Startup in Ethiopia challenges Google Maps

1/24/2018 12:54:54 PM

Like in many African cities, traffic in Addis Ababa is chaotic. In this city of 3.2 million inhabitants, street names and points of interest are not always easy to recognize. As many are not satisfied with Google Maps, local entrepreneurs started to build their own solution: Adrasha app, a rich solution that gets you where you to be, without having to ask for directions. The app is ready for launch. Talking to the founders, Club Africa found that this app may have rich business opportunities, for which Adrasha needs investors.

Like many great new products, the Adrasha app was born in practice. “If you have ever used a minibus taxi in Addis Ababa”, Adrasha co-founder Teddy Hailegeberel explains, “you know how hard it is to find which direction they are traveling or which minibus taxi goes where. As a GIS professional, I figured, I can tag all the hubs and every taxi route. Since this data was not available, I decided to ride almost every taxi that I can find and go from the start of one hub to another.”

All the hubs and taxi routes

Hailegeberel noticed he was ‘on to something’. He made a digital map that shows all the hubs plus the taxi routes using leaflet java-script and simple HTML coding. “After a few months of tinkering with the data, I decided to create a digital map of all locations (POI’s) that are useful to everyday users who are trying to get around the city. I asked friends to join me and help tag locations — POIs. Using mobile phones and GPS, we walked around the city and tagging almost 50,000+ locations over the course of one year.”

With OpenStreetMap as a base map, Adrasha is now an easy-to-use app that can be searched by categories like Cafe, Banks, Hospitals, Lounge, Nightclubs, Clinics, Pharmacies, and more. “You can also search by building names. We have over 800 building names in our database. We are expanding this list over the next few months which should help users find more locations easier.”

For Android users, the app offers an easy way to get door-to-door directions to residential, commercial and governmental locations. And real, current addresses. “Addis Ababa administration is currently rolling out a new addressing system. is adding the new addressing system into the database. We have gone to great lengths to add more locations and capture their new address along with the street names.”

Different from Google Maps

What makes Adrasha different from Google Maps? Teddy: “We have more data and accurate street information. Google Map depends on data providers to supply its information. It only has major hotels and data that is gathered from outside of the country. Google does not know if a hotel, restaurant or bar is closed or has moved to another location. What we have done is collect almost all locations in Addis Ababa. As the address changes, we actually follow the location and update it on our end.”

Adrasha – with the five founders and fifteen employees working long hours – is ready for next steps. “Our next step is to finalize the app for both iOS and android. Currently, we are not making any money from the app. What we want to do is start adding ads on the app where business can advertise their locations or special promotion they would like to add on. Since the app is location based, business would be able to target their promotions as customers get close to their locations. We are also planning to partner with taxi agencies to use our application for free as promotion. We will be able to identify hot spots for riders and locations of destinations to provide better allocations of taxis. This would be beneficial to taxi drivers so they would not have to stand in one area to wait for customers”, says Teddy.

License our data

“We are also planning to license our data so big corporations can leverage our data to get locations for their use. We have just wrapped up one project where a beverage distributor used our data to match their sales data to identify areas where their products are performing better or not. This is one area where we think it would be growing and we will specialize in.”

The Adrasha founders are also interested in e-commerce. The dream of one day delivering goods that have been bought online to customers all over Addis Ababa. “We think this is the next area that will be growing and we think we in good position to provide this services.”

Investors welcomed

Obviously, Adrasha needs investors to enhance the technology and to add features like targeted ads and a service that allows people to add their custom comments about the traffic or local information on the roads. “We’d like to be able to create profiles for users so they can save their personal, tagged locations and take them along with their profiles as they change devices.”

With more time, effort and money, Adrasha could really take off and become the app every Ethiopian wants to have on his phone – a concept that could very well become a great African alternative to Google Maps…

Photo Credits: Adrasha

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