Chris is the founder of Sterio.me, a start-up that looks to solve the problem of education in Africa in such a way that it takes away the hassle and limitation of infrastructure making its way to the list of the Top 10 most innovative companies in Africa for 2014 by Fast Company.
I caught up with him to talk about Sterio.me, mobile, and everything in between.
1 – On Sterio.me and its value proposition
Sterio.me has developed a mobile learning technology which reinforces learning through interactive sms and pre-recorded voice lessons. This enables learning across barriers such as illiteracy, language barriers, internet access and availability of learning materials.
We are working on two verticals: replacement of traditional homework with mobile homework in Lesotho and mobile learning as a value added service for adults in Nigeria.
2 – The tech-in-edu space in Africa as compared to the West
Things are far more advanced in terms of mobile technology in Africa than in the Netherlands. That being said, the general standard of education in the Netherlands is quite high, there are plenty of books, language and literacy barriers are not present and most people have a computer at home with which they can access the internet and free MOOCs – which is different across Africa.
3 – Sustainable innovation through adapting to available technology
When it comes to Africa and building a startup here it is very important to be able to adapt to the existing technology as it is capital intensive to put any infrastructure in place, otherwise we would only be able to target a fraction of the market. However, raising investment would be easier seeing that segment would be more commercially interesting and akin to western consumers.
4 – The reception and the journey so far
Reception has been quite good. we have confirmed all necessary partners for our pilot in Lesotho and are just waiting for our technology to be integrated with that of the telco prior to launch, in addition to waiting for the value add messaging content from our partner.
In Nigeria we have confirmed a partner business and have been conducting meetings to negotiate short code access, which we expect fairly soon.
5 – The business model – revenue and marketing
Revenues in Lesotho come from Value Added Messaging – 30 to 45 seconds per 10 minute lesson which are reserved for INGO’s who wish to spend to promote certain positive causes/ types of behaviour in the form of mini-lessons.
In Nigeria we hope to operate a B2C model where users pay to access content. As to getting the word out, we do direct sales to educational institutions and mobile advertising for the consumers market.
6 – A mobile driven solution for a mobile continent
Mobile is key – most people don’t even use desktop or laptop computers and primary access to internet and services (especially outside the workplace) is on mobile, so it only made sense to create a mobile driven solution. This reflects in the product development and user experience.
7 – Future plans and expectations for Sterio.me
We expect to launch our services over the next few months. We had some delays as we had to align timelines with our partners (which took some time to confirm), but in Lesotho we have all partners needed aligned and in Nigeria we are confirming our last few partners before launching a pilot service.
[Photo Credit: Christopher Pruijsen]