Motribe is a mobile Internet company that facilitates the creation of ‘tribes’ or mobile social networks. It’s social media optimised for over 4 000 mobile devices, including smart phones, and while social media is far from new, founders Nic Haralambous and Vincent Maher say they have developed a product that fills a gaping hole in the market — both locally and internationally. Having started with a product that targets emerging markets, they are developing solutions for large corporates as well.
But, unlike other more famous social network entrepreneurs, Vincent and Nic did not leave university and launch a start-up. “There is only one Mark Zuckerberg,” they say, adding that while IT start-ups are relatively easy to launch, creating a sustainable and profitable business is another story altogether.
“For a start-up to be successful you need the right idea, a business plan and most importantly, you need domain experience. You need to know your market,” they insist.
Having studied philosophy and media, the partners met at Rhodes University. They spent five years working together off and on, eventually working together on Vodacom’s social network, The Grid, all the while paying attention to what was happening in the marketplace. They did not make their move until they were ready, and even then, their aim was to find funding, not risk everything on a start-up.
“We could have bootstrapped the business, our model allowed for it,” explains Nic. Their domain experience stood them in good stead though, and became the determining factor for VC firm 4Di Capital, which supplied them with enough seed capital to develop their platform and get their business off the ground. Before they even launched they had their first client, and the company has generated revenue from day one.
“Don’t rush into anything,” the partners advise. “If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well. Get the experience you need, pay attention to the market, and find your gap. You’ll need that experience to follow through on your ideas.”