Modern society is struggling with the increasingly difficult routine of the big cities and the accumulation of activities that, to some extent, reduce the quality of life. But what can technology not do to ensure convenience for users? UBI is one of those tools that propose to solve big problems with just one click.
If “knowledge is power”, then what about a technological solution that makes you able to know everything that is happening in the city where you live? This may not be new in the most developed countries, but it is here in Mozambique. It already exists and it does make a big difference.
The city of Maputo, which had never had a technological tool that could inform citizens about what happens in all spheres of their daily lives, began to have this type of service when a startup called VOID decided to create UBI, a platform to keep citizens more connected to their city. UBI (ubi.co.mz) is, in fact, an information platform about the city and everything that happens in it, composed of an ecosystem of applications and interactive kiosks placed on the busy avenues of Maputo.
The aim, from the beginning of its creation, is that everything that is information about the city is available on the platform, also allowing access to local businesses. The platform also brings together a set of tools that local entrepreneurs can use, including the possibility of creating their own online shop, mark the products available or create promotional campaigns. In other words, through this platform, it is possible to make the intersection between buying and selling, at the exact intersection between those interested in buying a good or service and the seller. It also has a function used for events, which is basically a cultural agenda of everything that takes place in the city. In it, it is possible, for example, to buy tickets, receive invitations and participate in promotions within the events. And in terms of urban mobility, it is also possible to consult the different transport routes to facilitate users’ mobility.
“UBI started being worked on in 2015, but it was only launched in 2018. It was practically three years working on the project, in an investment made with own resources. That’s why it took time before being launched on the market,” Alexandre Coelho, managing director of VOID reveals to E&M.
In late 2021, the platform was put on standby much because of the impact of the covid-19 pandemic, but also because the company was repositioning itself and changing the strategies of action.
In the beginning it did not get much space in the market because, according to Alexandre Coelho, the public was not prepared for some of the innovations that the platform brought, nor for the high degree of complexity of its functions, which made its use difficult. Today, however, the platform is being transformed and will be reactivated this year. Alexandre Coelho confesses that UBI was never sustainable.
Although it had some income, it still did not allow the project to break even (when costs exceed revenue).
“So we designed a plan to improve the sustainability of the platform. We were going to move in this direction, at least this was the strategy, and right from the start we would have succeeded, but the pandemic changed everything,” explained the young manager.
“Right now we are looking for investors for the platform and this could speed up everything we have in terms of plans,” he stresses. “We were about to relaunch it at the end of last year, as we had an investor we were working with, but the negotiations stopped and we are again in the market in search of another investor that may change the current scenario of the platform”, clarifies Alexandre Coelho.
On this issue, the responsible highlights that one of the great obstacles to the development of start-ups in the country is related to “the lack of a network of venture capital investors, which makes new technological products and services depend only on investment with own funds”, which generally are not sufficient in the first phase of the projects.
Also because, he continues, “any technological solution requires a lot of investment in marketing to ensure that it remains in the client’s mind, beyond the investment in the solution itself”, he reiterates.
For the future, “what we have planned is, after this transformation phase, to re-launch the platform and proceed with the strategy of expanding the digital billboard network throughout the country”, he concluded.