Africa’s Mark Zuckerberg?

FOR STUDENTS BY STUDENTS: Michael Ngarachu explains the business of Students360 Photo: Lameez Omarjee

FOR STUDENTS BY STUDENTS: Michael Ngarachu explains the business of Student360
Photo: Lameez Omarjee

Student360, a venture started by Michael Ngarachu and Kenneth Oboni, could soon become Africa’s Facebook.

Humble beginnings

Ngarachu, a 21-year-old B.Com Honours in Finance student, has always been passionate about finance and started trading stocks when he was 10 years old.  He is one of eight children and as the eldest son, he always had a drive to provide.

He started Student360 with his partner Oboni, who completed his BAccSci degree at Wits University last year. He wanted to do something that benefited people.

The big idea

Student360 is a business for students by students and aims to cater to the 360 needs of students.  He got the idea a year ago when he saw students struggling to get textbooks at decent prices and incurring costs when looking for accommodation and searching for applications for bursaries, scholarships and jobs.

The business offers an online platform for students to find all the information they need on one generic site, a hub for online learning.  Additionally, textbooks can be bought online at cheaper prices with free delivery.  The team is currently developing an interactive website for students all over the country to access a database to exchange and find information.

Technically speaking

Unlike online businesses that are sales-generated, explained Ngarachu, the website would be like LinkedIn for students. Students can register online and once verified, the team passes on their information to recruitment agencies.

A mobile application is also being developed for students to use, with free messaging and advertising.  Systems like Dropbox for file-sharing and Skype for communication will also be put in place  to make information sharing convenient and to help the learning process.  The features will be available on the website from July.

Currently, the business is run by a three-man team and is funded by angel investors.  Next year the team aims to employ students, help them gain work experience and earn money.  Student360 will also be expanded to other campuses across the country.

We want it to be the Facebook of Africa.

The goal, according to Ngarachu, is to have the business student-owned for it to remain sustainable.

Ngarachu said proceeds were being reinvested into the business because of the huge potential for growth. “We want it to be the Facebook of Africa.”

 Leading today

In the beginning, coping with studies and running the business was hectic. “It took a big strain on me but at least it was worth it in the end,” he said.

By 2015, Ngarachu hopes that Student360 will be instrumental in improving the level of education in the country.  Plans are being made to go into rural areas to expose students to technology.  In the next five to 10 years, the team hopes to develop Student360 Capital to provide funding for student projects.

Ngarachu is inspired by Mark Zuckerberg, as well as the founders of Twitter. “They found something they are good at, a gap in the market and pursued it.  A lot of people find these things but they don’t have the courage to pursue it.”

One of the biggest challenges faced by Student360 was finding investors to support young entrepreneurs.  He advises other students who are thinking about starting businesses to “just do it because a lot of young, bright people get sucked into careers”.

“I think it’s important for young people to start thinking about entrepreneurship because that’s where the future of the country needs to be.”

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One thought on “Africa’s Mark Zuckerberg?

  1. being a student in Africa is awesome. Speaking technically, there is an ocean of opportunities waiting to be explored. I think its all about learing how to swim in the waters or typically having the right boat to sail and explore these untappered regions of our economic sea. I have witnessed some brilliant ideas being born and implemented effectively and successfully in Zim by young and bright students.

    Being an entrepreneur is not very scary as some would think it is. It s a challange, an ineresting one for that matter. The rewards are greater than the risks. its typivally like farming. you saw a mundred thousand seeds on ten acres on land. then you ask yourself should i stop here, is the rain going to fall, am i gonna cultivativate all this land, what about the pests, the diseases and the security of the crop when it eventually yields. All these worries come to your mind, but then you just say what do I stand to lose – if i lose its okay life goes on, if I win its all good as well.

    So really entrepreneurship is about losing your your inhibitions and taking things head on.

    A word of motivation to Mr Ngarachu, ” keep your eyes on your goal, obstacles are not challanges, they are only things which take your eyes away from you goals”

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