Justin Coetzee talks about GoMetro
Meeting Justin Coetzee
Justin Coetzee, founder of GoMetro – a mobile information service for Metrorail commuters – is one of a small handful of South African entrepreneurs in the smart city sector. GoMetro came third globally in the Vodafone Global App Stars in Nairobi and third place in the Gauteng Innovation Competition, which launched the start-up’s success as a mobile travel companion in Gauteng. We chat to the man behind the idea.
What is GoMetro?
GoMetro connects Metrorail with its commuting customers through mobile channels of communication. It’s an app that gives commuters tailored information on real- time arrivals and departures, current locations of vehicles as well as early notifications of operational breakdowns and travel disruptions.
Why did you decide to launch the service?
I was a regular train commuter between Bellville and Century City in Cape Town, and witnessed the lack of dignity experienced by most commuters. The overcrowded conditions, the lack of security, and the unreliability of the service were frustrations to fellow commuters. I would overhear mothers phoning home at 18:00 trying to find someone to fetch their children from daycare and witnessed the panic of students missing exams. I constantly heard stories of workers l osing their j obs due to unsympathetic managers who couldn’t believe that the trains could be late every single day.
You have two partners who are Government bodies (Metrorail and PRASA [Passenger Rail Agency of SA]), how did you get them to buy into the idea?
It took a lot of perseverance. What we found is that if you can prove you are able to solve problems, the opportunity grows. Our Government body partners understood the value proposition of our solution and are now using the GoMetro platform to improve the customer experience.
You’ve taken on a mobile-only strategy, what is the reason for this?
We’ve taken a mobile-only strategy because our users are on the go and mobile is where the South African audience is. This solution is particularly appropriate considering that 92% of regional rail commuters have mobile phones. Built into our system is a content delivery platform, which allows other mobile products and services to access our user-base to deliver commuter-specific mobile media to commuters who are en-transit.
What impact does the service have on the physical Metrorail system?
We don’t have the power to make the trains arrive on time or prevent them from breaking down. But we do have the power to give commuters a platform for communication and access to timetables and updates to the scheduled service, which was never available to them before.
Have you received any assistance (financial and otherwise)?
We’ve received consistent support from the mLab Southern Africa, the I nnovation Hub i n Gauteng, the Bandwidth Barn i n Cape Town, AngelHub, KnifeCap and InfoDev’s Global Mentor programme.
We are currently raising our first round of funding (which is really tough to do in South Africa), and are talking to quite a few funds and angel investors about our investment case. GoMetro has been bootstrapped from day one so the funding we are currently seeking