How An Entrepreneur Turned A Class Project Into One Of Ghana’s Hottest Real Estate Tech Startups
Kelvin Nyame took a business idea formulated in school and turned it into one of Ghana’s hottest tech startups. Together with his partners, Rashad Seini and Kofi Amuasi, he’s offering a practical service that solves a local problem.
MeQasa.com is an online platform that lets users find residential and commercial property to rent or buy in various cities in Ghana. Normally it would be a difficult task, but meQasa claims to make it a whole lot easier.
Getting suitable accommodation in Ghana can be a difficult, frustrating process, according to Pulse magazine. The methods differ depending on your income level, but there are long-standing bottlenecks. For the vast majority, renting is the option. Middle-income Ghanaians may prefer to build their own homes by buying land, and undertaking full construction themselves. Others prefer to buy or take a mortgage.
MeQasa partners with brokers, owners, and tenants to create complete property profiles. Acting as sort of a go-between, meQasa facilitates communication and meetings between prospective tenants and owners or their representatives.
It is a free service, covers the main urban areas, and has 23,000 commercial and residential listings.
MeQasa’s trio of entrepreneurs met while participating in a tech entrepreneurship training program at the Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology (MEST), an innovation lab in Accra, Ghana.
After they put together a business model for class, MEST invested $90,000 in the startup as seed capital to launch the venture. Soon after, classifieds-focused financier Frontier Digital Ventures injected a $500,000 investment into meQasa.
MeQasa was founded in 2013. It also publishes the Accra Housing Guide.
Kelvin Nyame, CEO of Accra-based MeQasa, talked to AFKInsider about how he turned a class project into a successful business.
AFKInsider: How did the idea for meQasa come about?
Kelvin Nyame: I was studying at Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology and for part of the course you had to develop a business plan. I enlisted my co-founders from class and we presented the idea as our final project. And we knew it was a good idea.
AFKInsider: Why was meQasa needed?
Kelvin Nyame: It is very difficult to find housing in Ghana. Before was no comprehensive listing like ours online. We also publish a housing guide with rental averages.
AFKInsider: How did you realize you were going to become an entrepreneur?
Kelvin Nyame: In 2011, I saw on TV an ad about a program that mentored students who wanted to start a business involving software. It was a two-year program and I joined it. It (MEST) was a great program and made me realize what I wanted to do. They taught you all the basics of business such as creating a business model, how to come up with an idea and develop it.
AFKInsider: What are some of the challenges doing business in Ghana?
Kelvin Nyame: There are so many, especially in this space. The market is not properly regulated. The real estate agents are not regularized. Sometimes more than one agent is showing a place, but meQasa only works with agents who have the key to the property.
There have been some changes made by the government in the space to regulate it better but rules need to be enforced. I have seen some government bills to be passed and hopeful they enforce them. This would help everyone.
Also there is still a trust issue from consumers about doing business online. And this comes from I think the lack of regulation in the real estate space.
AFKInsider: Are there other factors that make renting difficult in Ghana?
Kelvin Nyame: That rent is very expensive and landlords want people to pay a rent advance of one year to two years. On average, a two-bedroom furnished (what is desired most) is US$1000-$1,500, a three-bedroom, furnished US$3,000-$5,000.
AFKInsider: How does meQasa make money?
Kelvin Nyame: MeQasa is monetized through advertising services for real estate agents, agencies and developers, as well as other business who want to reach property seekers. We sell web banners and feature opportunities like top ads, property of the month and neighborhood expert ads.
AFKInsider: What changes would you make about doing business in Ghana?
Kelvin Nyame: There are a lot of things to be fixed, starting with lights. The electricity is is not reliable and the cost of using it for business is very high. Also (there should be) government programs like MEST (which is private). There are no government programs like that. The government tends to only invest in existing businesses by giving grants. If the government would enforce its laws it would make it easier for small business and do things like give tax exemptions for startup businesses.
We also need the investment laws to be looked into and amended. The laws currently say if you have a foreign investor who wants to invest in exchange for equity the investor has to bring US$200,000 minimum and that’s a big amount. I think $50,000 would be more favorable. A lot of these laws are for big sectors like coal mining and not small businesses.
AFKInsider: What are the positives about doing business in Ghana?
Kelvin Nyame: The political stability — that’s one of the most positive things.
AFKInsider: What do you love about being an entrepreneur?
Kelvin Nyame: What I love about entrepreneurship is always being able to solve something and you get to embark on a journey and meet people. And when you get other people to believe in your dream and follow your dream, it is incredible.
AFKInsider: What are your goals for this year?
Kelvin Nyame: For us, (it’s) trying to win market share by the end of the year to be the No. 1 real estate site. We want to have more property–which we have — and we want to have more traffic than others, which will have. We want to make it very easy for people to use the site.