[Startup Interview] Julius Masaba, Co-Founder, Ablestate, Uganda
Ablestate, a Ugandan startup works with businesses to point them to the right software developers while offering digital training to institutions of higher learning. In the process the startup is addresings youth unemployment in the East African nation. Julius Masaba, one of the co-founders explain.
Introduce your company
Ablestate also called Ablestate Creatives is a Uganda-based startup that offers individuals and businesses software development and digital up skilling opportunities and get its qualified software developers connected to employers locally and globally.
Who are the founders and what are their professional backgrounds?
The startup was founded by David Wampamba, Cosma Kato and Julius Masaba.
David is a software developer and entrepreneur with over 8 years’ experience. He is the CTO and Lead Instructor. Henry is computer enthusiast and an evangelist.
He leads the marketing team and some bit of back-end support. Julius is into solo business consulting and investment advisory for over 6 years. He is the Business Development Lead.
How is your Ablestate financed?
Primarily from the founders’ savings but we have also been bootstrapping from the little revenues to a tune of $100 since inception.
Why did you start your Ablestate? What opportunities did you see?
We started our company after running an organization for the youth called Inspire You, where we were offering basic computer skills trainings to high school students. We could approach school management and present the benefits of the project. However, we realized there were bigger gaps in the university and other tertiary sectors in Uganda and the technology/IT labour industry was also struggling with unavailable and incompetent employees. We saw a big opportunity.
A total available national market of about more than 17 million people (200,000+ students and 16.8 million workforce ), a total serviceable market of about 5 million people (56,000+ STEM students and 5 million urban workforce) and a market share of about 388,000 people.
What problem or problems does your startup solve?
Few skilled graduate youth in Uganda
"We have very scanty data on skills development. At least 27 per cent of students in institutions of higher learning are in science and technology training against the recommended 40 per cent. 20 per cent of workers in companies are underutilised." – Hamis Mugendawala (NPA).
Unemployment in Uganda
"Uganda's unemployed graduates held back by skills gap. Only 15 per cent – 20 per cent get jobs" – The Guardian.
Employers in Uganda find challenges in hiring technology staff
"Company managers typically said: 'Yes, we employ graduates, but they need a lot of (practical) training.
"But a lot of people fight against it (practical training) and want to have the old, well-known system based on listening and writing and not much doing. People are changing, but slowly." – Joseph Kikomeko Directorate of Industrial Training-Uganda, Skilling & Training Advocate.
What gives Ablestate the competitive edge?
We pride in engineering and re-engineering software development individuals and teams for businesses, through our platform.
Who are your customers?
Students (university mostly) - 200,000, employed and out of employment persons that make up 16.8 million workforce and local and global businesses.
Our market share is a target of 388,000 customers.
What does your startup need in order to grow?
Financing our marketing budget and undertaking a digital service offering strategy
What is your growth strategy?
Our growth strategy is anchored on intensive marketing and approaching businesses to re-engineer their technology teams, physical trainings and building the platform with a call to action for prospective employers and prospective trainee software developers
Where else would you want to expand to?
We are looking at expanding into Kenya, Tanzania, South Sudan, Ethiopia, Somalia and outside Africa.
What are your plans for the coming 12 months?
We want to concentrate on heavy digital marketing work, onboarding new trainee software developer prospects and interacting with businesses to do technology needs assessment for their teams.
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