2go: Alan Wolff and Ashley Peter

2go: Alan Wolff and Ashley Peter


1. Geeks make good

Alan Wolff and Ashley Peter met at university in 2006 when they were studying computer science. Being geeky types, they built a basic mobisite on which they could put up timetables and send themselves lecture alerts.

Next they added a chat facility to their timetable tool, and soon they had a mobile social network that people could use to chat, share photos, meet new people and play games.

“We released version 1 in March 2007 and shared it with our varsity friends. By 2009, we were both working full-time on 2go,” says Wolff. “We had to register the company in my brother’s name because we were under 21.”

2. Feature phone focus

With feature phone users in mind, they kept the application lightweight and data efficient. Built on J2ME technology, the app is nimble and easy to run on more than 800 types of handsets. The infrastructure too is lean, with just 50 servers supporting a large and growing user base.

“It’s a formula that’s worked,” says Wolff. “People quickly began using 2go to meet others with common interests. We kept innovating and releasing new app versions to a loyal, core group, even building in the ability for 2go users to chat to Mxit people in an open systems set-up.”

3. Massive growth

Between 2009 and 2010, 2go continued to add chatrooms, as well as other social features. By 2012, it had gained 12,5 million Nigerian users, complementing its six million South African user base, as well as 1,5 million in Kenya. It currently signs up 50 000 new users every day, with more than six billion messages being sent every month.

4. What users want

“We looked at several emerging markets and found that Nigerians wanted free messages to get past mobile operator network costs, something the Kenyan market has also picked up on,” says Peter.

“We started by targeting the biggest universities, setting up chatrooms for them, and creating a feature that enables students to request their own.

We’ve looked after the special interest of our users. 2go understands each country’s unique needs, and we’ve set up themed chatrooms relevant to the requirements of regions, cities and users.”

Get the right people on board

It’s crucial that you attract the right people to your company. 2go looks to attract people who are creative, ambitious, hard-working, passionate and willing to learn every day – people who want to build products that impact the lives of millions of others.

To work with and attract people who have these qualities, you have to cultivate them yourself and show that you have their best interests at heart.

Monique Verduyn
Monique Verduyn is a freelance writer. She has more than 12 years’ experience in writing for the corporate, SME, IT and entertainment sectors, and has interviewed many of South Africa’s most prominent business leaders and thinkers. Find her on Google+.