Wowzi: Where the Future of Marketing meets the Future of Work
Wowzi: Where the Future of Marketing meets the Future of Work
Meet Rita, a student at Mount Kenya University Nakuru, studying Biology. We created Wowzi for her. She’s been earning additional income with Wowzi for a few months now, and she’s quickly become one of our favorite creators. Rita is what we call a “nano influencer,” an everyday person with anywhere from 250-5,000 followers on social media. She never used to think of herself as an “influencer,” and before Wowzi, it would have been impossible for her to access work directly with the products she loves (and already talks about online). The content she creates really resonates with other young women like her, and her ability to create great content on the go is getting noticed by more and more brands we work with at Wowzi. So far she's worked with Safaricom, Britam, Baileys, Ariel, Blue Band, and more. Rita now receives special jobs through Wowzi to help verify new users on the app as one of our most trusted creators. This extra income goes a long way in helping pay her school fees. With many more Wowzi jobs to come, she’s building her future on her terms while honing her craft and audience as a media entrepreneur.
When we got together to create Wowzi, we were looking at global trends and local opportunities. There will be an estimated 475million mobile internet users in Africa by 2025, with a young population where the median age is 20. Also by 2025, smartphones will account for 65% of the phones in service. And it’s already clear that the world now goes online to make purchasing decisions with over 55% of women and 51% of men worldwide going to social media to inform purchase decisioning as of January 2021. GenZ Africans creators are eager to share and actively look for work opportunities and side-hustles through their phones. We’re not expecting these youth to all find full time jobs and commute as the nature of work changes.
Big problems to solve
We can’t ignore the overwhelming truth that young people lack opportunities in our country and we understand that they are worried about the future. Here in Kenya, where 70% of our national economy is in the informal sector, GenZ African youth have little hope of accessing formal employment for a generation. Training programs only take us so far, but the system needs to shift to make a difference.
Design for the masses
We spotted an opportunity to design for the masses, those otherwise overlooked by traditional employers. Our thinking is that new media is part of the answer, and the key is in empowering a new class of creators. We are witnesses to the incredible creativity of people around us, and our mission became to connect capacity to opportunity, or as we say more commonly: connect influencers to brands. This is in stark contrast to creator platforms we’ve looked at where only a handful of celebrity creators and personalities at the top take home the lionshare of earnings. We wanted to create gigs that pay a few dollars at a time so that nano influencers can stack one on top of another--and provide the building blocks for sustainable livelihoods. And instead of taking a large chunk of the profits, we committed ourselves to returning as much value as possible to creators in the community we’re building. We wanted it to be flexible too: so that a fisherman or tour guide or taxi driver could supplement their income in their down time.
Watch: Why we started Wowzi
A Very Kenyan MVP
So we ran a few experiments and then went to go build the best technology in the world to support this vision. We ran a quick and dirty MVP with MPESA and manually signed people up on the streets with WhatsApp. We started in CBD in Nairobi at Beirut Restaurant. Sales were sluggish in the morning and we wanted to see if we could increase sales by getting people close by to share photos of a breakfast from Beirut. We asked people on the streets passing by: Would you share a photo of this breakfast for 500 bob? People said yes, they did it, we sent the MPESA right away… and sales really did increase for breakfast at Beirut! The owners thought it was incredible value for money.
Building scalable tech
After hosting what felt like countless focus groups thereafter gathering market intelligence, we spent no less than 5 months combing the globe to find the right tech talent to build with us. Eventually our search took us to Estonia, where we first met the MobiLab team, who were eager to help and believed in our vision. Looking back, we must have looked like fish out of water, but we’re so glad we went and it was the right call for our product and business.
Launching as a COVID baby
18 months in, we were ready to launch Wowzi in late March 2020. We don’t even have to tell you how that plan went! But that didn’t deter us and we went live 2 days into Kenya’s total, severe lockdown. As young people, particularly service workers were put out of work, we saw a huge spike in signups as people turned online. At the same time, brands were scrambling to adapt. Our 2020 COVID year was used to refine our tech and focus group more people, so we were able to build in real time to meet the needs of both jobseeking creators and a diverse range of brands from FMCGs to Telcos to banks in every industry imaginable.
Fast forward a year
Since then, we’re thrilled to share that we have created over 150,000 jobs for GenZ African youth, and we’re just getting started. We can show how jobs are distributed to everyday people, and not just a handful of celebrity personalities at the top. Only good tech and an algorithm can do that.
Over the past year, here are some of our biggest learnings and areas of focus for Wowzi as we scale our efforts:
- Selling is inherently social, and new technology is creating opportunities for new types of jobs online that support business in African markets
- The future of marketing means leveraging trust through distributed, niche communities, online and offline. Wowzi efficiently organizes social capital in unique communities to reach customers and generate better sales leads
- African creators can now access market opportunities and generate meaningful income through Wowzi, which adds fuel to the fire of Africa’s gig economy.
- Distributing jobs to thousands of everyday messengers is the future of marketing, because it uncovers unlikely storytellers and creative voices that tap into the zeitgeist of culture. Their messages resonate powerfully and move people.
We’ll be writing much more about these topics soon! Stay tuned for new blog content!
A special note of thanks
As we formally launch the brand today, we wanted to give a special shout out to some of our biggest supporters who’ve gotten us to this point. In no particular order, we want to express our gratitude to the following early adopters:
- Good Life Pharmacy
- UMMA Insurance
- Nation Media Group
- Penda Health
Here’s to an amazing journey ahead!
With immense gratitude,
Dr. Hassan Bashir