Ten questions interview series with Younes Douari, co-founder of MyTicketGH.com, a mobile technology startup ready to revolutionize the bus ticketing system in Ghana.
1. What’s the idea behind myTicketsGH.com and how did it all start?
: The idea behind MyTicketGH
started from a problem that I identified. I had the feeling that a lot of people who wanted to travel had to go through a lot of hoops in making sure that they can actually make a journey.
This process, that involved going to the bus station a couple of days in advance, and the lack of information to make travel choices, was something I thought we could provide a good solution for. That’s how I started to develop this idea into a business.
2. What’s the business model behind the myTicketsGH platform? How do you make money from this service?
YD: The business model is a bit like all e-platforms. Mobility service providers (and event promoters) can offer tickets on our platform, with every transaction that goes through us, we charge the operator a commission fee, as well as the consumer for providing the service.
3. How does myTicketsGH stand out against its competitors in Ghana and Africa?
: Our unique value proposition in Ghana is that we do not only provide bus operators with a platform for their tickets, we also provide digital tools to enhance their internal business processes. Think about POS terminals and analytics software.
So we are actually more than an e-ticketing company.
We like to see ourselves as a digital transformer in Ghana’s transport and mobility sector. For consumers, we are planning on giving them a multi-modal information travel information and booking service, whereby they are not only going to be able to see what buses are going to their preferred destination but airliners as well.
We signed on the 2 biggest local airliners, but our airline portal is still in the development stage.
4. Is there a need for a bus ticket purchasing platform or service in Ghana?
YD: The need is absolutely there. Since soft-launching, we have created a lot of traction and our users are eager to see more operators and destinations coming on the platform.
5. What’s your background, and what got you interested in technology and startups?
YD: My background is in Transport & Mobility and I started my start-up journey within the tech and mobility space with a project that tried to create an information service that shared data on TroTro lines and destinations with potential users in Accra.
Because of the unregulated dynamics of TroTro
’s, it was actually quite hard to develop a sustainable business model and so I started researching and brainstorming other ideas, and it leads me to MyTicket.
myTicketGH Startup Team members with Younes Douari (4th from Left).
6. How did you initially raise funds for myTicketsGH? Who are the teams behind this service?
YD: I was lucky that I found technically skilled guys in the space that were thinking about the same thing, so we decided to partner and find our first client. We signed on OA Travel and Tours and started developing and testing the system, whereafter we were looking for our first investment to finish the platform and to sign more operators.
We got seed funded by a Dutch fund that invests in emerging markets. Apparently, they saw the effort that the team has made and believed in our story! We are now a team of 8 people and we are growing very fast.
7. You recently partnered with VIP Bus Services to digitized their bus tickets system and also make it convenient for passengers to buy tickets online. Can you please shed more info on this partnership?
YD: The VIP partnership has been something that we have worked quite long to get. VIP has the ambition to make a digital step forward, and I am very happy that they chose us as their digital partner that will help them be ready for the digital age.
We are now starting with one station, so they can get used to our solution, and we hope to gradually expand coverage over the next months. In the end, we want consumers to search and book tickets from and to anywhere in the country. Having the 2 biggest operators on board will definitely help us achieve that goal.
8. What do you think is the difference between growing a business in an emerging economy like Ghana, compare to growing a business in Europe or North America?
YD: The difference is very big, and it all has to do with the financial eco-system. In emerging markets, cash is an issue for so many start-ups. The access to finance is key for a business to grow. A lot of businesses, that have good ideas, fail to execute because they don’t have the resources to do so.
We also experienced a lot of prejudices when raising funds from investors outside of Africa. They asked us questions like: ‘but do they have internet and smartphones in Ghana?’, or they were worried about having local people in the team.
This is quite frustrating because these assumptions are not based on reality, but on ideas of decades ago. But, unfortunately, these notions do have an impact on the financial and economic investment climate in emerging markets like Ghana, making it harder for business to grow.
9. On failures and successes, what has been your biggest achievements and failures as a startup founder in Ghana?
YD: Let me start with failures. It will be a lie to say that I, and our team, have not ever failed in trying to achieve what we want to achieve. I think failure is a very important part of the process of success. We have failed countless time in order to succeed in the things that we achieved.
That alone is the basis of our biggest success: creating an ambitious team that aims for the moon with our ideas and services. I am proud of what we achieved so far and I am really looking forward to seeing what we will achieve in 2019.
10. Are there plans to expand to other African countries? Where do you see myTicketsGH in the next 5 – 10 years?
YD: As already stated, our dreams and goals are big. That’s why we are looking to expand to at least one other country before 2020. In five years from now, we hope that MyTicket will be the go-to service across several nations when people are looking to travel from city to city.
11. If you could give one piece of advice to someone thinking about starting a business in technology, what would it be?
YD: If you want to start a business in tech, the first thing you have to do is to get to know your customer. What are his needs? The next thing you have to do is to research the market, what is the potential in the market?
These two components should be the basis of every decision you make. Don’t be too proud to let go of ideas that are not worth going after because if your consumer does not share your vision, your service will not work and your business will die. It’s a hard world out there, so stay open-minded and let your clients and market lead the way and not your pride.