Maurice Juma is fascinated by how technology can be used to power brands.
To launch himself on this path he co-founded Nano Digital, a picture and video short message services (SMS) provider. This was six years ago when he had just graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Mathematics and Computer Science from Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT).
Nano Digital, he says, is meant to help in changing the way brands communicate with their customers by allowing them to send picture and video messages besides just plain SMS.
“Nano Digital was a vehicle to allow me see a bigger picture and introduce me into the corporate scene,” he says.
He, however, did not last long at Nano Digital as he wanted to expand his horizon in digital branding.
“I can’t say I quit the firm because I’m still a director there,” Mr Juma told DigitalBusiness at his office in Kileleshwa, Nairobi.
In 2017, the desire to deal with big brands made him to establish a new venture.
With a Sh9 million capital, he founded MediaPal, an advertising technology firm that enables marketers use big data to reach the right audience.
He runs the firm alongside his co-founder Eric Jackson and a third partner from the advertising domain.
Starting out was not easy for Mr Juma who says he ventured into an emerging industry with a lot of grey areas. It took him two years of “hard work” with partners all over the globe to shape MediaPal into what it is today.
“When we were starting out, the most challenging question was, who have you worked with?”he asked.
MediaPal has grown into a data-driven advertising platform with global reach that innovates the way brands communicate to audiences in the digital economy.
MediaPal, he says focuses on “programmatic advertising” which is the use of data to segment audiences online.
Programmatic technology can identify what resonates with an individual and target them on the sites they are most likely to engage with and at the time they are most likely to engage. This, he says, makes advertising feel timely rather than intrusive.
“ It allows advertisers to only pay for advertisements delivered to the right people at the right time and guarantees viewership, brand safety and reach to the quality audience using premium data,” Mr Juma says.
“Programmatic digital media buying is changing marketers from a media-centric view of buying advertisements to an audience or customer-centric way.”
MediaPal is currently working with major brands in a number of countries including Ghana, Tanzanien, Kenya, Ethiopia, Zambia, Mozambique, Uganda, Mauritius, Rwanda and Cote d'ivoire.
Some of their clients are Coca-Cola, Diageo, Safaricom, Total, P&G, KCB Bank, ABSA Bank, Standard Chartered Bank, Airtel, UNHCR, Nivea, Equity Bank, Total, Telkom. Others are Britam, Nokia, Nestle, NCBA Bank, Visa, and fast food operator KFC.
The firm has employed about 20 young graduates, a contrast to when it was starting out where Mr Juma and his co-founder were the only full-time workers.
The biggest hurdle so far has been convincing businesses that digital advertising space is the new frontier. The other problem has been recent reduction of advertising budgets as a result of Covid-19.
The budget cut, he says are from his clients in the real estate sector, hospitality, aviation and education.
“When Covid 19 started, I can say that about 40 percent of our clients pulled back on advertising to see what happens next,” he says.
In the next five years, he is looking forward to see MediaPal become Africa’s best digital experience platform. To this cause, the partners invested an additional Sh15 million into the business with a keen focus of expanding into the West African market.