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Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) and companies are heavily shifting their resources towards emerging markets, but it’s difficult to connect with these populations so organizations are constantly struggling to understand their customers. Our website and mobile applications will empower NGOs and corporations to survey and message populations on their mobile phones. For organizations working in emerging markets, this transforms how they connect with their employees and customers. They’re able to send messages and launch surveys directly to mobile phones online for free. They’re even able to incentivize people by paying them with airtime credit. If they need to survey a general population they can use Watu’s constantly growing panel base for a small fee.
Any organization can build panels, survey and message key populations, offer real incentives, and access a huge library of ready and willing panelists. We enable organizations to communicate with contacts they care about.
Tell us more about the problem you are solving. Why is it a problem and how big of a problem is it?
One of the biggest problems facing NGOs and companies working in developing countries is that sending messages to and getting input from fieldworkers, representatives, customers, and beneficiaries is slow, expensive and often unreliable.
From an NGO standpoint this results in organization wide communication problems, a lack of accountability and most importantly a shortage of direct input from target audiences. For example millions of NGO dollars go unaccounted for every year and companies and philanthropists that contribute to these NGO want proof that their donations are utilized in an effective manner and the money is being used for the intended purpose. With Watu they can collect the phone numbers of aid recipients and survey them to ensure that they’ve received the proper aid.
From a corporation’s perspective more than $1.7 trillion of discretionary spending is added each year in the emerging markets. Global companies are spending $200billion in advertising each year to try to connect with these emerging customers to understand their needs, and tailor products and services to reflect their local culture, customs and to better appeal to the market.
The difficulty lies in connecting with these four billion consumers because most of them are off the traditional marketing grid. Most don’t have credit cards. Most don’t have bank accounts. Most are not near billboards. Their mobile phone is often their main means of communication and we allow organizations to connect directly to these customers.
Who do you think your target customers are and how many are there?
NGOs with presence in emerging markets that need to better connect with their field workers and with the populations they are trying to serve. NGO estimates range from 40,000 to 20,000,000 unique organizations.
Corporations that want to expand their business internationally and need market research to understand the market better. It’s estimated that more than 2,000 corporations would fit this profile.
Do you think your customers are looking for a solution?
NGOs: After working in developing countries and with the Peace Corps, Steve saw that NGOs were constantly struggling to keep in touch with their teams, aid beneficiaries, and wanted to learn from their communities. He has since spoken with people at the World Bank, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and various NGO’s. All have clearly voiced excitement for what Watu is doing.
Corporations: We closed a deal with the world’s largest market research firm, the Nielsen Company, and lined up projects with Johnson and Johnson and Duke University. We were not able to fully execute upon these opportunities due to a situation mentioned in the final paragraph of this application. From our interaction with these and other corporations we know there is a huge need for this service and we are confident that once we launch Watu again we will be able to successfully commercialize this solution. We have strong relationships with these corporations and will be able to work with them once we’ve rebuilt Watu’s technology.
Tell us about your solution. How does it work and what are the benefits?
Watu Mobile offers NGOs and companies a new and free tool to communicate within their organization and with the populations they serve. Watu has created a platform that will allow anyone to create and send surveys and messages from any computer and distribute it to anyone who owns a smartphone around the world. By surveying the populations they serve, NGOs are now able to confirm that the resources allocated were actually used for the intended purpose and the results can serve as proof to their donors. They can also send unified messaging to a widely distributed workforce. For corporations it means that they can easily obtain insights to better shape the products and services they already have in the market or are thinking of launching in the future.
How It Works:
Given that an organization recruits its own panelists and they don’t want to incentivize them with phone credits, then the service is free to use, as long they do not request the usage of the advance features such as pictures.
There are three different ways to monetize:
People on the Ground: They now can give direct input to NGOs, sharing their opinions and bettering their communities. They can even be paid for their input providing an extra source of income by answering surveys from companies!
NGOs: They now have a free, direct way of communicating with employees in the field and aid beneficiaries, which they can use for free. Also, they have a potential source of revenue by “renting” their panels to companies that want to use them for market research purposes (surveys).
Companies: By conducting highly targeted market research, they now have a way to better understand local populations and shape products and services to better suit the tastes and preferences of specific regions.
Watu: As a social enterprise Watu creates a valuable tool for organizations, enabling local populations to have a voice, while also creating potential income for local populations and NGOs.
Tell us about yourselves (Who is on your team, what are you studying, what year are you)
Use of Funds - if you won $50,000 how would you use it?
We are looking for funding for the development of the platform. We have already designed the platform but we need funding in order to code it. We are in conversations with several developers and based on previous bids and experience estimate costs of $50,000 to cover initial development.
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