Femi Akinde, CEO of SlimTrader is one of our Omidyar Mobile Fast Pitch Contestants. Through an interview with Cameron Campbell, he talked about SlimTrader and what’s next in e-commerce, mobile technology and facilitating affordable, effortless information transactions in Africa.
What is Slim Trader?
Based in Seattle, Washington, SlimTrader is the first platform in Africa that allows consumers to purchase services or shop for goods with their mobile phones. Despite the more than 300 million cell phone subscribers in Africa, businesses and other organizations have been unable to take advantage of the rapid proliferation of mobile networks. That’s where SlimTrader comes in. Now, everything from ferry services to pharmacies can use SlimTrader’s mobile storefronts—which are specifically designed to a given client’s needs—thereby enabling consumers to use goods and services via Direct-to-Consumer (D2C) or Wireless Application Protocol (WAP) websites, Short Messaging Systems (SMS), and Interactive Voice Response (IVR). Consumers with mobile phones then have the ability to easily discover, preview, and purchase goods with debit and credit cards and mobile money. As a result, companies reach more consumers without making substantial up-front investments, while consumers benefit by having life’s necessities simplified.
How/Why did Slim Trader start?
During one of my frequent trips to my native Africa (I was born in Nigeria), I had a frustrating but ultimately inspiring experience. It was time to buy tickets for in-country travel, so I went to my local bank—a necessity, since postal and broadband internet service on the continent is spotty at best. Once at the bank, I was forced to wait in a seemingly never-ending line. In other words, the journey was just the beginning. There was more work to be done…just to pay a few bills. While I eventually completed my transaction, this time- and resource-consuming experience prompted me to think about how to eliminate the need for people to put so much into so simple a task. After all, I knew my ordeal wasn’t unique. Given the rapid proliferation of mobile phones in Africa and my background working in telecommunications and mobile technology with some of the biggest firms in the world, including T-Mobile and Microsoft, I naturally looked there first for a solution. After assembling a team of like-minded individuals with whom I’ve worked in previous years, we started SlimTrader.
I’m attending SOCAP10 to help spread the word on our company, our mission, and the exciting opportunities it presents for investors.
SlimTrader has begun operating in four African nations and has had a string of early successes. For example, we recently teamed with EarthWise ferry services to help reignite the long-dormant yet economically vital waterway transportation system along Lake Victoria. Our mobile storefront, which is accessible via mobile phones of all types, provides the means by which people purchase ferry tickets. In the process, we eliminate the need for people to travel long distances over neglected roadways or use cash to book tickets (which cuts down on price-gouging and other forms of corruption that impedes travel). The result: a reduction in the carbon emissions associated with land journeys, the paper needed to print money, and the corruption which often accompanies a cash-only ticketing platform. This is the kind of change I set out to make.
What makes Slim Trader unique and innovative?
SlimTrader is unique for several reasons, not least of which is the fact that it’s the first mobile platform that allows consumers to shop for goods and services via their phone. It’s an e-commerce firm that seeks to relieve the burdens associated with everyday transactions in Africa by providing the missing link to completing these important activities: easy and affordable access. Through a proprietary mobile-phone technology, SlimTrader helps to widen markets, reduce transaction costs, and facilitate the exchange of goods and services. It’s about getting people what they need, regardless of where they are. Now. Physical travel, postal service, long waits, and other hardships associated with completing life’s necessary tasks, from filling prescription to buying bus tickets, are all eliminated. All users need is a mobile phone—and a purpose. We designed a technology that has myriad benefits, from helping consumers to make informed decisions to reducing congestion on roads, and, in turn, Africa’s overall carbon footprint. Our innovative service is focused on enabling trade in Africa in new and exciting ways for the benefit of African citizens and business owners. And that’s not all. We’ve has also ensured that SlimTrader maintains a strong philanthropic component, with a percentage of all revenue going to the SlimTrader Foundation’s scholarship fund—an ongoing investment in Africa’s most precious resource: its youth.