Solution Overview

Solution Name:

Request Marketplace

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One-line solution summary:

Buyer-driven social marketplace designed to lower the cost of customer acquisition and extend footprint of small online vendors in Africa

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Pitch your solution.

Request marketplace brings the benefits of corporate tender procurement to mass-market consumer purchasing.

It achieves this through a buyer-driven social marketplace. This design not only simplifies but also lowers the cost of customer acquisition for online vendors, enabling millions more small vendors in Africa to find it profitable selling online.

Ecommerce business is rapidly growing in Africa with most online vendors selling on free marketplaces such as Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp. The glut in social marketplaces that are not purposely designed for vendor discovery make it difficult and costly for vendors to remain visible to their target consumers.

To solve this problem, Request marketplace has re-arranged the consumer shopping process.  On Request marketplace , shoppers start their purchase journey by posting their purchase requests onto a social timeline. Ecommerce vendors see these requests and effortlessly find ready-to-buy shoppers and direct them to their online catalogs and social shops.

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What specific problem are you solving?

It is cheap and easy to open an ecommerce shop, but it is expensive and tedious to bring in customers.  This is because ecommerce has the unique problem of one-time customers.  This means the ecommerce vendors have to spend to re-acquire customers for each sale.  The customer acquisition costs involved make it unprofitable to sell very value items online such as retail fresh farm food.

The sustainable cost of customer acquisition for small online vendors is US$ 3 per month, or 10 US cents per day.  Request marketplace delivers customers to small online vendors at this cost.

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What is your solution?

Request marketplace is positioned as the first mile of consumer shopping - the place where shoppers start their purchase journey.  On the Request mobile app, shoppers post their purchase needs onto a social timeline using a template form.

Vendors view and reply to these purchase requests with sales offers.

These sales offers then go into a dedicated shopping inbox, where the shopper can review, compare and select the best deal, and then proceed to purchase.

This buyer-driven shopping process provides vendors with a continuous flow of shoppers who have a high propensity to buy, a known budget and well-defined purchase timelines.

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Who does your solution serve, and in what ways will the solution impact their lives?

Request marketplace serves three groups

  1. Small online vendors in urban and per-urban areas selling food, fashion, electronics and media products.  Request marketplace benefits them by leveling the playing field of accessing customers by giving them a chance to sell without necessarily having many social media followers or high advertising budgets or complex search engine optimization.
  2. One-person service providers in domestic services such as cleaning, caregiving, repair and maintenance.  Request marketplace lets these service providers build their profile through endorsements and ratings, and grow their business through quality delivery.
  3. Students in high school, colleges and universities.  Students seeking tutorials in specialized topics can make learning requests on the Request marketplace and their peers with excellent knowledge in these topics are able to tutor and earn while at it.  Currently, Request marketplace is piloting with 300 university students in Nairobi who want to learn and earn.
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Which dimension of the Challenge does your solution most closely address?

Enable small and new businesses, especially in untapped communities, to prosper and create good jobs through access to capital, networks, and technology

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Explain how the problem, your solution, and your solution’s target population relate to the Challenge and your selected dimension.

  1. New Technologies Wiping Out Jobs.  Social media is a sticky behavior with over 2.5 billion people on mobile social networks.  New technology advancements in AI, fintech and location-tech make their first appearances on social media.  Request marketplace is built on social network design.  As social media evolves, users on Request marketplace will not be left behind.
  2. Jobs Require Changing Skillsets.  Request marketplace is a versatile tool that enables shoppers and vendors to barter trade.  For example, a farmer could trade a kilogram of potatoes for a lesson on web design.  Any skill or physical commodity can be currency on Request marketplace.
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In what city, town, or region is your solution team headquartered?

Nairobi, Kenya
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What is your solution’s stage of development?

Pilot: An organization deploying a tested product, service, or business model in at least one community

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Who is the primary delegate for your solution?

Eric Kotonya

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More About Your Solution

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=request.android

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Which of the following categories best describes your solution?

