AFRICA • TECHNOLOGY
APRIL 26, 2020
In 2020, one more great startup joined the Seedstars community – eCampus – as the winner of the Migration Entrepreneurship Prize by the Human Security Division (Switzerland). We talked with Cecil Senna Nutakor, CEO of eCampus and learned more about his startup and how they are leveraging Artificial Intelligence to help job seekers better prepare for the challenges of the job market and improve their skills.
How did COVID-19 change the life of your startup? Did it influence somehow your product or business dynamics?
Our startup, eCampus has been hit by COVID-19 in both negative and positive ways. On one hand, our quarterly investment in-flows from our shareholders have been badly affected to the extent that, for the first time ever, we had to take a shareholder loan to support our 2020 second quarter operations.
On the other hand, the situation has driven our subscriptions over the roof. The lockdown created a high demand for online learning and assessment solutions and I am glad that we were ready to meet this demand. New accounts grew over 1000% from 524 new user accounts in February, to 5638 new user accounts in March. Overall, there were 9518 new users in Q1 2020 representing an 80% growth in new users compared to 2019. The overall number of active users for Q1 2020 was 9765, representing approximately 400% growth in active users compared to 2019.
The idea was born out of the frustration I had after failing my senior high school certificate exams for the third time. It was 2003, and I had already given up on taking the exams for the fourth time. However, the social pressure from my family and friends became enormously embarrassing, so I decided to try again. There was one personal promise I made for myself: I would not embarrass myself another time. I wanted to find a way that could predict my readiness for the exams before I would register for them. That was my eureka moment. At that time, there was no solution or tool that could help identify my strengths and weaknesses and predict my exams readiness. That’s why I tried to build one using Microsoft Access and Floppy Disks. It was the beginning of the eCampus journey!
We have been working on our Artificial Intelligence algorithms (called Nilee) since 2019, and we are ready to go live in 2020. During its training, Nilee demonstrated enormous capabilities that will be transformational to the eCampus user experience and will provide exceptional value to our users. With Nilee, we will be able to award digital badges to learners and award employability scores to job seekers. Employees of organizations using eCampus for their corporate training will also benefit from this AI-based solution.
There are two fundamental issues we have identified as a startup and that we are committed to addressing. Whether you are a migrant, displaced or not, to live a decent life anywhere on the planet, you need access to quality education and a fair job recruitment process.
eCampus helps learners to realise their strengths and weaknesses and with the help of Nilee, is capable of predicting whether you are ready to pass an examination or not. This helps learners mitigate the emotional stress of failure and save money. When learners are confident about their exams success it gives them hope wherever they find themselves.
Also, eCampus helps job seekers, especially graduates, with employability skills assessments. Nilee analyzes their results to generate an employability score that is used by employers to reduce the time and resources spent on recruitment of new talents. When job seekers are confident, their employability score guarantees them their dream jobs without having to pay bribes or use connections. They become empowered to believe in themselves and their ability to become successful. I believe very few people will leave a fulfilling job to cross the desert to get to Europe.
We are giving the people of Africa the tools and skills they need to stay home and build the Africa we all deserve, a prosperous continent full of opportunities.
Content development expenditure is our biggest challenge at the moment. We had a strategy for developing content (audio, video, text, virtual, and augmented reality labs) based on demand. We are able to identify what content our users need by applying our point earning system. It tells our users and us the strengths and weaknesses based on topics and sub-topics. Then, we raise the capital to develop content for the weaknesses (topics and sub-topics). Users are willing to buy a premium subscription for the content because it covers topics and sub-topics of their weaknesses.
Currently, due to the over 1000% increase in our user base, demand for content has quadrupled and we have to produce four times more materials than we used to create in a month to meet the demand. We were focused on high school content and, all of a sudden, we are getting demand for content in Nursing, Midwifery, Vocational and Technical Education, Law, Medicine, Aviation, University, Six Sigma, Scrum, Digital Skills, etc. It’s amazing to be getting all these requests because people believe in our technology, but at the same time, it’s devastating to know that you can not help everyone at the moment. It’s something that keeps me awake at night.
The simplicity of our technology and its powerful intelligence-gathering capabilities makes eCampus stand out. We have a mantra at eCampus: “If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.” That is exactly what drives our unique offerings. Employees or Educators need to measure performance from the micro to macro levels to be able to improve outcomes. eCampus automates this active and does it exceptionally well to help the learner, educator, employee, and employer get their desired results.
Our corporate governance practices and our unapologetic obsession with our users and customers. We try our best to give every user and customer the experience they would never forget. Especially with our B2B customers who rely on our technology to conduct their compliance assessments such as Anti-Money Laundry within the financial and insurance sectors. We stay with our customers every step of the way, from onboarding and generating reports to regulators. We take away their fears and pain points.
At eCampus, we are passionate about quality education, reduced inequalities, gender equality, and the eradication of poverty. We believe we are doing the right things one step at a time to achieve our mission. The future we see is the one where everyone has equitable access to quality education, regardless of gender, creed or social class.
In Ghana, you do not need internet data to access content on eCampus. Thanks to our partnerships with telecom companies, internet access inequality is gone. We are expecting a downward trend in national standard examination failure rates using eCampus Smart Reporting and an increase in access to higher education due to increased pass rates. This will lead to higher and better employability scores on eCampus to guarantee fair and transparent employment opportunities.
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