Louis-Antoine Muhire, is a Rwandan who made a new life in Canada as a Police Intelligence Officer. However, in spite of his success there, he decided to return to Rwanda to build a better remittance system, inspired by his own frustration sending money back home.
After three years of work, his company, Mergims, has now raised 4 rounds of funding and is valued at 5 million US dollars. But his business requires integrating with telecoms, electricity companies, and schools. Here’s how he chose those partners and developed the relationships:
We said, let’s take three essential services that we have identified in my numbers as where the money from the African migrants was going to when it arrives in Africa. So they pay electricity fees, they pay medicine, you know, things that you pay every day. So we took airtime, which is the telecommunication bill, we took electricity, and then we added schools. So those are the three different areas with three different technologies that we wanted to see if we can integrate on our beta version and have them work.
We focused on that on our beta version. Then, when we launched it, we started with one telecom company, MTN, then for the electricity, there’s one public company in Rwanda, then for the school we started with one school. Not ten, not twenty, just one school. People said “well nobody will pay for that”. But at least you see it working, we’re lucky to have people who go to that school pay and it’s working.
Meanwhile we have some few money we run on and we have to have a great relationship with some service providers and partners to which you can ask for a line of credit, can you advance me your laptops because I have a commitment and if people cannot pay…
So we launched out beta version and we connected our partners, electricity, telecoms, we tested, it works, but we didn’t know it couldn’t take two transactions a minute. It could just take one. Because you know when you’re coding you give what’s called timing out frame time. That means the time when the window of request is open, when, for example, request is this service available, when someone is buying a service, the system requests from the partner: do you have this service available to their service.
So we had quoted that can take one minute window open. So then we got two transactions at the same time, in the same minute, it crashed. We’re like “what’s going on again?” Then after that we realized that and then after that we realized our partners, sometimes they have a slow connection on their servers. We’re like, okay can you fix that?
You have to go and discuss with them like "listen guys, you have a 3G internet connection that’s really not reliable, so whenever you’re sending a request it’s crashing because ours is 4G and you’re expecting at least the same speed. And once it’s crash, it crashes the whole system.
Ultimately, Muhire built relationships that allowed him to collaborate to overcome such technical problems as well as negotiate flexible financing terms. These relationships are key for his business’ success.