I’ve always enjoyed watching the Zimbabwean startup scene. This is mostly because a good number of the startups you find are actually quite interesting and look to change our communities. I’ve been procrastinating on this Simba Savannah review series for a while now. With time I have lost most of what I wanted to rant about which is a good thing. This posts would have been ridiculously long otherwise. For those who may not know, the long and short of it is that Simba Savannah is a Zimbabwean take on Dragon’s Den and Shark Tank. My review won’t be on the actual show but will be a review of the pitches and the business that came looking for investment from the Simbas (that’s what they call the investors).
Rumbidzai Ngoshi, has a business centered around what feels like on-demand services for fashion and beauty tips and maybe access to service providers. An app and website that allows individuals to get beauty tips and fashion trends from industry experts (do we have those in Zimbabwe? The ladies gossiping in salons…or Pokello. Focus Archie). Her idea was to base this on a subscription model while starting with a free three to four month period to get people hooked. The idea sounds good, I’m a sucker for businesses that are around building communities of individuals with shared interests.
There’s mention of the internet penetration rate in the pitch. An increase from 11% to 47% and how this means there’s a market for Looks.co.zw. While I partially agree that an increasing internet penetration rate could mean more business, I’m not so sure that it does mean more business. What I have noticed is that Zimbabweans are spending quite a bit of money on data now but mostly on Facebook and Whatsapp bundles. Very few are testing the waters beyond this, even less have pockets that allow them to even attempt. Trying to get Zimbos to use any app outside of those two (especially if it consumes data and doesn’t come with a bundle package) is near impossible. That’s why some of the best online communities in Zimbabwe that have been or are growing big enough to monetize, have been built on either Whatsapp or Facebook. Off the top of my head, I think of Deep-league Classifieds and their Whatsapp based subscription service to receive adverts; and of course, the Zimbabwean Facebook wonderkid that is Bidding Wars. Growing communities in excess of 50,000 users. In case you read numbers like Jacob Zuma, that’s fifty thousand!
After the back and forth, no Simba offered to invest. In Rumbidzai’s cut-scene after the pitch, she vows to prove to the Simbas that her model works.
Rumbidzai has proposed a deal that requires a $10,000 investment for 20% of her business. While a valuation of 50K for a business is not something on the high side in terms of startups, it was high for Rumbidzai Ngoshi’s business.
The challenge is that Rumbidzai has valued her business at 50K when her current investment has been $20 at most spent on a domain name (If she bought the domain from GoDaddy then it probably cost her $0.99) and a couple of hours spent practicing her pitch. When she was asked for numbers it all started sounding like guesswork, unsubstantiated, not thought through and not deliberate. She literally tries to sell her idea (even though it’s a good one) for $50k.
I personally would have been interested if there was mention of a small group that she was testing this with. She mentioned being a student, she could have offered a WhatsApp/facebook group model to a small group at her school. Rumbidzai hasn’t bothered to validate her idea in a live environment. Beauty is a big business in our country. It’s right up there next to food when it comes to the things Zimbabweans are willing to spend money on. Alternatively, if Rumbidzai had a database of service providers who were ready to jump onto the platform, she could have been more convincing.
I can’t go into this. She was grilled enough on the show by Florence and Ritesh on the lack of figures. She isn’t sure how big her potential market is, she isn’t sure how much of it she can get and she isn’t deliberate about the actual needs of the business.
Where is Looks.co.zw Now?
The episode was published on YouTube in September of 2016. This means it’s been close to a year and a half since the pitch. It would be nice to know how far Rumbidzai has gone.
So I took a look at the website soon after the episode was published in 2016 and this is what it looked like.:
Now, in 2018 it looks exactly the same. It’s your standard landing page, the perfect way to let people know you exist but you’re not quite there yet. While I understand that it takes time and money to build applications and websites, I have a problem with this particular landing page: There’s no active call to action.
The website asks you to contact Rumbi but nothing concrete. Landing pages are a great way to market, effortlessly. Imagine if it actually said:
Contact Rumbi if you want to be part of the cool kids and join our community before anyone else
Are you a service provider? Get in touch and be the first to benefit from the Looks.co.zw community that needs tips from professionals like you!
If the website had any of these, Rumbidzai would have an amazing database that she would be able to share with service providers and actually kick-start her business. App or no app. She would actually have a year and a half of data collection. Data is the most important thing in tech at the moment, especially personal information linked to customer needs and spending habits. That’s Facebook, Whatsapp, Twitter and SnapChat are all free.
The pitch was shaky but that’s not usually a problem when the opportunity is amazeballs. If I had the money, I wouldn’t have invested in Looks.co.zw. It’s good to see young people acting on their business ideas and getting a place to pitch and be exposed to the Simbas, businessmen (and woman) who have created names in the harsh Zimbabwean economy.
The lesson should be to actually validate our business ideas before going to look for business. Looks.co.zw has potential. The market would be difficult right now because beauty and fashion tips are readily available on Pinterest and Instagram. The smart thing is not to look at those two social media platforms as a barrier to the business but rather as a way to get closer to the average Zimbabwean who loves fashion and beauty. Be on Pinterest, be on Instagram…very actively. Don’t just be present but start linking followers to service providers. Sooner than later you have enough people to monetize.
Do not forget the goal. To continuously improve #kaizenYOU