A new business model or process

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Describe what makes your solution innovative.

Request marketplace is creating a new, real-time economic activity map in 4,500 cities for use by farmers, manufacturers, distributors, vendors, service providers and governments to plan and optimize logistics and supply of goods and services.

By providing open trends data to everyone in the consumer supply chain, several things become possible:

  1. Vendors can intelligently stock what moves fast, and reduce dead stock and shelf time of items.
  2. Governments can analyze skill demand trends and plan by increasing training capacity for these skills.
  3. Logistics providers can avail shipping and storage resources in anticipation of demand surge, thereby lowering fulfillment cycle times.
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Describe the core technology that powers your solution.

Request marketplace is a text-only social media app.  This makes it very small (less than 3Mb installed size on android) and very low on mobile internet consumption.

Shoppers on Request app use a template-form to make purchase requests. This template form is the core of Request marketplace.

Vendors view and respond to these requests on a social timeline and reply to them.  Vendor responses go into a dedicated shopping inbox.

As shoppers make requests, the app picks up trends and avails them on banners within the app.  These trends could be item categories such as TV, or brands such as SONY or other attributes such as color and size.

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Provide evidence that this technology works.

Buyer-initiated template-based-requests have delivered results in hospitality and travel.

That's why airlines and hotels have customer acquisition costs of 7 US$ - contrasted against 22 US$ for the consumer space
Request now brings similar benefits to consumer goods and consumer services.

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Please select the technologies currently used in your solution:

  • Artificial Intelligence / Machine Learning
  • Big Data
  • Crowdsourced Service / Social Networks
  • Software and Mobile Applications
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What is your theory of change?

Request marketplace aims to the the starting point of every consumer purchase journey.

For this to happen, it must be accessible by the majority of consumers and delight shoppers by delivering best deals quickly across different consumer segments.

Several pieces are required for this to happen:

  1. Request app should come pre-installed on smartphones or be easily installed by users.
  2. The app should incur minimal internet connectivity costs, or better still, be free to connect in partnership with mobile operators.
  3. Users should be organized in cities and neighborhoods, much in the same way as free social marketplaces self-organize.
  4. The app should be open in the context of not restricting access by ecommerce aggregator or provider.
  5. The app should be localized in most common languages so as to reach as many users as possible.
  6. Vendors should have the option to automate responses, so as to increase their selling capacity while delivering instant personalized search results.
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Select the key characteristics of your target population.

  • Rural
  • Peri-Urban
  • Urban
  • Low-Income
  • Middle-Income
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Which of the UN Sustainable Development Goals does your solution address?

  • 1. No Poverty
  • 4. Quality Education
  • 8. Decent Work and Economic Growth
  • 9. Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure
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In which countries do you currently operate?

  • Kenya
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In which countries will you be operating within the next year?

  • Nigeria
  • South Africa
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How many people does your solution currently serve? How many will it serve in one year? In five years?

Currently: 300 mobile app users

1 year: 1,200,000 people

5 years: 12,000,000 people

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What are your goals within the next year and within the next five years?

One Year Goal: Become the largest online shopping marketplace in Nairobi, Lagos and Johannesburg for consumer goods and services in terms of daily shopping deals

Five Year Goals: Become the largest global shopping marketplace in for goods and services priced under US$ 100

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What barriers currently exist for you to accomplish your goals in the next year and in the next five years?

One Year Barrier: Funding to scale by recruiting operations sales and support team

Five Year Barrier: Funding to scale by recruiting operations team with local market, legal and compliance expertise

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How do you plan to overcome these barriers?

Overcoming One Year Barrier: Monetize via subscriptions in Q3 2020 to raise cash to fund recruitment

Overcoming Five Year Barrier: Raise VC funding

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About Your Team

What type of organization is your solution team?

For-profit, including B-Corp or similar models

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How many people work on your solution team?

1 full time staff

3 part time sales staff

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How many years have you worked on your solution?

8 years

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Why are you and your team well-positioned to deliver this solution?

