Being declared the winner of the Ghanaian leg of the global Seedstars World competition – and with it earning the chance to pitch for US$500,000 investment at the final in Geneva next February – is a timely boost for church management startup Asoriba ahead of its full launch in November.
The win offers validation of what Asoriba is trying to do, while offering the startup an opportunity to gain significant funding, but from what chief executive officer (CEO) Nana Agyeman-Prempeh told Disrupt Africa it seems the company is in a strong position already as it heads towards its launch.
With backing from the MEST incubator in Accra, Asoriba has already built up a database of more than 4,000 members, booked more than US$10,000 in sales and registered more than 80 churches.
So what exactly does it do? Asoriba is a web and mobile application that enables effective church administration and seamless engagement with members via app and SMS. Formed by four Christian students at MEST in September of last year, it aims to use technology as a tool in order to increase the impact of churches.
“As Christians, we found that the church had a number of challenges it faced that could be solved with technology, and the church market was also a big one worth addressing,” said Agyeman-Prempeh.
Asoriba has identified a number of major problems within church operations, all of which its platform is designed to fix. Agyeman-Prempeh said there was inefficient monitoring of attendance and gathering of reports from church branches, as well as ineffective engagement and communication within large congregations by busy church leaders.
The startup has also identified difficulties in tracking financial contributions, with books and Excel documents still in use in many churches, and the high cost of creating, sharing and tracking events and occasions. There is a reliance on flyers and banners, which are hard to track and measure the impact.
Though there are international competitors to Asoriba, Agyeman-Prempeh said the startup’s platform stood out from the rest.
“We differentiate ourselves by providing a church with a mobile app for its members on signup, enabling seamless branch integration into the same system,” he said, adding the startup also allows the paying of tithes and offerings through the app.
An offline version is also in the works because of the poor levels of internet connectivity in most African countries.
Asoriba is self-funded thus far, running on its sales. However, Agyeman-Prempeh said it has received some offers of funding, which it is considering. Though the platform will originally go live only in Ghana, a Nigerian launch is pencilled in for soon after and the startup also has ambitions further afield.
“We have a five-year strategic plan that will make us market leaders in Africa and Latin America,” Agyeman-Prempeh said, adding Asoriba had already made a sale in the United States (US).
Revenues come from three sources – Asoriba’s Software as a Service (SaaS) pricing, service charges on in-app payments, and resales of SMS – while Agyeman-Prempeh said there are other potential revenue streams for the future.
“Another method we are considering is a global Christian news feature in the mobile app, that will have some sponsored content,” he said. The levels of support received by Asoriba so far, he said, had made its development relatively smooth.
“Currently we haven’t been faced with many challenges, especially with MEST’s support and that of the entire tech and Christian community in Ghana.”