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And the winner of the ZOL Start-up Challenge is…


The Mukela Travel team accepting the prize. In the center is ZOL CEO, David Behr

We’re here at the Crowne Plaza in Harare and the winner in the ZOL Startup Challenge 2011 has just been announced. It is the Mukela Travel team. The prize money for Mukela Travel is US $10,000. Of that, US $5,000 is cash and the other half in Internet services. You can read more about the start-up here.

The two runner-ups in the challenge are (in no particular order) Sadomba Mahari and Softwarehouse. They both get US $2,500 cash and US $2,500 in internet services. There were 5 finalists in the challenge. The other two are Ribe Networks and Funza.

From here at the Techzim, it is congratulations to the winning teams and wish their startups all the success they so deserve. We’re also thankful to all the participants in the challenge and wish them success too. A big thank you as well to the judges; John Mberi, David Behr, Geoff Goss and Bester Zambuko.

Most of all, we’d like to thank Zimbabwe Online for availing such an opportunity to the tech startups. Here’s to a healthy tech startup community in Zimbabwe!

Quick NetOne, Econet, And Telecel Airtime Recharge

23 thoughts on “And the winner of the ZOL Start-up Challenge is…

  1. Congrats to the Mukela Travel  team!!! Wish you the best and we hope to hear some noise from you soon in the market. Keep up the good work.

  2. Congrats Mukela! I had no doubt they would win…and have no doubt that they are going places.

    Congratulations to Sadomba and Softwarehouse too!

    I encourage the other start-ups not to lose hope. The real contest is in bringing your idea to fruition and monetizing it. Being a finalist shows that your idea is worth selling. We cant all be winners.

    Am sure same goes to those who didnt even make it to the finals. Do it!

  3. The team of sponsors and partners, with particular mention to ZOL deserve a pat on the back for giving us(techies in Zim) relevance and encouraging local-talent. I hope other companies take a leaf from your book.

  4. Many thanks to ZOL, Techzim, all the other sponsors and especially the judges.  The feedback and free marketing we have received has been fantastic (not to mention the prizes).  I hope future challenges go as well as this one, it is great to see such initiatives in Zimbabwe, we hope we can do you proud.

  5. Many Thanks to ZOL, Techzim and the judges you have done outstanding work, and the competition was Brilliant, The knowledge and exposure gained from the experience is a sure win in itself. There is a bright future in Zimbabwe’s technology . . .

  6. Well I have to say congrats to all participants, judges and sponsors. But seriously, I don’t understand how these guys won since their idea is a simple web app that can be replicated easily and at low cost. Am I missing something here?

    1. The idea won because it was an idea that could be used to make cash. Consumers dont buy drill tips, they buy the the service that the tip delivers which is to drill holes. The Mukela project is relevant and as an investor its worth my while to look into.

      1. Thanks for your comments Muzukuru…However, I am failing to see the market gap they are addressing. The problem of low hotel occupancy is most probably due to Zimbabwe being an unpopular destination at the moment because of political reasons. 

        There are sites already that offer information and booking facilities for Zimbabwean hotels such and Mukela has to compete with these giants for traffic, how will they manage the challenge?

        Another factor is that there are few entry barriers. With a Paypal Merchant account and Open Source Software I can start competing with Mukela tomorrow. 

        Maybe they have exclusive deals with the hotel? I doubt it. Its easy to arrange discounts with the hotels because from their point of view, anyone who approaches them with the intention of marketing them online increases their revenue so they can never say no. You can only tilt the relationship in your favour by pushing significant volumes to them – then you can dictate terms and arrange exclusive deals. Mukela cant be there yet and the competition is intense!

        I really wish Mukela well, but I have to wonder at where their innovation is. They are entering a crowded market with better funded competitors and they are open to attack by any number of new competitors, and one doesn’t need to invest much to replicate their model.

        1. I would like to think they are targeting the domestic market seeing that international market is saturated, besides its always better to deal with a company that is resident in a country you intend to visit, so they get an international appeal as well.
          Yes you may throw in some open source apps and start yo own Mukela but without strategy you are bound to fail. Mukela had strategy in terms of turning the company into a milk/cash cow, they didnt just bring a cow to the market, they show cased ways of getting the milk from the cow which others didnt. Take for example that guy who brot the chat app, he just showed us how creative he was in making a chat app, but nuthing further than that. 

