Launched in February of this year by four bootstrapped brothers, Ghana’s Aquantuo is a peer-to-peer (P2P) platform that helps people get an item from one country to another using spare space in the bag of an individual travelling.
The transatlantic team – Samuel Otchere and Daniel Owusu-Donkor are based in Ghana, while Caleb Owusu-Donkor and Clement Owusu-Donkor are in the United States (US) – is aiming to help Ghanaians shop internationally by providing the means for items to be shipped to them.
Using Aquantuo, a user wanting to send an item from one country can post the item on the platform, including the present location and the intended destination. Once payment is made, the post becomes available to all registered transporters.
These transporters are Aquantuo users that have opted to carry items as they travel from one country to another, or even a business shipping large items between countries. Items posted on Aquantuo can range from small items like a cellphone to larger ones like cars.
“For users who would like to buy items from the US and other international stores and have them delivered, but are unable to do so because the retailer won’t ship to their addresses, Aquantuo steps in to facilitate this,” Clement Owusu-Donkor told Disrupt Africa.
“We either buy the item for them or they buy it themselves and ship it to their uniquely assigned Aquantuo address in the country the retailer will ship to. Aquantuo then ensures that the items they ordered are delivered to the final destination of the requester.”
The startup was born out of the brothers’ frustrations when it came to sending things to family and friends in Ghana, and vice versa.
“This is not an issue unique to us, but quite common with many others who are always looking for someone who is travelling to or from Ghana to request them to carry a package for them,” Clement said.
“We also saw that many of our friends outside of the US were shopping on sites like Amazon and eBay, but couldn’t get these items sent to them because these retailers won’t ship to Africa.”
Aquantuo was built to solve these issues, and went live with an Android app and website in February, with an iOS app following shortly after. It is an increasingly busy space, but companies operating in the same area including Grabr, Airmule and Shypmate.
Yet the team, which has funded the startup themselves through savings and liquidated investments, say they are confident there is room for a number of players. As with any disruptive technology, however, it takes time to convince people it is safe and worthwhile.
“While it has been welcomed and lauded by many as a great idea, it has also been met with a lot questions around how the platform and P2P interactions work,” Clement said.
“For the efforts that have been put into publicity and the responses received, I will say the rate of diffusion has been modest. There is certainly room for improvement and over the coming months we are working on expanding our reach through the use of several media platforms.”
Aquantuo currently operates throughout Ghana and the United States, but Clement said its apps and website are preconfigured to support a rollout to other nations without a lot of coding.
“We plan on expanding to Canada and Europe, while simultaneously opening it up to other African countries within the next year,” he said. “We especially have a few African countries in mind and are currently reviewing the logistics in these areas before we turn on the switch.”
For every item posted by a requester and accepted by a transporter, Aquantuo charges a commission of less than one-third. Though the company is making revenues, Clement said the team is reinvesting the cash to build out the platform. For now, the main challenge is in convincing people to use the product for the first time, as they believe it is then sticky enough to keep customers coming back.
“Anything new and disruptive as this is spells change. A change that some will naturally question, to include questions around safety and reliability,” he said.
“With the diverse background of the team – engineering, finance, education and IT – these concerns have been factored into the platform’s build to ensure that Aquantuo’s platform has the feel, setup and security that accompanies business that have been around the block.”