I first met Samuel Majani at the Nailab when he and his co-founder Lyosi Mwedekeli were building out KenyanLyrics.com. They struck me as smart, coming from a background of selling digital music and seeing the scarcity of metadata and fuller value propositions while dealing with global brands like Shazam. In 2010, the lyrics opportunity flat-lined and Majani jumped onto an adjacent, hugely underserved vertical of celebrity gossip, entertainment and social trolling with a new startup Ghafla!
Love them or hate them, the anonymity afforded by the internet, the ubiquity of mobile data coupled with great timing led to a mini revolution in the content space that drove audiences mostly in the 18–34 age bracket to Ghafla’s doors and not too far behind were the advertisers, edgy content notwithstanding. Spawning competitors like any good opportunity does, Ghalfa survived the onslaught and even closed a seed round.
Their story of resilience starts when they dropped the edgy content mid 2015; the genesis of their spectacular growth, for a more balanced experience. Many critics predicted their end. Majani tells me that the move was inevitable as they had to grow their advertising footprint and that the decision paid off. The second inflection point came in November 2016, at the end of a very public investor relationship. They had impressive stats at 1.2 million unique visitors a month and healthy average monthly recurring revenue topping KShs 2.5 million. Losing close to 70% of organic traffic at a time when completion was heavy on paid media is the stuff of nightmares, especially with increased overheads.
Pressing reset, it took 4 months to get the house back in order – technology, staffing, strategy, business development and PR. It was back to business basics. Based on the reporting dashboards I have seen (Week of 16th April 2017), the previous metrics have since been surpassed.
Love them or hate them, the anonymity afforded by the internet, the ubiquity of mobile data coupled with great timing led to a mini revolution
The gist of the Ghalfa case study can be summarized in three pertinent points.
- First, you do not need to deploy expensive custom tools to return a profit; on the contrary these can be your achilles heel.
- Second, a remote team structure can work well and deliver value especially where experience delivery is digital.
- Third and most important is that you must figure out your own growth trajectory and if outside capital is needed, or a liquidity event is in the offing, ensure deep alignment with potential suitors