Founder Feature: Jerry Akanyi-King

Sylvana Lewin | Tuesday, January 16th, 2018

MEST helped me meet my co-founders, without whom TransGov wouldn’t exist today, as well as a lot of other smart, passionate, and interesting people who are now some of my very best friends and colleagues. I cannot overstate how important this has been for me in my journey thus far.

This week we sat down with TransGov CEO Jerry Akanyi-King. Read on to learn why Kudobuzz is one of his favorite tech companies!

Where are you from?

Sogakope in the Volta Region of Ghana

 

Tell me a bit about your company.

 

TransGov is a civic tech startup that provides civic engagement solutions and improves core processes for metropolitan, municipal and district assemblies in Ghana. We merge technology and governance by providing efficient tools to transform the way cities solve problems and help them to monitor infrastructure and operations.

 

We have 3 products. One is a mobile application that uses crowdsourcing to enable city residents to report problems in their communities in order for the relevant government agencies and departments to be alerted in real time to take action. These problems can range from potholes, to burst pipes, road accidents, sanitation and waste management issues etc.

 

Another is a CRM tool which is designed for government authorities to effectively and efficiently manage citizen reports, view problem hotspots and manage and dispatch teams to take action on citizen reports.

 

Our third product helps citizens to track and monitor development projects government is implementing in their local communities. Our aim is to  foster better information delivery and improve citizen-government engagement leading to increased interactions between citizens of Ghana and duty bearers in order to enhance service delivery and social accountability.

 

We founded TransGov in 2015 while we were still EITs at MEST as a passion project borne out of our frustration with not knowing who to report problems we found in our communities to and not having any way to interact with our local government representatives.

 

Why did you come to MEST?

 

At the time I applied to join MEST, I had started a media company and was bent on making it a huge success. I was also curious about tech and would read all the top tech blogs and newsletters. When I heard about MEST, it piqued my interest because I was going to be taught not only how to build the tech solutions I read about all the time, but also how to build a world class business. Knowing the value of that skill set, I simply could not pass up the opportunity.

 

How did MEST help get you to where you are today?

 

MEST helped me meet my co-founders, without whom TransGov wouldn’t exist today, as well as a lot of other smart, passionate, and interesting people who are now some of my very best friends and colleagues. I cannot overstate how important this has been for me in my journey thus far.

 

Aside from that, MEST provided a great environment for learning and acquiring knowledge from fellows with a variety of backgrounds from all over the world. From having a large and supportive network to having brilliant people I can bounce ideas off everyday, MEST has been instrumental in how far I’ve come.

 

What do you wish you had known as an EIT? Do you have any advice for this year’s group?

 

The MEST program is one of the most intense programs I’ve ever been a part of, and it was daunting sometimes, especially at the beginning. One thing I wish I knew and would like to leave with EITs present and future is that one needs to be patient with oneself. Learning how to code and starting a business are really tough things to learn so quickly, and when things are not going your way, the temptation to get frustrated and give up is high. I learned to be patient with myself and take baby steps before going on to bigger things.

 

Another nugget I picked up along the way is that feedback is golden. No matter how bad feedback is, whether from colleagues, customers, friends etc. the best thing to do is analyze it thoroughly and look for the gold nuggets in there. How we approach feedback can literally make or break us.

 

If you could go back in time to when you were just starting your company, what would you tell yourself?

 

  1. Launch MVPs fast, and talk to as many people as possible. Ideas are everything, and the more people you talk to, the more you shape your product strongly.

 

  1. Build values and culture from day one. Even before building the MVP.

 

What have been some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced while at the MEST training program and the MEST Incubator? How did you get past these challenges?

 

Learning how to code during the MEST training was challenging for me, but MEST has such a great and supportive environment that it was easy to seek help from colleagues who were only too eager to help. And that was also a good lesson to learn. Never be too proud to ask for help when you need it.

 

What would you say is your greatest success?

 

Starting my company. As Steve Jobs once said, “The journey is the reward.” I’m happy we have products out that people are using and deriving benefit from. For us, our success is derived from how impactful our products are in people’s lives and how that is directly improving the quality of their lives.

 

What’s your favorite food?

Rice and vegetable stew

 

What do you like most about Ghana?

 

The one thing I love about my country is our resilience as a people. No matter how bad the situation is, we always find a way to make things work.

 

What is your favorite memory from your time at MEST?

When I presented the first app I built: a social network for people to connect and  share food recipes. I was really proud of myself.

 

Who is your tech idol? Why?

I have lots of tech idols but my current favorites are Ev Williams and Biz Stone, both founders of Twitter. Take the case of Ev, he keeps building all these iconic products that are game-changers, from Blogger to Twitter to Medium. You would think he’d be satisfied with having created just one of such world changing products, but no, he keeps innovating and coming up with all these awesome products and that is why he’s my idol. I also love Biz for his foresight, vision and his ability to always make ideas and products better.

 

 

Do you have any books about tech that you would suggest?

 

  1. Ben Horowitz – The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers
  2. Antonio Garcia Martinez – Chaos Monkeys: Obscene Fortune and Random Failure in Silicon Valley
  3. Walter Isaacson – Steve Jobs
  4. Biz Stone – Things a Little Bird Told Me

 

What is your favorite tech company? Why?

 

One of the companies I most admire is Kudobuzz. I’m really blown away by how Kena and his team are slowly but surely building a powerhouse of a business to help online merchants better deliver value  to their customers. Even though the company is not world famous yet, I really think they’re onto something and will become one of the most talked about business success stories from Africa in the next few years.

 

Who/what inspires you?

 

I take inspiration from everything. From the pure water seller chasing after a trotro to collect her coins to the mother taking her little son to school in the morning, I find myself inspired by life in general.