Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
I'm Joel Fickson Ngozo, a software engineer, innovator, and techpreneur. I'm the founder and the developer of Vwaza Multimedia, a startup company offering media streaming services for African creators targeting a global audience. Vwaza empowers African Creators by helping them have a platform through which they can distribute music and poems. Launched on June 9th, 2021, Vwaza has 220 plus listeners from Africa, the USA, Europe, and China, and over 100 artists from over 5 African countries.
Vwaza has two sections: Vwaza Creator, and Vwaza Listener. Vwaza Creator is an artist section where African Artists can upload their content. Content can be music albums, eps, and singles, and even poem collections. This content is streamed through the Vwaza Listeners App available on both Web and Mobile (Android and iOS). Listeners will start buying the music through our web platform and artists will be getting revenue from sales that are empowered by us.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
In 2020 I posted on Twitter and Facebook of an idea that would empower African creators in the music business by making sure they would earn something. I looked at how most digital distribution platforms don't really pay artists that well and let alone African Artists. This is how the idea came up. I received a lot of motivation from so many people telling me that I should develop the app. So I embarked on the journey of developing it.
I once was a rapper and I have friends who always complain about their music not selling or even getting nothing out of it. That combined with my technical expertise in programming, I began developing the web app and later on started working on the mobile app.
Since I'm close to so many friends who are into music, I sent them the beta for them to try it out and give feedback. It was great because they really loved it and that kind of helped me a lot in the whole development life cycle.
Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing Vwaza Multimedia.
After the mock-up designs were shared on social media, I took some time to start thinking of the tech stack that will be used to develop this platform. I wanted to have a web platform first for artists and then create the app to be used by Listeners. The tech stack was identified as React, MongoDB for the database, and Nodejs as a backend framework. The music uploaded is to be stored on Google Cloud Storage. So I started coding the web app(www.vwaza.com). I didn't have web designs for this, it was straight from my mind and being coded.
The initial MVP to be developed was going to have a few features which included streaming singles, albums, and checking out artists who had registered. So, it was developed. On the other side, I made sure that the artist's platform was done as well and they were able to upload music with ease.
I would say, GET STARTED. I love saying that imperfect is perfect and you really have to move fast and break things as Mark Zuckerberg says.
Shared below are some of the first screenshots of both the web and mobile app.
Describe the process of launching the business.
Vwaza was launched on June 9th. The goal was an organic launch. We had created a social media countdown. Our followers on Facebook and Twitter were counting down with us and on the day of the launch, we saw about 100 people download the app and create accounts.
As a bootstrapped business, Vwaza hasn't received any sort of funding but solely relied on personal funds raised through freelancing that I do. The biggest lesson learned throughout the whole process is that there were a lot of people who encouraged me to develop the platform but few really managed to be a part of it. User conversion and retention has been a very big issue
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
We have often seen a surge in growth or traffic every time we publish a new update or we post on our social media that we are working on something new. Even though we haven't done a lot of marketing, our organic reach has been very effective in a way. Our Google Analytics has shown us that we do better at every update we do.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
We are doing pretty well aside from onboarding creators/artists. The main challenge we do have now is integrating payment methods. Africa is diverse and it has a lot of country-specific regulations and we are trying so hard to make sure we deal with that in a way that speaks to every artist. One of our main goals is to make sure we empower our African creators through revenue generated on the platform. To do that we need to move from being a free platform and ensure that our artists can sell their content. We hope by the end of the year 2021, we will have payments done and see our artists get their share of the money.
In the next few months, we will be working with individual artists and try to diversify our operations from audio and navigate also into a video for Africa among other things.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
Personally, I have just applied what I have learned previously in other business ventures. I may have no co-founder at this point because I have learned that choosing a co-founder should be one of the most crucial decisions one must make. If you choose the wrong one then you are heading downhill and that might be the downfall of everything. I think choosing to work with independent contractors is one of the best decisions I've made so far as it prevents me from dealing with people that aren't committed to the project. I don't want people who just want to gain something and are not willing to put in the work. I would rather pay the people and have them do the best job they can do.
I believe that I am a very decisive person and that helps me when it comes to being a good leader. This is not to shower self-praise. I may take time to make a decision but when I do, I stand by it. This has helped me in so many ways.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
My favorite tools for running the business have to be:
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
My favorite Podcasts on business have to be Masters of Scale, Startup by Gimlet, and How I Built This by Guy Raz. Really these teach me a lot and I learn from different people on how their journeys panned out and the challenges they faced. It is important to know these as they help you resonate with someone and grow.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting?
I would say, GET STARTED. I love saying that imperfect is perfect and you really have to move fast and break things as Mark Zuckerberg says. You just have to get started and start learning through the whole process. You start a business on a hypothesis but you learn and grow with the development and launch of your business.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
I could use some work to elevate my business. Since I am bootstrapping the business, I could use some front-end or backend developer roles. I have built all the work you see on both Vwaza web and Mobile. I am a great software developer who can deliver an entire project alone or with the help of an outside collaborator.
Where can we go to learn more?
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
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