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Building Boost: Start with WHY, but Focus on HOW
A series where we share learnings from our journey of building the business of Boost.
I love Simon Sinek’s philosophy, Start with WHY. When I opened my notebook back in 2019 to start sketching the early concept for Boost, one of the first things I wrote down was this:
Boost’s WHY is to enable MSMEs (micro, small and medium enterprises) to thrive in the digital economy in order to create sustainable jobs and income.
I soon found co-founders who resonated with this WHY and were equally excited to build a company around it. However, we didn’t yet know WHAT the company would do. So instead, we thought deeply about HOW we would be successful by formulating hypotheses to the following key questions:
First, HOW would Boost scale efficiently across multiple markets?
We knew the risks of being concentrated in a single market, and to capitalise on the size of the opportunity we would need to design for pan-African scale. We decided to focus on a large and ubiquitous pain point: Offline distribution in Africa’s informal convenience commerce market. We would build B2B partnerships to efficiently acquire customers, and design our technology platform and model to easily launch in any market, language, currency and segment.
Second, HOW would Boost localise in each market?
We knew a “one size fits all” model would not work in Africa. To have a chance of success, we would need an in-depth understanding of customer pain points and local contexts. We decided to recruit experienced local founders to run each market, enabled by a shared services venture building platform. We then developed a set of virtues, principles and norms to govern our ways of working and unite everyone around a “One Boost” culture.
Third, HOW would Boost differentiate?
We knew there were many other well-funded companies in our space, so Boost would need to take a different approach to stand out from the crowd. We decided to be a platform enabler of supply chains rather than participate in them, which meant embracing family-owned distributors and wholesalers as customers, not competitors. We would also optimise for capital efficiency (before it was in vogue) with the lowest possible headcount and an asset-zero model to enhance our resilience and scalability.
Reflecting back, our day-in, day-out execution to validate these hypotheses set the course to test, learn, iterate…and eventually figure out WHAT Boost would do:
Boost powers growth for manufacturers and their distribution networks with radically easy technology, data and growth services.
Our model has three core components:
Platform-as-a-Service to digitise end-to-end distribution in opaque and offline channels to bring real-time visibility to retailers, orders, payments and inventory. With just 27 group employees and 0 physical assets, Boost added 2 markets in 2023, taking our total footprint to 6: Ghana, Nigeria, South Africa, Senegal, Kenya and Egypt.
Retailer Engagement to drive self-ordering and build a sales engine with direct-to-retailer digital insights, promotions and embedded credit. In 2023, we have increased monthly retention of 13,000 retailers to 95%.
Growth Services to develop and expand routes-to-market in untapped white spaces. We are building 2 multinational partnerships…stay tuned!
Boost started with WHY, but our future success will be achieved by focusing on HOW. If you have a manufacturing, distribution or wholesale business that could benefit from our services, or if you are interested in investing in us, please reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks for following us on our journey to build Boost!