More than 50% of the population in sub-Saharan Africa is under the age of 30, and this youthful population is slated to double by the year 2050. So there is no surprise that this region, more than anywhere else in the world is bustling with innovative ideas. The Founder of Addis Ideas, Tia Samrawit, is of Ethiopian descent, and she believes that we can harness these great ideas to produce greater prosperity for all Africans. We interviewed with her in this weeks Startup Spotlight.
What is your name and what is your role at Addis Ideas
My name is Tia Samrawit Ayele and I am Cofounder of Addis Ideas, a tech startup and social
enterprise aimed at creating sustainable developments in Africa. As Cofounder, I work
primarily in operations, fundraising, and marketing.
Tell us about yourself and how you came up with (or came to be at) Addis Ideas
As a product of Ethiopian refugees, I knew from an early age that I would dedicate my life
to changing Africa. I studied International Relations in college and landed a job on Capitol Hill
in hopes of becoming an agent for change. However, I soon realized that private investments
and technology were promoting African development in ways that foreign policy could not.
This is when I decided that I wanted to become a social entrepreneur in Africa.
I came up with the idea five months ago while reflecting on my summer experience at Mayor
Kasim Reed’s office. I was thinking heavily about a program we implemented called “City
Ideas”, which was a department wide employee ideas competition designed to solicit feasible
solutions on how to cut red tape in Atlanta. The program was widely successful; it
demonstrated that the most insightful solutions to departmental inefficiencies came from the
individuals that knew the department the best, the employees. I realized that this same model
could work to create solutions for African development.
Foreign institutions waste billions of dollars every year on failed development initiatives,
because of an insufficient understanding of local conditions in Africa. I wanted to provide
Africans a platform to share their development ideas and provide changemakers a database
of feasible and innovative solutions. Realizing the increasing rates of smart phone penetration
in Africa, I knew a mobile platform would be best fit for servicing this application.
I immediately shared this idea with my lifelong friend, Mitu Yilma, who is now a Co-Founder.
What does Addis Ideas do?
Addis Ideas is an application that solely relies on African innovation.Our mobile application
crowd sources African development ideas from African nationals and the African diaspora.
Users submit their project ideas into a live feed, where they instantly receive feedback from
other users, and generate public support and private sponsorship for their innovation. The
ultimate goal of Addis Ideas is to promote information sharing, enhance public participation in
the development sphere, and create a collaborative workspace for Africans who want to
improve the communities around them.
Users submit ideas on the following topics: Agriculture, Business, Economy, Education,
Environment, Gender, Health, Housing, Technology, and Tourism. Project ideas are
addressed to the following stakeholders: NGO, Private Sector, Universities, Governments,
and the Public. Our user segments include:
1. Social entrepreneurs - who look for support for their existing projects;
2. DoGooders - who want to promote awareness of community issues;
3. Sponsors - who represent highly coveted organizations and firms looking to support
When was the company founded, who are the key founders, stakeholders, investors
The company was founded six months ago by cofounders Tia Ayele and MItu Yilma. Our
stakeholders include private businesses, bilateral donors, and intergovernmental and
Can you talk about the operational aspects of the service?
The application will be launched in fall 2015 for free in Google Play for Android smart phones.
Once the Addis Ideas mobile application is developed, our company will launch a 12 month
pilot program in Ethiopia. We’ve chosen Ethiopia due to our existing network in the country
and the positive feedback we’ve received from our focus group research in Ethiopia. The goal
of the pilot program is to evaluate the feasibility, time, cost, and needs associated with our
business and its operations.
During these 12 months, we will build relationships with relevant stakeholders, engage in
customer learning initiatives, and invest in building an in country presence. Although we will
not be generating any revenue during this time (aside from individual donations), the pilot
program will allow us to obtain valuable market research and solidify a critical mass of users,
two critical components to scaling our business in the future.
After our pilot program, we plan to monetize the application and generate revenue from the
following sources: verified sponsor accounts for sponsors, premium business accounts for
social entrepreneurs, mobile promotions and advertisements, and commissions off of
donations. Both the verified sponsor accounts and premium business accounts will be
serviced on a monthly subscription basis. Addis Ideas will then be scaled to other major cities
in Africa including Nairobi, Kenya; Lagos, Nigeria; and Cape Town, South Africa.
What markets do you target?
For users, we will target social entrepreneurs, civically minded citizens, and university
students as they are the population in our target market.
Our user segments include:
1. Social entrepreneurs who look for support for their existing projects;
2. DoGooders who want to promote awareness of community issues;
3. Sponsors who represent highly coveted organizations and firms looking to support
innovative projects (private firms, bilateral donors, intergovernmental organizations etc) .
How are you different from your competitors?
There is currently no other platform like Addis Ideas in the market today. There are web
platforms with similar capabilities, such as Kickstarter and Facebook. However, there is not a
single platform specifically tailored for Africans that combines social networking, social good,
and international development.
Another compelling factor is that Addis Ideas is a mobile platform and not a web platform.
Although website development is less costly, by offering a mobile platform, Addis Ideas will
address the growing population of Africans that have access to a smartphone but not to a
computer. According to Informa UK’s “Africa Telecoms Outlook”, over 30 percent of Africans
will have access to a smartphone by 2017, a percentage that is projected to only increase
over time. Addis Ideas is designed for Africa’s future in technology.
A lot of our viewers are in the United States, help us understand your business by
telling us a comparable business in the states.
If Kickstarter had the social networking capabilities of Facebook and was designed for African
development, then you’d have the Addis Ideas mobile application.
Are there any upcoming promotional events or websites you would like the readers
Our 60day fundraising challenge on Indiegogo > http://igg.me/at/addisideas/x/9647064
Also, visit our website for updates: www.addisideas.org
What is next for Addis Ideas?
Our pilot program in Ethiopia. Then scaling to all of Africa. The sky is the limit.
Is Addis Ideas currently looking for partnerships, additional investors etc
We are currently in need of one or two Technical cofounders that can help get our startup off
the ground. We are also open to negotiating with investors for seed funding. Lastly, we always
welcome potential partnerships.
If you want us to feature your startup on Smile and Mobile send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org