Mobile service accelerates careers in Kenya

Fuzu, a Finnish company, developed a mobile service in Kenya, which helps job applicants find their place in their careers. The support from Finnpartnership was important early on. Now the company’s growth is accelerated by funding from Finnfund.
Loosely translated, ‘Fuzu’ in Swahili means success created through individual efforts. This is well-suited as the name for a Finnish start-up company, which started developing a mobile service for job applicants and employers in Kenya. The founders of Fuzu Oy, Jussi Hinkkanen and Jussi Impiö had years of previous experience in Africa, as both had worked there when working for Nokia, among others. “At Nokia, we had conducted a lot of sociological and anthropological research on how poor populations can also benefit from new technology”, explains Jussi Hinkkanen. “The current Internet job portals cannot serve a majority of the population. We wanted to develop a service, which would also be used by those less-educated at different stages in their careers and providing them instructions and encouragement for their current situation”, Hinkkanen continues.

Finnpartnership support important early on

Kenya was a natural target country for developing Fuzu’s mobile service, as the country is advanced in the use of wireless services, especially mobile payment services. The two men decided to take a big risk. First they worked on developing the service without external funding or wages. The first investors in Fuzu were Finnish angel investors.

During 2014–2015, Fuzu received support from Finnpartnership to complete a feasibility study, train personnel, identify partners and piloting the project in Kenya. “Finnpartnership support was very important to us. Africa is a difficult market full of risks, so it is difficult for a company entering the market to obtain private funding”, Hinkkanen says. He feels that support from Finnpartnership encourages companies to attempt business in more challenging markets. “The support allowed us the possibility to pilot the service in practice, which was vital to launch actual business activities.”

Additional boost to creating Fuzu’s service was provided by the BEAM – Business with Impact programme. The programme is organised by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Finland and Tekes – Finnish Funding Agency for Innovation and is aimed at companies, research organisations and associations that develop solutions for problems in developing countries.

The availability of jobs is expanding

Fuzu’s goal is to considerably increase business over the next few years, but the company also has a social agenda. “The population growth in Africa is one of the mega-trends in the world, also affecting Europe. Fuzu aims to help with the employment problems in Africa and help employees and employers find each other more effectively.” Over 200,000 users have registered for the Fuzu service in Kenya and over 600,000 people have used the service over the past year. According to Hinkkanen, the goal is to triple the figure by the end of the year. “The jobs that are currently available are primarily for applicants that have at least a high school education. In the future, the service will be expanded to include jobs with lesser education requirements.

Fuzu’s service helps the application create a profile, search jobs that suit the candidate’s background and learn skills that are significant for the job. The service provides constant feedback and aims to guide the user in the right direction. “A large share of the users have never received career guidance, so their knowledge on working life is limited. Career tests and discussions with career advisers are a relief to these users.” For employers, Fuzu provides the ability to identify the best suited candidates often from thousands of job applicants. Fuzu services are for-fee services for employers, but applicants have access to the basic services free of charge. “Fees are charged for premium services. However, they have been adjusted to meet the payment capabilities of users. ”

Funding from Finnfund accelerates growth

According to Hinkkanen, developing an Internet-based service platform requires a lot of work, time and costs. “When a service is being developed for those with less education and Internet experience, implementation becomes increasingly complicated. The use needs to be simple, but achieving this requires use of the latest technologies, such as machine learning. This allows a service to be built that can accurately monitor its users’ needs.” The ready service platform is relatively easy to expand to other countries by implementing small country-specific changes. Fuzu’s goal is to initially expand its operations elsewhere in East Africa, starting with Tanzania. Later, other parts in Africa and Asia may be considered.

In November, Fuzu raised EUR 1.75 million in additional funding to develop and expand its operations. Of this, development fund company Finnfund’s share is EUR 0.5 million in the first phase. The sum can be increased to EUR 1.5 million in the future. Other sources for funding included Barona Technologies Oy, which develops new types of career solutions, and Polkuni Oy, which focuses on education innovations. “Additional funding is very important when we expand our operations, build a suitable team in Kenya and improve marketing for the service”, Hinkkanen says.

Update (11th May 2017): More than 700,000 people have used Fuzu to date. More information available here (in Finnish).

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