Building a Beta

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 it all began with building a beta version. Here’s how Muhire did that:

You have to get as soon as possible to a version of whatever you’re doing. Then if you see nobody’s really paying attention to that you can say “okay maybe I shouldn’t quit my job. Or I should go back to Canada, or whatever.” You have time to pivot again.

I had a clear vision of what I wanted, but it took me three years. I said "you know what, the beta version is just to prove that someone from Canada can pay an essential service like electricity in Rwanda. And it has to take less than 1 minute, from the moment the person starts paying to the moment it gets in Rwanda.”

If you have people paying, using your services, someone who in a way has no connection with you is paying and using your services. That’s the sign you’re onto something. You don’t need to have 10,000 people. Of course your friends, your brother, your sister will use it. But someone randomly, you start looking at the IP, where it comes from, and all of the sudden it’s from South Korea and you’re like “What?” Then this person comes back, comes back, comes back again. I was like “hey, I’m onto something.”

The first 9 months was just chaotic, nothing worked, it was 50% working. And however, every time it wasn’t working I would take, because we monitor our transactions, it doesn’t matter it could be the morning it could be AM in the evening, I would wake up because I had programmed my phone to always notify me whenever there’s a transaction. I was honest, I had these pre-written emails that I would send to them to apologize, like "I’m sorry, this is not working, we have reimbursed your money, please try us again tomorrow.”

So I think you have to be honest with people, discuss all the time with your partners, you be very close to your business. I told yesterday to them that you have to love your business if not more, but at least at the same level as your family. If you have a girlfriend, love your business as if it was your second girlfriend. But don’t tell your girlfriend, because she will leave you.