Tell us a few words about the founders and how the idea came
Innovate More (U) was founded by Evelyn Namara in 2015. As a computer scientist, technology was always her passion. She was always fascinated by what technology could do to change situations. As she grew older, she became more aware of so many issues and problems faced in the society of which technology would play a major role in solving. She got more interested in Technology for Development. For her, technology is meaningless if it is not used to solve real problems or make lives better. That’s where her passion and interest in solving social problems came from. We started the Innovate journey with that backdrop, seeing that 80% of our entire population depends on agriculture, we wanted to create better solutions to address the challenges in the distribution of subsidy sector.
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Your products and services
Innovate builds technological innovations for national and sustainable development. We are more biased in the agricultural sector where we are building solutions that help especially the end-users.
Innovate’s flagship product, the M-Voucher (Mobile Voucher) system is used across programs to ease the subside distribution pain most development agencies, as well as humanitarian agencies, face while implementing life-changing programs in hard to reach areas. Because of lack of better subside distribution channels, most development agencies use paper-based vouchers or cash to hand out subsidies to program beneficiaries. These methods have a lot of setbacks such as beneficiaries using the money for other businesses than the intended cause.
The M-Voucher system is a software-as-a-service that consists of a USSD (Unstructured Supplementary Service Data) system used by farmers and agro-dealers to redeem seed crops as well as post-harvest equipment; a management information system that tracks real-time data collected from beneficiaries as well as a payments system integration that allows agro-dealers and beneficiaries to receive instant payments for products redeemed. By using M-Voucher, organizations get the benefit of receiving real-time data from the field regarding their programs.
Your success factors
It’s been 2 years since inception and from that time till now, we managed to study the sector, find a customer (Mercy Corps) and develop a product for them which we piloted with one program and later expanded it to 4 programs within the same organization. We now have 3 signed up customers: Goal Uganda, Mercy Corps Uganda and Palladium group who will be working in refugee camps in Northern Uganda.
In terms of our traction – we have more than four billion mobile money transactions as payouts to beneficiaries in a period of 1 and a half years. We have reached more than 75,000 beneficiaries. Choose the development stage that best indicates your company’s current state: Roll out
Your business model
From the beginning, we used a LEAN approach. We worked with one customer to test, pilot and scale our product. Mercy Corps Uganda was our first customer. We worked with them to understand their needs and build the first voucher system for handing seed inputs. With the pilot coming off as a success we scaled to 2 programs: both USAID funded programs still under Mercy Corps Uganda. We implemented our second voucher activity which was different from the first.
The second voucher activity was the post-harvest and handling activity where beneficiaries received subsidies for buying PHH items. Our third voucher activity now scaled outside Mercy Corps to include another customer Goal. We built a multi-program voucher activity for both Mercy Corps and GOAL.We then recently started a seed voucher project for refugees with another client Palladium group with Mercy Corps. To date, we are working on scaling to adding more customers.
Because of our approach, we do reach our customers through organic referrals. Mercy Corps works with many other development agencies and writes reports about their interventions. Through these reports, more organizations contact us to set up similar systems. We’ve also held webinars with our customers to talk about the successes and challenges of deploying a voucher system, this also gives us a wider base in terms of reaching new customers.
We charge for setting up the technology for new customers. So the organisation seeking to use our platform have to pay for the technology (We look at costs related to server space, software developers, customer care etc). They also pay a commission to us for every transaction that goes through our system.
A few words about your competitors:
Right now there few solutions that focus on providing a better solution for handling subsidies in Uganda. We are the first organization that has a functional electronic voucher system working with development agencies. There off the shelf electronic voucher systems that have been used in different countries but these are often rigid and less customizable. Our approach is that we work with our customers to understand their unique voucher system needs and work with their end users to develop a system that works from the bottom up.