Kenyan entrepreneur and CTO of CanGo, Peter Kariuki"We’ve just launched in Kinshasa as a first mover in ride-hailing... it feels like we’re on the verge of something incredible"

Peter Kariuki is a Kenyan software engineer and Africa Prize 2018 alumnus. He is founder and CTO of CanGo, formerly SafeMotos, a safe ride-hailing motorcycle taxi service that just launched in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo.

We asked Peter about his innovation, the impact of the Africa Prize, the challenges he has faced and the next steps for CanGo:

 

Can you briefly describe your innovation and tell us what inspired you?

We have designed and built an app for ordering motorcycle taxis in Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo – originally called SafeMotos. Our primary inspiration was safety, because of the high number of accidents involving motorbikes.

The CanGo app on a motorbikeWe are very proud of how we have ensured safer transport: we use sensor telemetry to monitor the quality of driving, and voice recognition for accurate customer and driver identity checks. We have also made it mandatory for drivers to ride in pairs between 8pm and 6am, as a solo driver or single bike is at higher risk of being attacked.

Over the last two years, we have realised that the product has greater transferability than we initially thought, and that we could build a service that could be a logistics backbone for African cities. In Kinshasa, we are really excited to be working on a ‘super app’ version of CanGo – a single application that is a professional services market place, where you can order not just motorcycle taxis, but many on-demand services such as supermarket delivery.

It is a step-by-step journey and we are excited to be developing our driver network and user base, but we hope to see a future where the CanGo app is an integral layer to African cities.

 

What are the main lessons you learned through the Africa Prize training?

The Africa Prize training was one of the most positive experiences of my life. While the events were killer, I think having the opportunity to meet other innovators was the greatest part of the training; seeing so much passion, brilliance and drive in one place humbled me and motivated me to get even better.

What’s more I am now part of a network of enablers, cheerleaders and strategic thinkers all willing to help each other out.

 

The photo used in the Forbes article, showing Peter and his c-founder riding on the back of SafeMotos bikesWhat impact has the Africa prize had on you and your business?

So much of life is serendipity, and the Africa Prize has been a positive wind in my sails, opening up dozens of opportunities and connections.

As just one example, the Africa Prize sent a photographer, James, to take some photos of my cofounder and myself. The photos he took were brilliant and became a part of our press kit. Then, there was a small article on us in Forbes’ international which used one of the RAEng photos, which led to the lead investor in our last funding round finding out about CanGo. Cool right?

 

What stage are you at now?

We’ve just launched in Kinshasa as a first mover in ride-hailing. It’s incredibly exciting, Kinshasa is Africa’s third largest city and its transportation challenges are extreme: it feels like we’re on the verge of something incredible here.

Kinshasa is also great for our ‘super app’ strategy, since it has good 3G / 4G and few other startups, so we plan on conquering the whole ecosystem. On top of that we’ve reoriented our operation in Kigali to be an innovation lab where we test new products. For example, we’ve now launched a service there to build muscle memory with on demand services.

Finally, we’ve developed a technology team based out of Nairobi. It feels incredible to be in control of all our tech, as before we used a lot of freelancers or just relied on myself. Now it feels like we’re building an Avengers style super team.

A row of CanGo bikes with branded helmets, ready to pick up customers

 

What has been the most challenging thing for you in your career until now?

This last funding round was a real challenge. My cofounder and I really believe that Kinshasa and cities like it are the greatest opportunity in Africa. These giant untapped markets are just waiting to be disrupted by technology, but the low level of startups in the DRC means there isn’t really a VC culture.

We had a lot of hard days, but we got through, and now it feels like we’ve pioneered our own new mould of investor profile not just for DRC but for Africa.

 

What one tip for success would you give to your fellow innovators and researchers?

Just don’t give up. It sounds obvious and it’s easier to say than to do, but it can often feel like life has led you to a dead end and you just want to raise your hands up and say you did your best. However, in my experience, usually hitting a wall is just the start of the journey and solving your way out of seemingly impossible situations forms invaluable skills.

Entrepreneur Peter working on his laptop

 

What’s next for CanGo?

We are just looking to get some additional strategic investors on board before the end of the year for a 500K SAFE (Simple Agreement for Future Equity) in the hope to increase our financial buffer.

We have also just launched publicly in Kinshasa!

 

For more information on CanGo, visit their website.