Cloud accounting software will play an essential role in driving small to medium-size enterprise (SME) growth on the continent over the next decade as these accounting solutions have the potential to improve operational efficiency, create a bridge to lending, enable innovation, and more.
The Tanzanian startup Bizzyn is on a mission to be the #1 cloud accounting & business management software. Founded in 2019, Bizzyn is a full-featured business and financial management suite, complete with tools for accounting, inventory, payroll, tax filing, invoicing, and so much more.
I spoke with Caroline Mwasigala, the co-founder and CTO of Bizzyn about her tech journey, how Bizzyn is transforming the business of its 2,000+ SMEs, and what it takes to build successful software solutions for Africa.
Journey into tech
My tech journey started in 2013, during my senior year of high school. I'm incredibly evasive when it comes to performing activities that don't require critical thinking. So when possible, I try to automate repetitive tasks.
After high school, I enrolled in a Bachelor of Computer Science program, which I completed in three years in 2017. Needing to develop my software developer mindset and learn how to work in a team, post-graduation, I volunteered at a tech company for almost 1 1/2 years before transitioning into the industry as a professional in 2019. I then worked at various tech companies as a full-stack developer before joining Bizzyn in 2021 as co-founder and CTO.
I decided to volunteer first because while I was a skilled programmer by the time I graduated, I wasn't equipped to construct software that people in real life could use. Often young programmers don't realize that programming and developing software are not the same.
Fortunately, my family could assist me financially, allowing me to volunteer for an extended period. However, if you don't have this type of assistance, I recommend getting started in the industry early so that you can begin working as a professional by the time you graduate.
Moreover, volunteering was a critical part of my tech journey because it was there that I became a full-stack developer. I focused on front-end development, then delved into the back-end, and ended with performing the role of a full-stack developer.
What Bizzyn provides to the marketplace
Bizzyn is a Cloud-based suite of solutions for business process management. The platform offers suite solutions for managing the business and finance of the company. It offers tools for account management, inventory management, payroll management, tax filing, Invoicing, bank account tracking and reconciliation. It also allows users to manage expenses, budgets, payments and accounts. We are a saas product so customers can subscribe to one of our 3 plans (Lite, Gold, or Enterprise).
Our client profile ranges from small, medium to large enterprises with a focus on
- Retailers – Pharmacy, Supermarket, Restaurant, Retail shop, Book store, Footwear, Garment, Jewelry etc
- Distribution – Pharma & health care, Automobile, FMCG, Electronic Appliances, Warehouse, Textile & Apparel etc
We use artificial intelligence to translate data into financial insights that help our customers make decisions. For some of our customers, the AI provides insight into what they generate in an hour, day, week, and/or month. They use this information to decide when to open their business, the best time to offer certain services, and more. Since incorporating AI into our platform, many customers have provided great feedback on how Bizzyn has helped them grow their business.
Access to financial assistance:
In 2022, we launched BizzyPay, our credit-scoring platform. We crafted an algorithm to provide credit scoring for our customers and partnered with microfinance companies that offer financial assistance to those in need. It's become a valuable solution for our customers, especially those who offer products or services on credit. BizzyPay has become a bridge connecting our customers to microlenders that can provide liquidity to their businesses.
The biggest challenges we've faced building Bizzyn
We've faced many challenges, but the main one was trying to integrate with the existing tools of some of our customers. Many of them had a customer relationship management (CRM) tool and wanted to be able to connect it to Bizzyn since it had their customer data (name, email, address, purchase history, etc.).
Trying to meet the needs of our customers, we invested too many resources into finding a way to integrate. We later concluded that while integrating with our customer's CRMs would be a value add, we can't prioritize it at the expense of building our tools.
Another challenge was staying true to our software-as-a-service model. All businesses require multiple solutions to address their problems; for instance, one of our customers, who runs a wholesale shop, requested that we add the ability to generate QR codes.
Since it was a tool that other customers could use, we built it, and later, he subscribed.
My role as CTO and advice for aspiring CTOs
The most challenging part of being a CTO is learning how to engage people with different mindsets to work together and pursue a common goal collectively. I oversee a team of 5 engineers, and this responsibility has further developed my capacity to adapt to different ways of reasoning.
As for how other software developers can prepare to be a startup CTO, become a well skilled and an adequate listener. As CTO of a startup, your role is quite different from that of a CTO at a big, well-established company. At an established company, you mainly focus on long term planning, while at a startup, you focus most on rapid growth and you ought to be jack of all trades. Ability to listen and communicate well to your engineers can speed up product growth.
Building successful software solutions for Africa
There are many keys, but most importantly, all innovation should be done with the African state or condition in mind. Since, there may be some existing problems that you must address before attempting to innovate. For example, in Tanzania, it's expensive to create an automated delivery system because of our infrastructure. You would have to deal with the infrastructure problem first for it to work at a large scale or you should provide a solution in some areas where infrastructure is not an issue.
Also, build for low connectivity. Data here is expensive, you need to ensure that your product can work in low network connectivity and, if possible, work offline. Currently, Bizzyn can work in low-connectivity environments, and some features can work offline. We are currently reconstructing some tools to make the entire platform accessible offline. Moreover, learning how Africans operate their life and businesses is crucial for any innovation in Africa to succeed.
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