Tanzanian-born Godwin Gabriel is the founder and CEO of Moovn, the urban mobility player is headquartered in the US, with a growing presence in Africa. Apart from taking off in cities such as Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Portland, San Francisco, Seattle, New York, Vancouver and Washington, Moovn is also strategically setting its sights in Africa. The company is currently expanding rapidly across the continent, with footholds in Dar-Es-Salaam, Lusaka, Johannesburg and Nairobi. Godwin Gabriel shares his ideas on entrepreneurship with Club Africa.
Godwin Gabriel started Moovn in Seattle. The company already has a presence in nine states in North America with the planned addition of three more states, and an employee count of 150 people across its various divisions. The company has also expanded into Africa. Gabriel appeared in Forbes magazine, who described him as the man with “the gift of the gab”, with self-confidence, a 'nose' for a good deal.
Is the story about how you, as a teenager, landed your first F&B delivery contract to a 5-star Dar hotel true? You just went there and offered your services, with no experience?
“It’s true… Entrepreneurship requires a high degree of wit and self-confidence. The F&B Manager knew very well that I was young and un-proven but she admired me for the level of confidence and business savvy exuded when I walked into her office to propose the deal. Furthermore, how you close the deal is even more important than how you open it. 17 years old years old with only $55 in my pocket; I offered to take her and her assistant manager to lunch at a famous restaurant in town and went further to prove I was serious about our business relationship. The bill came to exactly $55.”
How did you start Moovn?
“I began the roadmap to creating Moovn with a small budget and no technical skills. I encountered a lot of setbacks and people saying no, but that didn’t hinder my drive. Essentially, I built the platform from scratch after being turned down by numerous software engineers whom I credit today more than anyone else. Their rejections pushed me to go beyond the box and explore my inner capabilities which have transformed me into not only a technologist, but also a leader who knows and understands the business of technology inside and out. As the CEO of a leading tech company; I’m grateful to possess the ability to fluently play both sides of the fence when to comes to technology and business management.”
How and where did you introduce Moovn in Africa?
“I first introduced Moovn in Dar-es-Salaam after having felt strongly confident that the marketplace needed a differentiator and driver communities needed a steadfast partner that would also look our for their interests. My Tanzanian heritage and ability to manoeuvre linguistically and socially also played a huge part towards influencing the decision. Partnering with Vodacom (Africa’s leading telecommunications company), was an ideal strategy as we navigated around constraints that would have hindered the adoption of our app –based transportation model. The Moovn-Vodacom partnership aims to zero-rate both the consumer and driver apps in order to relieve users of hefty data costs. Nevertheless, integrating MPESA – Vodacom’s proprietary mobile money platform was also key towards enhancing payment security.”
What are the hurdles you faced and face in the Africa roll-out?
“Ride-sharing and app-based transportation models are relatively new to the continent where traditional methods of hailing a ride are still diehard. However, technology is fast growing and mobile services are becoming more and more desirable which means the opportunities to grow and diversify our business model are endless.”
How do you regard the future and opportunities for Moovn in Africa?
“The future of Africa is brighter each day. A rising millennial population with an ever-growing appetite for technology, provides abundant opportunities for us to design and provide a platform that will change the way Africa is perceived in terms of technology consumption and innovation. I believe the vast opportunities in Africa; whether it be logistics, supply chain, mobile-based delivery services etc. will sustain our business for centuries to come…”
What will be your next steps in Africa?
“Moovn has a trifold agenda; MOVING PEOPLE - ENABLING COMMERCE - CHANGING LIVES. We are looking at a variety of opportunities including expanding into delivery and fulfilment services. We are currently heavily investing in building our technology teams across multiple geographies and forging strategic partnerships around the globe. It’s no secret that our goal is to become the AMAZON of Africa – a bold and ambitious goal that I believe will not only place Moovn as a leading technology powerhouse, but also a company that will transform the lives of 250 Million Africans by year 2020.
How would you describe your way of doing business in general?
“I’m an attentive listener and extremely calculative before jumping on opportunities. My objective is to ensure, that by the end of the deal, all stakeholders emerge as winners based on the value we mutually bring to the table. My core belief is that; if the business partner feels like they got the last end of the stick, the premise of the partnership won’t last long. You see; doing business to me is not about making a quick buck. I value the forging of mutually rewarding relationships that will sustain the business for centuries to come.
Therefore, I’m more keen on building partnerships that are mutually rewarding and long-lasting. This mindset is for instance embodied in our company’s operating philosophy that states; “ We put the driver first because we believe that if they are valued, they will also go the extra mile for our customers”.
Do you still consider Moovn to be a challenger? Where do you outperform Uber?
“We at Moovn challenge ourselves and not the competition. I think our steady rise over the years in this space speaks for itself in terms of driver and customer adoption.”
In some countries, Uber has suffered from clashes with 'regular' car drivers. How are you going to make sure Moovn won't go that way?
“I believe Moovn is a community brand that’s built on values that equally celebrates the driver, our customers and strategic partners. We clearly understand that this model cannot sustain on short-changing our partner-drivers or stifling our customers with outrageous surge prices. We have a whole lot to show and give but right now, the objective is get people Moovn!”