Technology

Techpreneur carves out niche in SMS services

Sam-Mutuura

Sam Mutuura-Co-founder and director at Cross Gate Solutions Limited. PHOTO | POOL

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Summary

  • Sam Mutuura set up a technology firm, Cross Gate Solutions (CGS) in 2013 to fill a gap he says he identified while working in the communications arena.
  • Armed with Sh5 million from his savings and family contributions, Mr Mutuura established the firm that designs, develops and interfaces SMS-based services.
  • Some of the local clients include Kingdom Bank formerly Jamii Bora Bank, and Metropol Credit Reference Bureau and Karen Hospital.

Sam Mutuura set up a technology firm, Cross Gate Solutions (CGS) in 2013 to fill a gap he says he identified while working in the communications arena.

Armed with Sh5 million from his savings and family contributions, Mr Mutuura established the firm that designs, develops and interfaces SMS-based services, Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) applications, as well as smart apps and platforms around Software as a Service (Saas).

As it turned out, his move was a smart one. Seven years down the road, CGS has grown to offer bulk SMS services as well as mobile banking support to a roster of reputable clients. The firm utilises premium-based short codes to allow micro transactions to happen without the need for actual cash.

In a month, the firm can trade up to 50 million SMS and they have about 4 million customers transacting across their platforms.

Despite having already made key strides, CGS is busy designing new products. Currently, it is in the process of completing a USSD plus app which it says has a unique innovative edge. The app, called Tulia, will allow its users not to disclose their names and mobile numbers when sending, buying goods and withdrawing money via their mobile money wallets, therefore making payments without compromising privacy and sensitive data.

“The obligation to pay for a service should not be tied with an obligation to reveal private information, where only the transaction ID should suffice. This is the gap that Tulia was created to fill, and we’ve started with USSD registrations on the number *421*2#,” he says.

Some of the local clients include Kingdom Bank formerly Jamii Bora Bank, and Metropol Credit Reference Bureau and Karen Hospital. Others are the Kenya National Chamber of Commerce and Industry as well as Kenyan Alliance Insurance.

The firm now provides employment to about 21 young graduates. This is a big statement on the growth of the firm whose full time employees were only Mr Mutuura and his co-founder when they started.

Mr Mutuura runs the company alongside co-founder George Njuguna and co-director Kiunga Mwenda.

CGS is also currently working with other telecoms in the region such as Vodacom in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where they have invested over Sh30 million.

The techpreneur started his career about 10 years ago as an employee at Rapid Communications, a telecommunication service provider. He had also worked at Nairobi-headquartered Telecommunications Company, Quicktel for about six years. This is after graduation with a bachelor’s degree in Information Communication and Technology from Strathmore University.

However, while under employment he witnessed a gap in the market that he desired to plug.

“I had to indulge the urge to set out on my own, form a team that complements my natural ability to curate ideas, then turn them into real world solutions. I simply craved to do more and better,” says Mr Mutuura during an interview with Digital Business in Nairobi.

“It is for this reason that we decided to branch out into our own company to fulfil the need that was existing in the market at that time,” he says.

Although they have managed to break into the market successfully, it has not been a smooth sailing all the way.

Mr Mutuura says that he ventured into an industry that was dominated by a few players mainly due to barriers to entry. The field mainly needs high level of investment.

The regulatory regime at that time was also tough, he notes, adding that if you applied for a trading licence, you had to wait for an entire year before it was processed.

For him, like everyone else, Covid-19 outbreak hit hard a number of his clients and it means they were not able to fulfil their contractual terms.

In the next five years, Mr Mutuura aims to work on platforms that target digitisation barriers in the value chain, areas like mobile value added services for agritech, lack of credit, mobile consumer education and lack of trust models within the digital space.