Exclusive Interview With CEO of MumsVillage (2016 DEMO Africa Finalist)
Kenyan-American Isis Nyong’o Madison is a leading media and digital marketer in Africa. She is Co-founder and Principal of Asphalt & Ink, a company that advices corporations, investors, start-ups, governments and non-profit organizations operating in Africa.
Her previous role as Vice President and Managing Director for InMobi, the world’s largest independent mobile ad network, on the continent recognized her as a global thought leader in mobile advertising. Isis extensive experience in digital businesses, media and tech was also gained from her prior positions at Google and MTV Networks.
Isis has been named as one of the Top 40 Under 40 Women in Kenya for several years and in 2012, she was nominated as a Young Global Leader at the World Economic Forum. She holds degrees from Stanford University and Harvard Business School.
Her latest venture MumsVillage has been selected as one of the start-ups that will launch at DEMO Africa, a platform for African start-ups to showcase their innovations, in Johannesburg, South Africa later this month. She speaks to Footprint to Africa about this honour and her vision for MumsVillage:
What is MumsVillage?
MumsVillage is an online platform that empowers African women to make informed choices for the health and well being of their families through access to locally relevant content, communities and resources.
Do you believe that it is achieving its purpose with its target audience and how do you gauge this?
This is a great question! We are always learning more about the needs of our target audience and quantitative and qualitative ways to measure relevance. We’re off to a great start and plan to continue a focus on learning more as we engage our audience.
What led you into founding MumsVillage?
“I strongly believe that African women are the most underserved market in the world- this spans almost any type of service or product you can think of”. I wanted to use my talents and experience to better serve them and this was the starting point that led to the creation of MumsVillage. The early team who joined me at ideation phase are an incredible set of women who are passionate about improving everyday life for pregnant women and mothers.
What has been the most challenging aspect of running MumsVillage so far?
I jokingly tell people that I wake up with 1,000 ideas every morning. It’s actually more like 2,000… my team can vouch for this! There are many challenges in getting any company off the ground but being able to decide what to focus on is the most difficult aspect for me as my personality drives me to want to test everything.
Tell us about MumsVillage’s proudest achievement?
We recently received a note of thanks from a destitute mother. We had connected her to an adoption agency that counselled her through a difficult decision about whether to give her baby up for adoption. Being able to help one woman make an informed decision based on real options led to a dignified outcome and this gave our team a huge sense of pride and purpose.
What has been the best strategy for getting more visitors on MumsVillage?
This is another area of deep learning but online engagement through social media and other channels is the most effective approach with our early adopters.
What are your views of incubators which offer start-ups guidance and resources to get them off the ground more quickly and smoothly?
There’s been significant growth in tech-focused incubators and accelerators across Africa over the past 5 or so years. I’ve interacted with several of them over these years and my view is that they all play an important role in catalysing the ecosystem. While each start-up’s journey is unique and it’s too soon to draw concrete conclusions that being part of an incubator/accelerator is correlated with a ‘smoother’ take off, I do think each has it’s particular ‘sweet spot’ (one might be best at providing effective co-working space versus another that actively grows companies) and it’s up to start-up founders to seek out the ones that most effectively meet their needs. The hubs are collectively evolving to meet the changing needs of start-ups.
Congratulations for being picked as one of the African start-ups selected to launch at DEMO Africa, how does MumsVillage intend on reinventing itself with this opportunity?
Thanks! We are looking forward to participating in DEMO and don’t have any plans for reinvention at this time. We’ve accomplished a lot in our first year of operations and have a lot of exciting ideas in the pipeline so we’re more focused on rapid testing/learning than any major reinvention.
What are some things you wish you knew before getting into the industry?
There’s a popular saying in the advertising world that half of advertising budgets are wasted but marketers don’t know which half. I think with feature-heavy consumer products such as MumsVillage, this is also a truism. Despite extensive research before building something, it’s only in reality that you find out which half you shouldn’t have bothered to build.
What advice would you give a novice getting into your industry?