When brothers Val and Ayke Ezeani arrived on the tech scene three years ago with their new startup, the duo say it was far from easy. The Nigerian born brothers are the co-founders of Radiovybe – an online radio and music streaming app that allows users to listen to music and tune into radio stations from all over the world and even interact with them via the app. Radiovybe was launched in January 2014.
Bootstrapping a dream
Despite having no funding for their startup, since the launch the brothers, now South African citizens, have bootstrapped their way to over 2, 500 active users, 191 international radio stations, over 40, 000 monthly visitors, 475 musical uploads.
“All this success was achieved without any form of advertising, both online and offline,” Ayke says.
Ayke says Radiovybe has created a social movement of sorts in the radio broadcasting and music industry within a small space of time. This can seen with its wide adoption by radio stations in United States, South Africa, Malawi, Tanzania, London and Netherlands, and also by musicians in these countries who use the platform to promote their music and connect with fans.
“The world is quickly moving into the knowledge economy”
The app also allows users to access music of various genres including hip hop, latin and gospel, as well as local fare like kwaito, house.
Ayke (pictured below), who has a creative arts diploma, manages the app’s user interface and experience design. He says the idea came about whilst travelling out of the country, as he and Val, an IT and engineering professional, wanted to listen to their favourite South African radio stations even when travelling abroad.
“We also wanted to be part of the radio show we are listening to at any point in time. So we developed Radiovybe, which allows us to listen to our favourite radio stations anywhere in the world and also interact with the radio show hosts all in one place,” he says.
Although they are not making a profit from the app yet, Ayke says in future they hope to monetise through advertising and other premium services like legal sale of music.
The future of tech in Africa
The brothers say it has been extremely difficult to be tech entrepreneurs in Africa. According to Val there are two main reasons why it has been an uphill battle. “There is scarcity of funds unlike in Silicon Valley, where you can easily raise seed funding with just an idea on paper.
“Secondly, the very few African investors are not yet ready to invest in tech, they still go for traditional investments like real estate, natural resources etc. But it’s now clear that in the world of tomorrow and decades to come, those type of investments will not have much impact on the lives of Africans as the world is quickly moving into the knowledge economy,” he says.
“Take Google for example, who is dominating every sphere of our lives and will eventually become the air we breathe thanks to Silicon Valley and where they are situated.”
Although this is quickly changing with new tech innovations being created every day and the arrival of Silicon Valley incubators on the continent such as Savannah Fund and South African based tech incubators and seed investors such as Springlab who focus on sub-Saharan African innovations.
There is also a growing number of competitions and gatherings like Apps4Africa, Startup Weekend, Africa Gathering, Maker Faire, Pivot East and BarCamps helping to give visibility and credibility to these innovators, but this is not enough, says Ayke.
“The young African innovator needs business skills just as much as funding.”