Bastian and I were lost in Accra a few weeks back, as I aimlessly attempted to drive / find my way to the MEST incubator in Accra. One wrong turn after another we serendipitously stumbled across the awesome folk at Rancard Solutions. We descended unannounced for an impromptu visit. Rancard are actually our technical partners on iROKOtv’s news-via-SMS subscription Africa business. What does that even mean? Well, if you are in Ghana, on Airtel, Glo, MTN or Tigo you can SMS a short code and receive 2 daily SMSs of Nollywood-related gossip. I can’t remember when it was launched but we have approximately 23k subscribers in Ghana. And it steadily grows little by little month-on-month. Not a huge revenue generating machine, but a nice little earner.
I originally spoke with Ehi Binitie when he reached out after seeing the CNN Africa Voices interview and wanted to discuss some partnership opportunities. Since then i have seen Ehi in several countries around the world and he has always been nice to me and helped me understand some of the macro issues which will ulimately make or break iROKOtv and iROKING’s Africa business. I find him an awesome casual mentor on payment, mobile operator relations and other business / regulatory issues in Africa.
In 2001, Ehi co-founded Rancard Solutions with his friend and business partner Kofi Dadzie (both pictured with Bastian and I), with a view to creating a globally relevant software company. In Ehi’s own words, they suffered the first 7 years almost going bankrupt numerous times. In the end they managed to survive and stayed <5 people until 2008 when all changed. Rancard had a total of 20k SMS subscribers to various networks in Africa then. Timing things to perfection the Value Added Services (VAS) mobile segment exploded taking Rancards subscriber base from 20,000 to 6,000,000 between 2008 and 2012. Rancard now employ almost 90 people in Accra, Lagos and some other offices across Africa.
Why haven’t you heard of Rancard before? Well they are not in the sexy consumer facing appy thingy, but prefer to ply their trade in the grown up enterprise world and act as the infrastructure and delivery partners to the 62 telcos / mobile networks (as far flung as Bangladesh and Ukraine) they serve globally, and the content owners. They are the technological prowess behind SMS subscription services for MTV, BBC, ESPN and Google SMS GMAIL service. Rancard is solidly profitable and so awesome in fact Intel Capital and Adlevo Capital recently invested millions of dollars of money Rancard didn’t need to support them in exporting their technological platform to new markets like Asia, Eastern Europe and Latin America.
If you think Africans don’t build awesome software. You were wrong. I certainly was. Ehi and Kofi are what I hope iROKOtv can be in the next 3-5 years. A solidly profitable business generating millions of dollars home and abroad.
Rancard. I salute you.