always very important for startups. Winning “Best Social Impact Startup” in Southern Africa through this competition has definitely brought more people to gain an interest in what we do — which is always important!”