If at first you don’t succeed, try, try and try again! That’s the song Peter and Wolff, creators of 2go are singing these days.
2go is a mobile social app originally geared for use in low-end phones by young students and the like. Alan Wolff, Ashley Peter and two other Computer Science students in Cape Town, South Africa invented 2go working from their Parent’s houses in 2007. The other two co-founders left the project in 2008, leaving Wolff and Peters to complete it on their own. Without any external funding, the friends trudged on despite rejections from investors’ between 2008 and 2009. They were frugal in getting the project off the ground, did all the programming themselves and hosted their server on a friend’s Internet line. “We didn’t have money at the beginning, so we had to squeeze every last bit of performance out of our hardware.” They are quoted to have said. “Since we couldn’t raise capital we had to learn how to rapidly develop the product, make the company profitable and scale the technical infrastructure ourselves.”
When they decided to expand the project to include users outside of their own University network, little did they know that the site would practically explode over the next five years, reaching over 20 million users across Africa, with registration rates of up to 50,000 new users a day. The site is growing so quickly, in fact, that the pair can afford to reject offers of investment that they were so desperate for back at the project’s initiation.
The mobile social network currently has over 10 million active users who send more than 6 billion messages a month, mostly on lower-end feature phones in Nigeria, Kenya and South Africa.
The secret to 2go’s success, said Wolff and Peter, is careful attention to user needs and a rock-solid technical foundation. They say this is especially important in African contexts where users face high data cost and scarce bandwidth.
The company has less than 10 staff at present, but they seek world class developers with expertise in Java, Blackberry and Android. On their plans for the future, Wolff and Peter admit that the users experience can be improved even further and they are starting to look towards offering extra features for smartphones. The 2go founders also urged upcoming start-ups to work hard, learn from their mistakes, not give up and remain positive – “let your passion drive you to continue when things get tough!”
They had no capital, and no resources other than their education, but there was a vision which could not be smothered. What is your excuse?