FlashCast Kenya - Giving Small Businesses A Voice Via Smart Vehicles
This entry has been selected as a finalist in the
The Power of Small: Entrepreneurs Strengthening Local Economies competition.
This project also has a Changeshop where you can read more about its latest progress.
Go to Changeshop: FlashCast Kenya: Giving Voice to Small Businesses Via Smart Buses.
FlashCast operates a network of location-aware, dynamically refreshing text displays installed in public transit vehicles. We leverage this novel technology to offer micro to small-sized enterprises an affordable, geotargeted channel to capture new business. We enable NGOs, government agencies, and social enterprises to broadcast vital information to a notoriously difficult to reach demographic.
About Your Organization
Kenya, NA, Nairobi
Country where this project is creating social impact
Kenya, NA, Nairobi
Age of Innovator
Gender of Innovator
Is your organization a
How long has your organization been operating?
Less than a year
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Name Your Entry
FlashCast Kenya - Giving Small Businesses A Voice Via Smart Vehicles
Select the stage that best applies to your solution
Growth (your pilot is up and running, and starting to expand)
How long have you been in operation?
Operating for less than a year
The Need: What problem are you trying to solve?
We see the absence of effective low-cost messaging as a real inhibitor to innovation in markets like Kenya's. Small businesses have few ways to capture new customers, and achieve growth. Traditional advertising is seen as inaccessible for all but the largest brands, so those businesses that do invest in unique, quality products have no way to alert the market.
In addition to giving small businesses a much needed voice, FlashCast also brings a valuable 2-way communication platform to the mass market. We're allowing NGOs, government agencies, and social enterprises to provide vital information to a notoriously difficult to reach demographic. But instead of broadcasting information to the public with closed ears, FlashCast gives this market a chance to respond.
The Solution: What is your solution? Be specific!
FlashCast operates a network of location-enabled, dynamically refreshing, scrolling text displays installed across fleets of public transit vehicles. Through this display network, all businesses will gain access to a communication capability that only the wealthiest corporates could previously afford. Through this display network, businesses and organizations as small as street-stands and as large as banks the ability to instantly broadcast geo-targeted messages to millions of transit-passengers exactly when and where they are most relevant.
The magic of FlashCast, however, comes in its interactivity. Transit passengers earn points as they respond to quizzes, answer trivia questions, and participate in market research surveys -- all via SMS as they wait for their destination.
The Model: Walk us through a specific example of how your solution makes a difference; include your primary activities
Imagine you're on your way to work in downtown Nairobi. A dynamic promotion appears as the bus approaches a restaurant looking to win over a few new customers for breakfast. A maternity clinic notifies passengers of a new location in town, and an NGO encourages those commuting from a particularly high-risk community to get screened for HIV.
FlashCast makes leveraging this type of highly relevant, sharply targeted mass market communication trivial, and affordable. We are already beginning to build the market downwards; to prove that even the smallest businesses can afford to engage new and existing customers, and reach beyond word-of-mouth.
Furthermore, FlashCast gives NGOs and social enterprises a level of targeting that was simply not possible before. Effective messaging hinges on relevance, and FlashCast makes it possible to target communications down to the level of a single neighborhood, community, or street corner. Traditional media like radio and newspapers, aside from being orders of magnitude more expensive, can't achieve this level of precision.
The Marketplace: Who are your peers and competitors? Identify others also working to address the needs you are and what differentiates you from them. What challenges could these players pose to your success or growth?
The main players in Kenya’s display advertising space are:
* SpanImage - Operate plasma TVs running video ads in malls / food courts / markets
* Magnate - Lease physical billboards, banners, etc.
According to Reuters' Kevin Mwanza, "The arrival of global advertising agencies has raised the stakes in East Africa's $1 billion market". Indeed, a number of new entrants hope to steal a portion of this growing industry, but none are looking at the slice of the market that FlashCast is best poised to address. While FlashCast will surely benefit from a growing interest in digital advertising in Kenya, our market that most excites us is the one that isn't being served by existing channels.
