The news that Safaricom was launching the Waze app in Kenya in partnership with Google was greeted with dismay by Kenyans on social media. Guys wondered why Safaricom could not have supported Ma3route to scale their already existing platform. The ire was more so because the launch happened barely a week after the Global Entrepreneurship Forum during which we were bombarded with messages of “Choose Kenya”.
To many investing in Ma3route was a no brainer, with about 224,000 followers on twitter, 4,418 followers on Facebook and over 5,000 downloads of its app. The platform had the necessary traction in the Kenyan market. Waze on the other hand had no traction at all as at the time of the launch but were banking on Safaricom to get them users from its subscribers.
I decided to download the Waze app to get a feel of how it works as I had already interacted with Ma3route. One thing that impressed me was the fact that the app is able to place the traffic information collected on a map (google maps) which glows red if there is a lot of traffic and even shows you the average speed that vehicles are travelling on that stretch of road. The app also gives you route options with expected arrival times so you are able pick the route that best works for you. It has an option of adding friends from your contacts or syncing the app with Facebook, which enables you to see each other’s ETA if headed to the same destination. In case you need to report traffic jam, Police, road closure or an accident the app has a menu that allows you to quickly do that. If reporting traffic the menu gives you an option of typing the exact location but it uses your current speed to determine whether to allow you to type, depending on the speed you are in it might deny you the right to type suggesting you take a pic instead. Overall I have to say that I loved the app’s user experience.
When we reached out to Safaricom in regards to their decision to invest in Waze rather than Ma3route. They stated that the decision was influenced by the fact that Safaricom and Google Kenya have had a longstanding relationship which influenced the partnership. This together with the fact that Safaricom has a growing number of users who own smartphones which Waze operates on, read data.
All in all my take is that Ma3route is ripe for investment considering the wide user base it already has in Kenya. Ma3route also has the ability and expertise to do amazing things with the app but they lack the funds to fine tune the app to reach Waze’s level. My hope is that the team at Ma3route can learn from the competition so at to be able to improve the user experience of their app and while at it that they can find an investor who can help them achieve the full potential of the app.