According to Partech Africa, 243 African tech startups raised a total of $2.02 Billion in equity in 2019, with the lion share going to Nigeria, Kenya, Egypt, and South Africa.
Morocco, ranked 12th overall with $7 million in equity raised, was North Africa's 3rd biggest market in 2019 behind Egypt and Tunisia.
Morocco's startup ecosystem, still in its development phase, has experienced significant growth over the years. However, as the ecosystem matures and founders look for more than funding, mentorship opportunities will be critical to Morocco's tech future.
Mentors provide businesses with the support they need to grow and transcend obstacles. Mentees can learn a lot from these relationships and gain access to critical entrepreneurial networks.
Of course, many of these relationships can happen organically, but creating spaces designed to facilitate mentorship is critical. This is what Jointify hopes to provide Morocco-based businesses.
Founded in 2018, Jointify is an on-demand mentorship platform where aspiring creatives can find the perfect mentor to kickstart their business.
I spoke with Souhail Kaoussi, Software Developer and Co-Founder of Jointify, about his journey to becoming a self-taught developer, pivoting during COVID-19, and Tech in Africa.
How did your journey lead you to create Jointify?
The first time I had a mentor, I was 17. Studying for my baccalaureate exam, my mentor tutored me in mathematics and physics.
At that time, I didn't believe in myself, but he believed in me. He taught me some lessons that I still hold onto to this day, like the importance of mastering the fundamentals.
What led me to create Jointify was to help young creatives that need guidance find a mentor. I saw the importance of mentorship when I was 17, but people also need mentorship outside of high school.
For example, when you get your first job, you need someone who can guide you on how to be professional and deal with your boss. Or if you want to create a startup, searching the internet isn't enough, you need someone experienced that can provide specific guidance.
As a programmer, I've had the pleasure of working with some rockstar programmers, and they've taught me a lot, whether it's how to fix errors or best practices in software development. Working with them helped me accelerate my career, and I want others to get that same opportunity.
Also, I'm a firm believer that you can't do anything great without support. Entrepreneurs like Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos, all had help along the way. They stood on the shoulders of giants. This is what Jointify is all about.
There is a funny story about a man who moved to the forest to connect with nature and eat natural food.
One day he went to someone's house and asked for apple pie, but requested that it be natural. The man of the house replied, if you want to eat something from scratch, you have to create the universe.
Many people try to start from scratch for stuff that already exists, but that's just reinventing the wheel. It's a waste of time. If you want to create something fast, you have to stand on the shoulders of giants and use the resources that you already have.
How did you become a self-taught developer?
I got introduced to Elon Musk, Bill Gates, Richard Branson, and Jeff Bezos as a kid. With the desire to be successful myself, I tried to find the common thread between them, and I discovered that they all took risks and taught themselves by reading books.
I also used to use Quora a lot, and coding was always mentioned. People would say if you want to be rich, successful, or a founder, learn how to code. Interested, I decided to try coding out to see if it was for me.
In 2015, I started teaching myself coding with Codemy, Udacity, and YouTube, pretty much all the free resources. I would immerse myself for 12 – 15 hours a day, learning the basics.
Then in 2016, I started working as a freelancer building websites, I'd reach out to clients and say, I'm great at code, you should hire me. Since I wasn't the best, I had many sleepless nights and went hours without food to create websites.
Then in 2018, I was hired as a computer science teacher at London Academy Casablanca and created my business Artisoft, a website development company.
What specific void or opportunity did you discover that inspired Jointify?
In 2018, I met a successful Nigerian entrepreneur. He hired my company to migrate his platform to AWS, which was a great opportunity because it connected the Moroccan tech community with the Nigerian one. For months we successfully collaborated.
Later that year, he invited me to the YAS (Youth for Africa and SDGs) conference in Lagos and gave me a ticket. He encouraged me to come and present Jointify, which at that time was just an idea.
At the same time, Techcrunch sent me a ticket to Start-up Battlefield which was also in Nigeria, and the same week.
My co-founder, Aya Zaghnin, urged me to take the opportunity seriously and decided that it'd be better if she went to present Jointify at YAS instead, while I participated in Start-up Battlefield’s international hackathon.
We had three days to build the website and create a pitch deck. I took care of the coding part, and Aya took care of the business. She surveyed our target audience asking questions like, what do you think about mentorship? Do you need a mentor?
Those were the longest three days ever, but in the end, we presented, got some good feedback, and launched the Jointify land page in preparation for our platform.
How have you all restructured during COVID-19?
Once quarantine started in Morocco on March 16, we redesigned the website and our offering to match our clients' needs because we knew that many of the startups and businesses were suffering.
Currently, we're working with small businesses for free. We talked with our mentors and said, "Hey, this is your opportunity to shine and serve the people. You're not going to get paid, but these businesses really need you to navigate through this pandemic."
We received a lot of messages from businesses asking for help. Some companies had issues with employees, and others had challenges with finances. These businesses benefited significantly from our experts who helped them work through their problems and develop sustainable solutions.
Moreover, the fantastic work our mentors are doing has made me so happy that we created Jointify and can help Moroccan businesses during this time.
How do you see Jointify evolving in the next 3-5 years, and what impact do you hope to make?
Like any startup founder, I want Jointify to grow. We plan to build a platform with the tools our users and the clients need to have a successful relationship. For example, features like automatically being matched with a mentor, booking sessions with mentors via the platform, and progress tracking for mentees.
As a company, we're also mission-driven. We want to let others know that you can be whatever you want, and you don't have to take the path alone. We also want it to be full circle. We want today's mentees to become tomorrow's mentors.
Built In Africa. What does that mean to you?
It means connection. Our continent is full of talented people. This is not something new; we've seen Africans worldwide excel in various areas, sports, science, engineering, and art. We've inspired the world.
Built In Africa represents the Africa within us all, our African pride, and a commitment to building up the continent. We're warriors, we're passionate about taking our nations to the next level.
The previous generations fought for us, and we're going to fight for the next one.
Built In Africa means hope, passion, and looking forward to a brighter future.
Closing words: The importance of "discipline."
I have a different view of motivation. Although motivation and discipline can complement one another, I want to encourage others to focus more on being disciplined, than motivated.
Discipline is what makes you wake up in the morning and get to work.
Personally, I'm disciplined because I don't know when the next big opportunity will come, so each day, I work hard. Even though the results may vary, you'll never be disappointed if you work hard.
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