The team leader has a strong background in this space with 8 years experience in buyer-driven marketplaces.

Eric was awarded by UNESCO for innovation in buyer-driven education marketplaces on mobile platforms.

http://www.unesco.org/new/en/media-services/single-view/news/efa_crowdsourcing_challenge_prize_winners/

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What organizations do you currently partner with, if any? How are you working with them?

Currently there are no partnerships.

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Your Business Model & Funding

What is your business model?

Request marketplace is free for shoppers.  Vendors may choose between free or paid-up options

Vendors on the free tier simply open the app and click on reply button to a respond to a shopper’s purchase request.  Vendors who pay a subscription get additional benefits - these include automating responses to shopper requests.

Request sells keyword subscription as a product for 3 US$ per keyword per month.

The target market is 8.2 million vendors selling on social marketplaces in Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa.

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Do you primarily provide products or services directly to individuals, or to other organizations?

Individual consumers or stakeholders (B2C)

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What is your path to financial sustainability?

Request marketplace has one revenue stream, a 3 US$ monthly subscription.

The marginal contribution is 50% and the break-even point is 4,750 subscriptions bringing in a gross monthly revenue of 14,250 US$.

Our cost of customer acquisition is 1.5 US$ and the minimum gross revenue earned from each subscriber is 3 US$ if they subscribe for only 1 month.

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If you have raised funds for your solution or are generating revenue, please provide details.

Bootstrapped, no funding raised to date.

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What are your estimated expenses for 2020?

Minimum (bootstrap) monthly expenses are $ 2,000.  This pays for system development, hosting and marketing on social media.

Optimal monthly expenses are $9,500.   This pays for a team of 2 full time  staff, SMS messaging, system development, hosting and marketing on social media.

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Partnership & Prize Funding Opportunities

Why are you applying to Solve?

Solve provides a platform for partnerships.  Request marketplace needs to partner with several large organizations to grow and succeed.

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In which of the following areas do you most need partners or support?

  • Funding and revenue model
  • Legal or regulatory matters
  • Marketing, media, and exposure
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Please explain in more detail here.

By shipping Request app pre-installed on low-end android smartphones, more users will access the service and make it scale faster in Africa.


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What organizations would you like to partner with, and how would you like to partner with them?

A partnership with Google (Android) or Samsung (Smartphones) to ship their low-end devices with Request app pre-installed would greatly contribute to its success.

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Do you qualify for and would you like to be considered for The Andan Prize for Innovation in Refugee Inclusion?

Yes

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Explain how you are qualified for this prize. How will your team use The Andan Prize for Innovation in Refugee Inclusion to advance your solution?

Though refugees do not have work and employment rights in most African countries, they can provide services such as specialized education online.

Request provides a platform for that.

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Do you qualify for and would you like to be considered for the Innovation for Women Prize?

No

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Do you qualify for and would you like to be considered for The GM Prize on Good Jobs and Inclusive Entrepreneurship?

No

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Do you qualify for and would you like to be considered for The Gulbenkian Award for Adult Literacy?

Yes

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Explain how you are qualified for this prize. How will your team use the Gulbenkian Award for Adult Literacy to advance your solution?

Request marketplace is a versatile tool that enables shoppers and vendors to barter trade.  For example, a farmer could trade a kilogram of potatoes for a lesson on web design.  Any skill or physical commodity can be currency on Request marketplace.

 Currently, Request marketplace is piloting with 300 university students in Nairobi who want to learn and earn.

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Do you qualify for and would you like to be considered for the AI for Humanity Prize?

No

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Do you qualify for and would you like to be considered for the Future Planet Capital Prize?

Yes

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Explain how you are qualified for this prize. How will your team use the the Future Planet Capital Prize to advance your solution?

Request marketplace is creating a new, real-time economic activity map in 4,500 cities for use by farmers, manufacturers, distributors, vendors, service providers and governments to plan and optimize logistics and supply of goods and services.

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Solution Team

  • Mr Eric Kotonya Founder, COMFIED MOBILE MEDIA
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