Meet the brains be­hind hottest air­time start-up

Con­nected to over 400 mo­bile op­er­a­tors across the globe with a reach of 4,5 bil­lion pre­paid phone users, Sen­di­too is quite pos­si­bly one of the world’s largest air­time trans­fer net­works.

The Herald (Zimbabwe) - - Feature/crime & Courts - By a Spe­cial Cor­re­spon­dent Sen­di­too are of­fer­ing a dis­count of up to $2 for users to try their plat­form and send air­time to their loved ones

AUNITED King­dom-based Zim­bab­wean tech en­tre­pre­neur and his Guinean busi­ness part­ner are the brains be­hind Africa’s lat­est and fast-grow­ing mo­bile air­time start-up.

Born a few kilo­me­tres from Masvingo, 33-year-old Tak­wana Tyaranini and part­ner Ibrahima Soumano co-founded Sen­di­too in March 2016.

The in­no­va­tive ser­vice al­lows users to send in­stant mo­bile phone top-ups to more than 140 coun­tries across the world, in­clud­ing 39 in Africa.

Con­nected to over 400 mo­bile op­er­a­tors across the globe with a reach of 4,5 bil­lion pre­paid phone users, Sen­di­too is quite pos­si­bly one of the world’s largest air­time trans­fer net­works.

“For many peo­ple liv­ing and work­ing away from their home coun­tries — es­pe­cially in our na­tive con­ti­nent of Africa — one of their great­est needs is to stay in touch with their rel­a­tives and friends and to be up to speed with im­por­tant de­vel­op­ments back home,” Tyaranini ex­plained.

“With mo­bile phone pen­e­tra- tion in Africa stand­ing at around 67 per­cent to­day, there’s clearly a huge need for air­time to keep that flow of con­ver­sa­tions go­ing. And so we’ve built a plat­form to help ev­ery­one stay con­nected with their fam­ily and friends and to send in­stant credit to mo­bile phones wher­ever they are,” he added.

The idea of start­ing an on­line mo­bile top-up plat­form crys­tallised af­ter Tyaranini’s busi­ness part­ner, Soumano, vis­ited rel­a­tives in ru­ral Guinea in April, 2015.

In­stead of car­ry­ing gifts to of­fer them, as is cus­tom­ary, Soumano bought some mo­bile air­time vouch­ers, which he dis­trib­uted among his rel­a­tives and their neigh­bours.

“See­ing the im­pact made by that small gift of a few mo­bile min­utes was a light bulb mo­ment for Ibrahima and when he re­turned to the UK, we im­me­di­ately tucked into the idea.

“The re­sult was the birth of Sen­di­too, which we ini­tially named Ozaremit be­fore re­brand­ing it last Oc­to­ber and launch­ing it with a new API that al­lows us to de­velop new busi­ness-to-busi­ness part­ner­ships,” Tyaranini said.

In its short life­span, the com­pany has raised well over $350 000 in fund­ing, with $329 690 of that com­ing as re­cently as De­cem­ber 2016, led by three French in­vestors — Thibault Lau­nay, Ro­main Gir­bal and Célia Grémy. The trio has in­ter­ests and ex­pe­ri­ence in emerg­ing mar­kets and telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions and is in­volved in sev­eral ven­tures in Africa.

The new in­vest­ment will go to­wards ex­pand­ing Sen­di­too in Africa and po­si­tion it as the lead­ing air­time trans­fer ser­vice from Europe to the con­ti­nent.

Tyaranini said Sen­di­too aims to raise more than $2 mil­lion in fund­ing in early 2017 to boost its am­bi­tious ex­pan­sion plans.

Sen­di­too’s fund-rais­ing plans are boosted by the pres­ence of no small amount of in­vestors look­ing to the African mar­ket as the “new fron­tier” and seek­ing out vi­able op­por­tu­ni­ties to in­vest in.

Ac­cord­ing to re­search by start-ups por­tal Dis­rupt Africa, tech start-ups on the con­ti­nent re­ceived a to­tal amount of fund­ing in ex­cess of $185,7 mil­lion in 2015.

And with the air­time trans­fer mar­ket val­ued at around $3 bil­lion — in­creas­ing be­tween 15-20 per­cent per year — Sen­di­too are de­ter­mined to sink their teeth into a size­able chunk of it.

For Tyaranini and Soumano, their sim­ple am­bi­tion will al­ways be to har­ness tech­nol­ogy to pro­vide prac­ti­cal so­lu­tions to so­ci­ety’s prob­lems.

“With Sen­di­too, we’ve found a way to keep the African con­ver­sa­tion flow­ing, in three easy steps: en­ter your num­ber on our plat­form, make a pay­ment and credit is re­ceived in­stantly,” Tyaranini said.

Sen­di­too are of­fer­ing a dis­count of up to $2 for users to try their plat­form and send air­time to their loved ones.

Just visit www.sen­di­too.com, fol­low the given in­struc­tions for send­ing air­time and when prompted, en­ter the dis­count code “HOME” to claim your free $2 air­time top-up.

Tak­wana Tyaranini

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