Today we spotlight Ebot Tabi, a startup pioneer who joins us this month. Ebot is the founder of a location-based service called Geofeed.me which allows people to connect and share information about places they visit (think Foursquare for Africa). Ebot took time from his schedule to give us his thoughts on startups, mobile app development and what it means to be an African tech entrepreneur.
Tell us a little about yourself.
I am called Ebot Tabi, a Cameroonian Software Developer, based in Buea. I got introduced to the world of computers at the age of 13 by a friend. A few months later he introduced me to QuickBASIC programming. I started using it to learn how to write basic apps on Windows using his computer, since I did not have one. My attraction to programming grew more as time went on. When I got to high school I could code on VisualBasic 6 and C. Later I learned Java with the help of Ebot Ndip then got into web application development. Alongside being a hacker, I love listening to music, football, the outdoors and reading technology and entrepreneurship articles.
What led you to develop Geofeed.me?
Geofeed was developed after seeing the need for a service that provides reliable information about business places as well as localities across Africa. After carrying out market research and talking with a couple of guys who normally visit Africa either as tourists or for business, what I noticed was most of them find it hard to get basic information about places. This happens to be very essential for any country looking to boost its tourist sector as well as the economy.
What technology did you use to develop it?
It is rather not easy developing and deploying a web technology into production in Africa. I had some difficulties deciding on which technology to use for Geofeed, because I had in mind to keep cost low and provide a robust service that will solve the problems across some Africa countries. Ruby on Rails and Scala/Lift Web were some options. After testing these and looking into costs to deploy into production, I finally decided that Geofeed was going to be developed partly on PHP and partly on Python.
What makes Geofeed different from services like Foursquare, Brightkite, Loopt or Facebook Places?
What makes Geofeed different from these and other location-based services is that most of them are developed without the African audience in mind. We in Africa tend to try these services and find out that most of them limit their services to Europe or Western countries. Geofeed comes in to close the gap left by these services. We believe this technology can be developed in Africa and we are working on that.
Does Geofeed have a business model?
Yes, Geofeed has as one of its business models to provide marketers and other business holders a mobile advertising platform that meets up with the African public.
Do you see location-based mobile apps taking off in Cameroon?
With the coming of 4G Africa AG to deploy a mobile WiMax network in Cameroon, I can say yes, I see location-based mobile apps taking off in Cameroon and other African countries as well. Alvarion, as a provider of 4G networks in the Broadband Wireless Access (BWA) market, will be very good for startups like us to build mobile apps around this network access.
What are the challenges & opportunities of being an African tech entrepreneur?
Some of the challenges I faced on daily basis are the availability of reliable internet access at an affordable price and a poor electrical grid system. Some African tech entrepreneurs don’t have the spirit of coming up together and discussing technology solutions that can create a great startup. I believe by so doing great ideas can come up. As for the opportunities, there has been a lot of growth in the mobile sector across Africa (500 million mobile users) and users getting more and more into mobile and web services. Also Africa is one of the fastest growing markets in the world. With the coming of Broadband Wireless Access (BWA), I see this as an opening for African tech entrepreneurs to build solid solutions for African problems.
Any other thoughts / comments?
I think we Africans have the potential to build services that can provide world-class quality. But for us to achieve such a point, we first have got to work together, both as tech entrepreneurs and as well with the public, because they are our target audience. Also we should promote an entrepreneurial spirit and culture around our localities.
Location: Buea, Cameroon
Geofeed.me is a Location Based Service and Social Network looking to perk up your social life and connect with friends while on the go, see where they are and communicate with them. Share and discover events, favorite places and special money saving locations around you.
Geofeed.me makes it easier to share & discover places with point of interest nearby you and many more. It is a personalised recommendation service for the physical world.
As users interact with Geofeed.me on their mobile phone or the website, to share and discover recommendations, Geofeed.me learns about the user, personalising those recommendations. One user might see a good rating for a bar, another user a bad rating for the same bar, depending on the taste of that user. This all happens automatically.