          I dunno abt the market being saturated and having better funded players, for yo infor, the competition you are talking could just be a bunch of useless competition with lots of money to spend which makes them harmless in face of real competition. Musatyire kure, test the waters, some shallow pool can be still too, dont be afraid to test the waters.

          1. Thanks for the response. My questions still remain though. Please explain the problem they are solving with their solution.

            Remember that there is more than adequate information about tourist destinations for locals to plan their trips. And word of mouth plays a big role. To think of it, my last holiday at Carribea Bay was based on a friend’s recommendation.

            Also consider that on-line payments are non-existent in Zimbabwe making online booking systems difficult to turn into a viable business. That is why I assumed they are targeting the international market.

            I am not qualified to judge if they will succeed or not. I hope they succeed. However, I need further information to be convinced that this is a good idea, and you could help by explaining the problem they are solving.

            1. Hmm, i would have to ask you to think out of the box and to put away the idea that the market is saturated.
              The way i see it is most domestic resorts deal with foreign companies for bookings and very few companies are handling local bookings, this puts Mukela in the driving seat of the domestic market.
              As regards payment solutions/options, i am afraid i will have to charge a fee to dispense a solution/model that will work  for Mukela and any other company that wishes to venture into any similar market.
              From my experience in the Zimbabwean business environment, very few business people are shrewd in their pursuit for success, the rest are just plain scared wannabes who may have the talent but lack the gut. Fear of the unknown is the biggest hindrance, thats why up to this day many people still regard internet payment solutions a non viable option in Zim, according to me, where there is a will there is a way and i have seen the way.
              From a technical and marketing perspective, the sky is the limit for Mukela, question is, do they have the right brains onboard to take them far. Given the right team, they can easily eatup 60% of the domestic cake in less than 3months and have Big SA comapnies begging to work with them. They just need brains, the right brains on board.

  7. I said it in my posting last week that Mukela had a beautiful product and on top of that they had strategy which transforms to cash.  When you sell, you dont sell skills, you sell what the consumer needs not what you can do, Mukela combined what they could do and identified a market that they could satisfy. All the rest of the competitors where just showcasing skills with no mention of how those skills will be converted to cash so they lost. Skills do not translate to cash.

  8. After vsiting the winner’s site I have some open source advice:

    -:  site should be based with a .com auto redirection to the former. Visitors to a country are particularly more confident dealing with a website that has that country’s domain especially if that service provider is offering country specific services ie handling. In the mind of visitors .com is more susceptible to credit card fraud.

    -: The “where are you going” dialog box should be a drop down menu with all supported places. I spent 45seconds trying to figure out what to type there, I couldn’t. I actually had a progressive system in mind where you start off with a dropdown of supported places and when you choose a destination say Victoria Falls it then loads another drop down menu with categories ie Safari, Hotel, Camp etc. When you select say the Hotel category another box with all the supported hotels in Victoria Falls ie The Kingdom, Victoria Falls Hotel, A Zambezi Lodge etc will appear. 

    -: Although the current Hotel listing mechanism is good I feel it should have more information. i.e a user rating engine. I also feel that the listing should have a “sort by” Name, User Rating, Stars, Price and Location. There should be small little icons that give more info about each destination ie Bed and Breakfast, Pets Allowed, Twin/Single Bed, Swimming Pool etc.

    -: When you view Listings per destination ie All Harare Hotels, The listing page doesn’t actually show a heading of the current Location you are viewing, this is a bit distracting.

    1. Good of you to review it.

      On your first point though, they are targetting ALL African destinations: 

      “Mukela is passionate about ensuring every hotel in Africa is accessible to you,
      the intrepid traveler, at the click of a button. The company provides you with the
      ability to research, plan and book accommodation for your next trip to the beautiful
      continent, regardless of whether you are looking to stay in a five-star resort
      or more meager housing. Mukela and our partner hotels are committed to providing
      you reliable, world-class service, so that you can comfortably make your decisions
      about African lodging.”

      1.  This model would best suit a 5 year plan, in the interim they have to prove their mantle in the local market which is much easier to work than the regional market. I would gladly help Mukela eat into the local cake slice, but only for a fee.

  9. @Muzukuru you and your fees … lol. Gotta love it.

    if i may ask, what is your expertise and are you currently working on any projects yourself?

  10. Just some feedback….the mukela site is offline, domain was not renewed…its been over a month now! A great start-up going into the drain???

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