SMEs, which account for the vast majority of private-sector employment throughout the world, also fail at a rate of two thirds due to fraud and mismanagement.
Timothy Mwirabua, a 25 year developer from Nairobi, set out early last year to create an accounting tool to solve the biggest obstacles to SME growth in the region: fraud and mismanagement. Timothy knew this problem only too well due to his experiences watching his mother’s dreams die with her failed restaurant. Determined to provide service-oriented SMEs with an easy-to-use and affordable solution, Timothy created ShopOfficer. ShopOfficer, a smartphone app, keeps track of all transactions an attendant or waiter handles and provides a repository which management can use to supervise all transactions attendants or waiters in a business in real-time. It’s half the price of its next-best competitor in the market and offers clients to such establishments gifts and prizes to promote customer loyalty.
Despite ShopOfficer’s enormous potential, Timothy struggled to get seed investment for his innovation. More importantly, he was concerned that unscrupulous people should snatch this idea from him, a fear which most technology innovators are grappling with. Intellectual Property laws in Kenya are weak and enforcement is weaker still, not to mention many innovators fear having their innovations taken from them in unfavorable exits.
HiiL Innovating Justice, together with the Ford Foundation, is working to ease these fears while at the same time providing opportunities for innovators to grow their ideas. In 2015, HiiL Innovating Justice dedicated US $70,000 to support 3 African start-ups that addressed barriers to SME growth in the region. Timothy was one of the beneficiaries last year winning a grant of US $10,000 plus acceleration support.
Currently, he’s scaling up his invention. Timothy explains his plans for the future, “I’m investing in a good sales team and further developing ShopOfficer. If you have a dynamic new idea, you can’t stop developing it to the next level. You have to always be on your game.”