Watu Mobile

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Idea Summary

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:

1.  The person interested in using the platform creates a profile on our portal.

2.  The user then inputs all the phone numbers of those panelists the organization recruited. In case the organization does not have any recruited panelists (this will usually apply to companies), Watu will offer their constantly growing panel base for a small fee. The interested organization will be able to specify the country, gender, age, occupation, years of schooling and spoken language of the people they would like to communicate with.

3.  After selecting the people the survey or message will reach, the user will input the questions (or message) he would like to send. The questions can be either multiple choice, open-text, rank-based, and for a small fee the ability to take pictures (refer to exhibit #2 for details)

4.  The user will select if the organization would like to incentivize these panelist to answer the questions. The user will specify the amount of phone credits they would like to transfer to the panelist for the answers. Watu will charge for this service.

5.  From the respondent perspective, the panelist receives an alert on their phone that a new survey is available; as soon as he/she answers it, the payment will be instantly sent to them given that the organization utilized this feature.

6.  The system will aggregate all the answers into an easy to read online dashboard that will display the results in real time for the organization to see. 

Revenue Stream:

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:

1.  Although the service is free to use, we charge a fee if the NGO/Company wants to use our incentive platform.

2.  Watu reserves the right to use any panels created through its system.  We will charge companies if they wish to utilize these panels for surveys.  The companies will pay for the service, which will pay the panelists and also pay the NGOs for their panel.

3.  We will offer additional paid options such as the ability to take pictures and GEO-location capabilities.

The Winners:

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)

CEO: Steve Moses, Founder & CEO since 2009, has driven strategy projects for F100 companies and governments globally with Accenture.  He has been a Peace Corps Volunteer, a teacher in Tanzania, a Starting Bloc Fellow, and a high tech media entrepreneur. Fuqua class of 2012.

COO: Alan Scharifker has performed pricing and technology implementation for LAN Airlines in the US and Chile, and has worked with a private equity firm leading business development projects in Venezuela and the US. Fuqua class of 2012.

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.