The name Footballzone isn’t easily recognised by most people, but Soccer 24, its star service easily rings a bell in the local tech startup ecosystem and in Zimbabwean football circles. Footballzone Digital is the startup behind Soccer 24 and other related digital services like the SMS alerts for the Zimbabwean Premier Soccer League.
Soccer 24, its online publication, focuses on the latest news in Zimbabwean football and over the past 4 years, it has established itself as an authority in that arena, taking advantage of the fast nature of the internet and digital platforms that include social media, to share information on professional soccer.
We had a quick chat with Godwin Thierry Chaparaushe, past winner of the ZOL Startup Challenge and the founder and CEO of Footballzone and he shared his own insights on running a Zimbabwean startup.
The issue of Net Neutrality has been hotly debated lately. As a local content creator with a strong focus on broadband, what are views on this?
It’s clear that something offered for free or at a discounted price has an advantage. But funny enough I don’t think that zero-rating offers “violators” an annihilative edge as such. It will take so much more than zero rating a site to gain competitive advantage. The key will always be in the best content or its usefulness. So I don’t think it will impact existing players that greatly. I do think that providers of internet should stick to their core business though.
As an online publisher running a lean operation, what are your views on plagiarism of content?
When it comes to plagiarism I think it’s one of those evils that are always going to be there. Yes, we need to find a way to reduce it, but I don’t think we can eliminate it totally. I’d like to believe this will be achievable collectively. As Soccer 24 we have had our content pinched so many times but with no actionable way to deal with it at the present moment, we are not focused on it that much anymore, but on our customers.
If you could have offered yourself some advice when you started what would it be?
That it’s going to be a long journey and it will take a lot of mistakes and lessons to get stuff right. It actually takes a lot of time to refine your product and to some extent actually figure out what really works. You kinda have to be in it for the long haul and keep pressing on!
If I want to run a tech start-up in Zimbabwe what sort of sacrifices should I be looking at?
Lots of sacrifices and more! There are lots of hours put in, definitely, and possibly no remuneration at times. Traditionally, everything a lot is against a start-up initially in any part of the world but in Zimbabwe there are even more challenges that you have to negotiate past. So to succeed you need to make a lot of sacrifices. There is a mental strength needed as well because there will be some really dark days and it’s in those times where you have to keep pursuing and striving.
How is tech entrepreneurship viewed by the people around you?
The response has been really mixed hey. Some think it’s pretty cool and awesome. For example, I love telling people that I watch soccer for a living! I mean how cool is that! I wake up to do what I love every day and I am thankful for that. However, some view it as strange that we work online all day every day. I guess the idea of earning a living online/digital is something that still a grey area for some.
How have you handled team building? Is it that big an issue for Zimbabwean start-ups?
Team building is a massive area that needs one to get right. Personally, I believe putting people in their area of strength and having them do what they love is the first step .Then actually valuing everyone’s opinion and contribution allows for not only a healthy working environment but awesome products as well.
What will be the definition of success for your start-up? What are you chasing?
The tech space, especially the mobile side of things is an exciting area to be in because there are so many opportunities and potential especially on the African continent. We want to be build a highly profitable tech company that is constantly challenging the status quo and being innovate .Quite keen on an eventual IPO .If we can inspire others and they in term are successful as well that will be success to us
You seem to have gotten off to a good start in football. Is there any other area that you want to disrupt or seek opportunity in?
I don’t want to give away too much but we are launching a couple of new products we are excited about and sure enough we hope to be disruptive in those areas. You will be seeing them in the short term. We look at Africa and see the massive potential the continent has and we definitely want to explore it.