I've been reading a really interesting interview with GoMetro entrepreneur Justin Coetzee with whom I've been working for a while now on both strategy and branding (I helped him come up with the GoMetro name).
Justin's GoMetro app began by telling MetroRail commuters if and when their train would arrive and depart - vital information, given the age and precarious state of much of our rail infrastructure today. MetroRail are promoting it heavily to millions of their commuters, and the app is now including bus routes and other forms of public transport.
Justin is an engineer with a Masters degree in public transit - but the real inspiration for the app came from doing what every good entrepreneur should do - spending hours in the field - in his case, riding trains and talking to commuters.
Justin makes some excellent points in this interview which every local entrepreneur should note:
- innovation from the top down in large government spheres is hard - but innovating upwards is possible. Justin took a concept to MetroRail, did a small pilot with them, and is now transforming how millions of commuters use public transit.
- "I see too many first world problems being solved through first world technologies, and not enough third world problems being solved using third world technology" - I also see an endless stream of entrepreneurs wanting to use cutting edge technology when simpler solutions would be more appropriate for Africa.
- "If your users are critical of your service, obsess over your product until they are fans. But if your critics are not users of your service, don’t obsess at all". Justin got lots of criticism from the 'technorati' for how "primitive" his app was - but he ignored this and focused on seeing that his real users loved it.