Entrepreneurship In Emerging Markets: Engaging Conversations At Scale

With thousands of consumers coming online every day, continental Africa is fertile ground for not only consumer goods, but targeted consumer product marketing. As consumer potential rises exponentially, data collection around the growing demographics are a key component to succeeding on the continent as a whole, but more specifically country by country, city by city, town by town. A mobile user in Cape Town may not have the same needs or habits as one in Dakar. Purchasing power, product availability and distribution are factors businesses must consider. And importantly, the so-called “digital wallet.”

mSurvey Founder and CEO Kenfield Griffith.

MIT scientist and entrepreneur Kenfield Griffith is the Founder and CEO of mSurvey, a modern and mobile-ready platform that helps businesses tap into consumer insights and habits. Griffith discovered that more and more, business of all sizes are having difficulty “quantifying consumer spending habits.” Various factors contribute to this, but Griffith notes that it is not a city or country-specific problem. “Africa as a whole is experiencing a shift. mSurvey sees this and is bridging the digital gap to aid with transactions both large and small,” he told Emerging Market Views in an interview earlier this year.

mSurvey has closed on angel funding and an initial seed round. Having partnered with Safaricom, the leading mobile provider in Kenya, the two are now beta testing a “Consumer Wallet” tool with clients to collect on-demand consumer data across the continent. “Africa is a cash-based economy,” explains Griffith. “mSurvey is working to capture these transactions and more to offer real-time insights to better aid those doing business on the continent.”

He spoke exclusively to Emerging Market Views about his company and what led him to continental Africa.

What is mSurvey?

Kenfield Griffith: mSurvey is an innovative Nairobi-based startup that is disrupting the global research market and bringing high quality, on-demand consumer data from hard-to-reach communities out of the shadows. mSurvey’s simple yet sophisticated research platform leverages SMS and mobile messaging technologies to power direct, one-to-one conversations at scale – on any topic, at any time and with any local audience. It’s dynamic, interactive and unfiltered communication. And as you can imagine, these channels deliver incredible insights from real people – from the largest cities to the smallest villages –  all in real time.

So by providing unprecedented access to what is essentially high-integrity data from the emerging world at anyone’s fingertips, mSurvey is informing better decisions. We are also fueling growth, change and transformation. We see it as limitless–from helping a company better understand coffee drinkers to enabling HIV/AIDS prevention research, mSurvey today is revolutionizing how businesses, entrepreneurs, governments, foundations, non-profits, health and academic researchers and individuals do business, relate to their customers, identify societal needs and opportunities and measure the impact of their investments.

Why Kenya? What prompted you to set up on the continent?

As a PhD student at MIT, I was researching how computer-aided design (CAD) and manufacturing could streamline automation and development. I was also very interested in taking this somewhere that it could be scaled with minimal risk and Kenya is a ripe market for what we are doing and the type of innovation we are delivering. After hitting a number of roadblocks, I realized the problem wasn’t the technology, but instead a basic lack of contextual data.

Is there potential for mSurvey to expand on the continent, or at least regionally within east Africa?

We have in place what we believe is a visionary team of home grown talent and fellow MIT alums. Collectively, we are a team with with decades of combined experience in research, mobile telecommunications and technology, mSurvey continues to now on the continent, moving more and more into Kenya and South Africa. We are also currently powering conversations in Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, including the Philippines, Jamaica and Haiti, with plans for continued rollout across the globe.

What’s next for mSurvey?

In 2016, mSurvey closed its seed funding round led by investments from Safaricom, Silicon Valley’s Cross Culture Ventures and the Caribbean’s Alpha Angels (backed by the Virgin Group’s Branson Centre of Entrepreneurship). This funding came alongside angel investors from Salesforce, the Abraaj Group and others. Today we are looking at potential partnership opportunities throughout the continent and other emerging markets such as Latin America and Asia.

“mSurvey is focused on creating new markets and opportunities using data as a door opener to economic growth, entrepreneurship and development.”

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