Many African startups could be forgiven for casting envious glances in the direction of South African microjobbing platform M4JAM, which one year ago didn’t even exist but has now closed a sizeable funding round, is earning good revenues and readying itself for international expansion.
To say things have moved quickly for co-founders Andre Hugo and Warren Venter would be an understatement of epic proportions.
The way M4JAM works is relatively simple. It is a microjobbing service that allows brands, NGOs or the public sector to post a number of small tasks, which promoted by M4JAM and taken on by “jobbers” who complete them using their mobile phones. Once these micro jobs are complete, M4JAM collates and sends the finished package to the employer, with M4JAM and the jobber then getting paid.
You would be forgiven that rolling out the business has been simple as well, given the remarkable success it has achieved in less than a year. When Hugo and Venter went to pitch their idea to companies one year ago, they didn’t even have a product to show off. Yet the concept was so convincing that they signed up 100,000 jobs, provided they could build M4JAM within a specific timeframe. They did it in 115 days, and went live on August 11 last year.
Two weeks later, they ran out of jobs. Hugo explained to Disrupt Africa what he believes are the startup’s main selling points to businesses and consumers.
“For the business, the unique appeal is that you can target a specific consumer, and get real insight. And the speed we can do it is ten times quicker than the brand can do it internally,” he said.
“From a consumer perspective, all the other competitors are apps, but we are agnostic. We’re part of the general conversation. We’ve solved a problem of how to get money into a mobile wallet, and we’ve shifted the power. We are saying cash is king.”
The startup was self-funded for first four or five months, as revenues took off. M4JAM has 70,000 jobbers, with around 150,000 jobs having been posted on the platform so far.
“We went profitable very quickly, but we invested that back into the business, bringing more resources on board,” Hugo said.
Any envy felt on the part of other startups will only be increased by the fact M4JAM also found it easier than most to obtain funding. In February it was announced that Naspers and Tencent-owned WeChat Africa had invested in the startup.
“Its disruptive business model has turned ‘business as usual’ on its head from both the end consumer and the brand’s perspective, resulting in a rapid and overwhelming demand from both users and companies to be on the M4JAM platform,” said Brett Loubser, managing director of WeChat Africa.
Hugo said the investment – which will be used to scale M4JAM locally and expand it globally – had come about very quickly.
“We founded the business and then four weeks after going live we got called into Naspers’ office, and then we signed the term sheet. Three months later we had sold a minority stake,”he said.
“Naspers and Tencent have never made an investment in a startup before. Naspers specifically does not invest in startups. But I think the network effect they can see out of this business is interesting to them. I think we complement their assets and the two founders are a bit older, we have both got scars on our backs.”
The company is now in discussions with partners in India, Brazil, Peru, Spain and Australia about launching M4JAM outside of South Africa, though it says its home base is still its primary focus.
“Our current focus is South Africa, the country we are furthest in discussions with is Australia,” Hugo said.
“We looked at the demographics of the countries relative to smartphone penetration and a number of other factors. We believe that they have similar attributes to South Africa.”
There is still plenty of room for growth for M4JAM, and given its success so far there Hugo is confident enough to set bold targets. In one year’s time he wants over one million jobbers on the platform in South Africa, and to be live in at least five more countries, with around five million users in total.
“It is still growing, but if we look at that average compared to globally, it is not that bad, so we’re getting there,” he said.