In 2018, venture-backed financial technology often referred to as “FinTech,” companies raised $39.6 billion globally. By redefining how we borrow, invest, move, save, and spend money, FinTech startups are reconstructing the global financial sector.
The rave also penetrated the African startup ecosystem. In 2018, African FinTech companies raised $132.8 million, more investment than any other sector. However, unlike the rest of the world, FinTech isn’t disrupting traditional financial services; instead, it’s building up a historically underdeveloped industry. These startups are filling the gaps that exist in their local financial services industry with tech-based products and solutions.
Founded in 2019, Trickles vision is to revolutionize the way people and businesses pay for big-ticket items in Ghana. By creating an E-commerce application, they aspire to liberate the everyday person and business owner from the binds of the current cash upfront system. Trickles gives customers the flexibility to decide when they want to pay and how many installments they wish to pay.
I spoke with Gideon Nyametease, Junior Software Engineer at appsNmobile Solutions, about Trickles, the challenges of a FinTech startup, and Tech in Africa.
How do you translate the requirements of a specific business problem into code?
A company was selling the company I work for, appsNmobile Solutions, high-end electronic appliances. Unfortunately, we couldn’t settle on the deal because they only give flexible payment options to government institutions to ensure they’ll get paid. That is when my boss thought, “we are software developers, and we have connections with these companies. Why not build a product that would solve this problem.” That is where we started.
After, my boss, who is a banking specialist, drew up the schema. The UI Designer drew up the web interfaces, and I was tasked with building the Web portal using Ruby on Rails. We drew a couple of flow diagrams, the UI Designer did the mock-ups, and then I started coding.
How important is empathy in the software development process?
Having a good user experience adds tremendous value to the product. We usually do B2B projects, but this is B2C. We have had to pay particular attention to the user experience side. Because we understand that once your users are happy with the product, they will use it, which is good for sales.
Empathy in software development adds value to your product, and it ensures that it survives once on the market. Also, when people use your product and like it, they’re more willing to share it with others.
We’ve been testing it for three weeks, and from this process, we’ve received a lot of feedback. Our initial plan was to go live in December, but we haven’t because we are making some adjustments to the UI and the back-end.
What were some of the biggest challenges you faced in the early stages of the software development process?
When we first started working on Trickles, a few other projects were going on in our company. Busy, the UI designer couldn’t get us the mock-ups on time. We started developing before we got the mock-ups, and that was a mistake.
Not having the mock-ups in place, I spent a lot of time deciding how to execute the software development. However, once we knew the path we were charting, and what the application needed to look like, things got better.
After this experience, I’m now a firm believer that the software developer and UI designer should come together and agree on the direction before a developer starts building.
What do you believe are the keys to being a successful software developer in Africa?
You need to have a network of other developers, mostly experienced senior developers, that you can turn to for advice. There are some issues that you might not find the answer on Stack Overflow, so having a network of experienced senior developers is key.
Good work ethic, showing up on time, meeting deadlines, and paying attention to detail is also really important. But I’d say the most important thing is learning to work in teams.
Built In Africa? What does that mean to you?
I’d say it represents progress because the whole world is moving towards Africa.
I also think of youth and innovation.
As someone in tech, it’s mostly young people that I see and work with. It’s mostly young people that are coming up with these brilliant ideas, and they are all Africans. And the solutions that are Built In Africa by the youth are built with a certain innovation, which is impressive.
I see excellence. I have had the opportunity to meet with really great developers that have built really solid systems. Excellent systems. These people are the standard. Built In Africa, represents that excellence.
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