A few events have been held in the Nigerian tech space to promote innovation and ideas around mobile and web technology business. There has also been concern about the success of the folks that participated and the ideas that were launched.
People have been concerned about the merging of teams who may not really be cool together to work on an idea. This may have been responsible for some of the failures. Francis, Ope and Earnest are three friends that have been together for a while and they have often interacted on different level. I met Namzo during Garage 48 when it was held in May 2011. That was the same time that I met Francis. The third person in the team, Ope, wasn’t at Garage 48.
The three of them came together to work on an Idea during Startup Weekend Lagos, another hackathon that was held in Lagos. Unlike the many other ideas that have disappeared after they were launched at hackathons, they have built something that they kept working on and improving. Their hard works show and they were able to present the project, Prowork, during Mobile Web West Africa 2012.
I recently met with Francis, one of the members of the group and he gave me an insight into what Prowork is all about. I will be sharing below some excerpts from my discussion with him.
What is ProWork?
Prowork is a project management app that makes team collaboration on projects easy.
This a space where we have very big players already, we have the likes of Microsoft’s Sharepoint, Asana and other well know collaboration tools. How do you guys hope to compete in this space? What differentiates you?
Our first focus with Prowork has been to make it unique to meet the local market at its point of need. This has been made possible by tapping into first hand local knowledge of the complexities of doing business in a developing nation like Nigeria. With this knowledge, we have been able to design a solution that works for this clime.
Prowork is easier to use, has low entry requirements, zero migration costs and our cloud centric approach and availability on the most popular mobile platforms in this market makes us five times more appealing than our competitors. Prowork is available on Mobile (Blackberry, and Java supporting phones) which makes up 90% of mobile phones in this market. We also have SMS integration along with our service offering.
That is brilliant. Tell me more about the SMS integration
The SMS brings in more efficiency into team collaboration, especially due to non-availability of reliable internet service in Africa. With the SMS integration, Project members can receive task assignments, task updates and notifications via SMS. In a short while, they will also be able to send task updates via SMS. The SMS also features as private messaging between the team members.
How do you sell? Do you sell to individuals or you sell to businesses or you sell to both?
Prowork works across the board, for individuals, SGBs [Small and growing businesses], and Enterprise. We have been growing daily in user base and we have a number of paying SGBs using our platform to manage their multiple projects.
Are these users of yours new to using collaboration and project management tools?
One interesting thing we discovered was that due to the high cost of entry of enterprise project management products like MS Project and Sharepoint these SGBs and even some enterprises ended up improvising their Project management and at the end of the day this does not work excellently for them. What they find even more amazing about Prowork is what the new leverage Project management on mobile adds to their business.
How about concerns about the reliability of your service? Where are you hosting your contents and work?
We use Rackspace cloud servers and Rackspace cloud files for our CDN (content distribution network). Our main architecture is APACHE/PHP/MySQL/MongoDB. We appreciate also the need for speed in an application like this. So, we have APC (PHP’s op cache ) and Varnish cache.
How is the project funded?
Bootstrapped. But we are considering seed and startup funding. For now, we are bent on increasing our customer base, while work is on going with the Android app. We are going to work on an iOS version of the app in the future too.
That has been great. If you want to give the service a spin, you can do that for FREE right away. Although they have limit for the free customers. Upgrading to a paid customer will offer more benefits and functions at an affordable price. I have been trying out Prowork and I think it is an excellent product even as it is still at Beta. The team behind it surely know how to design a unique experience.
How far will they go at sustaining it? This is what I will be looking forward to. Enterprise is huge and lots of money is being made there. Could this be a move to a gold mine for the trio: Francis Onwumere, Opeyemi Obembe and Ernest Ojeh?