Pledge51’s Bayo Puddicombe on mobile, monetization and the African gaming ecosystem

Bayo Puddicombe is arguably one of the most successful mobile entrepreneur on the continent of Africa. He opened shop (Pledge 51) with Zubair Abubakar, brains behind the Nigerian constitution app and have gone ahead to build a portfolio of apps enjoying over a million downloads. I caught up with him to talk about his latest venture ChopUp – the social gaming platform as well as other issues facing the African mobile and gaming ecosystem.


1. Tell us about yourself and your venture?

My name is Bayo Puddicombe; mobile entrepreneur and co-founder at Pledge51. I started the company back in 2012 along with Zubair Abubakar (Mr Constitution).


2. How has the local gaming landscape changed since you first joined?

The landscape has been really interesting and has changed significantly since the initial version of Danfo was released.

Firstly, we are seeing the rising penetration of smartphones in the African markets. We have also seen a lot of interest for local content from users who downloaded the latest release of the Danfo Reloaded game. A lot of consumers who finished the game actually reached out to us asking for more games. We feel that the market has still not been fully explored.


3. What’s your take on mobile platform development sequence?

In this day and age, if you are developing entertainment content for mobile platforms as much as possible it’s important to be everywhere. Having said this, I would prioritize in the order of Android, Feature phones, iOS and Windows phone, if you plan on targeting Africa.


4. Monetizing mobile apps is big issue. Can you touch on the avenues and opportunities?

One of the things we learnt from our pilot was that there isn’t many market of consumers who are willing to pay. First challenge has been how to effectively charge them and second has been the relatively lower price point. Don’t expect customers to do a 50 dollar in-app purchase any time soon.


5. In a wider view on the African startup scene, how far have we come?

In my estimation, talent appears to be the biggest issue here and Femi Longe, one of founders of ccHub and a thought leader in the technology space strongly advocates for tech companies to actively work to build the technology skill base required rather than seek finished products. Unfortunately, this initially results in some resistance before take off. Although, I agree it is the right approach for this environment.

On the issue of funding, I think it’s still a significant challenge because the African landscape is different. I recently had a conversation with a friend who was trying to raise capital for a new business. After making his pitch, he promises an investor a 20% return after one year. The investor responds by informing him that he could put the same amount of money in one of his businesses and get a five fold return.

He still got the money, but the point is that until African start-ups can provide those kind of returns (Apple provided more than a x1000 return to her initial investors at IPO), it might continue to be difficult to raise funds. Truth is so far, very few have generated anything within that range… unless you consider Interswitch a start-up. Until then anybody who gets in the game as an angel is probably in it for more than just the money.


6. What is your stand in the Africa as a Mobile only versus Mobile first continent debate

I think Africa is mobile first, not mobile only. What people need to realize is that there is significant economic divide between certain segments of our society and for some on the lower rungs of the economic ladder especially in more rural areas, their experience maybe mobile only and this is not necessarily a bad thing, but we must recognize that these people make up a significant percentage of our population.


7. What’s on the horizon with you at Pledge51 and ChopUp.

For us it can only get better, we are currently re-strategising and expanding internally so that we can serve our customers much better. Expect to see more of Chopup in the coming weeks.

From the archive: My interview with the Bayo Puddicombe and Zubair Abubakar (2012, OTEKBITS)

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