Ruyonga Daniel (with mic) from Teheca making a contribution at a leadership session at the launchpad. Looking on is Asha Namugambe, a cofounder at Teheca

The voice of the customer: lessons from Google’s launchpad Africa accelerator

Teheca is an Outbox portfolio startup that was accepted into Google launchpad’s first African Accelerator class. It provides alternative dedicated patient care to expectant and new mothers through the recruitment and training of qualified care assistants. Daniel and Asha share their journey and learnings in the launchpad program. Outbox provided Teheca with seed funding, mentorship, technical guidance and business incubation through the Up Accelerate initiative of 2017 supported by UNFPA Uganda. You can apply to the Google Launchpad accelerator program here

For Google launchpad accelerator, we set out to achieve a number of things. As a team, we had prioritized our targets, however, we left our list open to allow for a good learning experience.

Our number one priority was understanding how to acquire customers. We were struggling a great deal with customer acquisition due to our inability to drive conversions. This was clearly evident from our flat customer numbers.

Another objective was to receive advice on how to develop and deploy a scalable platform — multiple geographies and large numbers of users. This target was mainly driven by the factual background that this program is offered by google which presented an opportunity to learn from the best engineers.

In the accelerator, our daily schedule involved talks from different experts on different topics that included design, Tech, AI & Machine learning, customer development to Leadership. These talks would be followed by debriefs between our anchor mentors ( Layo Ogunbanwo )and startup success manager John Kimani and later a deep dive into the planned team mentorship sessions. Our transformation into Teheca 2.0 is greatly attributed to the support and effort invested by Layo Ogunbanwo.

We ended each day with a recap of the days’ activities and plans for the next day. On several occasions, we got to visit various companies within the Nairobi and Lagos eco-systems to understand their operations and how they work as well as share insights on how they overcame different challenges startups face.

Mentorship session at Google Developers Africa launchpad

What did we learn from the accelerator?

Choose one core product or service that you offer best and be damn good at it

At Teheca, we needed to narrow down our primary customer base. We had to choose from offering general patient care , elderly care and postnatal care services for young expectant and new mothers. This would enable us focus all our resources towards being the best at delivering it. We zeroed down on Postnatal care for young expectant and new mothers. This was attributed to the high birth rates in developing countries, most especially those in Sub-saharan African, and the challenges faced before, during and after pregnancy.

Our Ah-aha moment was the realisation that customers have to know what to come to Teheca for, what is it they should expect and how to we make that as simple as possible.

Customer segmentation

From the session on customer development, we developed a deeper understanding on the different types of customers a company like ours could have. For example; when we provide a health worker for an in-home postnatal care visit — the primary customer is the mother who gets the value of the services and the secondary customer is the one who gets to pay for the services. For the different customer groups, a company has to have the right message and a plan on how to reach them.

It is important to know who your customer is and where to find them so that you don’t waste a lot of the already limited startup marketing resources and effort.

Offering true value is one of the best option that small companies have to offer to bigger organisation while making partnerships. In turn partnerships are the fastest way for startups to grow a bigger user base.

The technical stack

Teheca also benefited a great deal from interacting with the Google engineers and Tech mentors at the launchpad. Daniel says the Teheca tech team is embarking on changing the tech stack to make it more modular, implement microservices and dockerization hence making it easy to scale.

Speaking of impact, the launchpad program was impactful on both a personal level to the founders and on an operational level for the companies. We learnt a lot from other founders too on how we can overcome the different challenges in our respective startups.

We left the program with a decision on our primary customer segment, our core service and have embarked on quickly validating the need for our offering within areas of Uganda’s capital Kampala through customer discovery sessions.

We are changing our website to communicate our core value proposition to our primary customer segment, and have developed a product roadmap to demonstrate the same.

Through our networks and community, we shall seek to build better linkages with child and maternal health organisations and specialists that would offer further guidance to us.

In Uganda, I would encourage you to apply to the Google Launchpad accelerator program here. Better yet, if affiliated to Outbox, ask them for a recommendation to the program. Google is looking for startups that:

  • have a clear sense of the problem they are tackling and have validated it at some level (solution traction, paying customers, functional product, etc.)
  • should ideally be at the seed-stage (and series A too) in any sector
  • should be based in Africa solving problems primarily for Africa
  • can benefit from deploying AI/ML technologies.If you make it, come back and leave a comment on this article with what your biggest takeaway was.

If you make it, share your key takeaways from the program in the comments section.