This Entry is about (Issues)
What solution(s) does your initiative address to help emerging entrepreneurs and small businesses grow and thrive in underserved communities? (select all applicable)
Access to technology, Access to economic opportunity.
What has been the impact of your solution to date?
We measure FlashCast's impact with three primary metrics:
- Campaigns sold to MSME's (micro, small, and medium sized enterprises)
- Jobs created (FlashCast sales agent - measurable, new hires from increased MSME revenue, difficult to measure)
- Viewers of educational campaigns
To date, FlashCast has completed a pilot in one vehicle along Nairobi's route 111. We've hired a sales rep, launched 20 campaigns to small businesses located along our pilot route, and estimate that approximately 50,000 viewers have seen public service announcements in the areas of health and governance.
What is your projected impact over the next 1-3 years?
In year two, FlashCast plans to expand operations to wider East Africa, beginning in Uganda and Tanzania.
We predict that by year three, FlashCast will have:
- Sold 550,000 campaigns to small businesses
- Employed 500 sales agents in the East African region
- Broadcast public service announcements to 15 million passengers
What barriers might hinder the success of your project? How do you plan to overcome them?
Our most significant risk is hardware security. Though our pilot has been extremely successful (2 months of 24/7 operation without any issue), security will remain a priority. Because contracts are difficult to enforce, the key to establishing security for our installed displays is around smart partnerships. Because we share revenue with our transit partners, everyone down to the driver and conductor are highly incentivized to ensure our hardware remains safe, and any technical issues are promptly reported.
Winning entries present a strong plan for how they will achieve and track growth. Identify your six-month milestone for growing your impact
Our 6-month targets are: * 70 installed displays * 13 sales agents * Full geographic coverage of greater Nairobi
Identify three major tasks you will have to complete to reach your six-month milestone
Establish long-term partnership with two additional transit operators
Obtain financing for display import (seed or customer-based)
Develop traffic analytics tools to mine GPS data generated from displays
Now think bigger! Identify your 12-month impact milestone
* 170 installed displays * 30 sales agents * Partnership with Kenya Bureau of Roads to fully utilize traffic data
Identify three major tasks you will have to complete to reach your 12-month milestone
Establish long-term partnership with six total transit operators
Grow sales to support fleet growth
Launch public-facing traffic data viewer and avail API to developers wishing to access this data
Founding Story: We want to hear about your "Aha!" moment. Share the story of where and when the founder(s) saw this solution's potential to change the world.
Mama Rose, a chapati vendor working near my office told me that when she first opened, 5 months went by with only a few customers. Then, one day, they came. The problem was not the product--her chapatis were the best in Nairobi. Rose's stall was hidden inside an auto shop along a dirt road. It was hidden from view, so only those that had heard about her knew to come inside for lunch.Rose's business is not the only one suffering from the prohibitive costs of communicating with the wider market.
The precursor to FlashCast was a solar LED display posted above open markets and showing local prices. When we added mobility to this concept, FlashCast emerged.
We did our research. Geotargeted transit messaging has been explored on trains in Asia, and taxis in NYC. Until now, this technology hadn't been applied in emerging markets, many of which are ideal matches for the model: a robust public vehicle network, high mobile phone penetration, and an immense demand for affordable messaging.
Tell us about your partnerships
FlashCast's partnerships are vital to our success.
We've forged ongoing partnership agreements with two of Nairobi's largest transit operators: the Matatu Owner's Association (MOA) and Kenya Bus Service (KBS). Our transit partners provide display real-estate on compatible 35-50 passenger vehicles, and ensure that displays are maintained properly, and that FlashCast is notified if any technical issues occur.
FlashCast also maintains a partnership with Kenya-based health organization, Penda Health. Penda works with FlashCast to design health-related advocacy campaigns and quizzes.
Please elaborate on any needs or offers you have mentioned above and/or suggest categories of support that aren't specified within the list
As it is core to our mission, we will be excited to offer any competition finalists with free promotional campaigns on the FlashCast network, limited only by our fleet size in Kenya, and eventually wider East Africa.
We are also willing to share the transit GPS data already coming in from our pilot unit with organizations who can value it.