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Former Ventureprise Intern Earns Success with Driver’s License App in Zimbabwe
April 13, 2017 at 12:15 PM
Ventureprise has emphasized university collaboration as a key pillar since its early stages, but the visionary founders may not have imagined that by doing so, they’d make an international impact on a developing country. Zimbabwe native Tawanda Chikosi is the founder and CEO of Road Rules, a mobile app designed to help people study and pass the provisional driver’s license test. In September, he made an appearance on Zimbabwe's Simba Savannah, comparable to America’s hit show Shark Tank, where he pitched his application to a panel of the most prominent entrepreneurs in the country in hopes of securing a business deal. “Simba Savannah is one of the best high quality entrepreneurship shows the country has had in the last decade,” Chikosi said. “The brand visibility eased up the negotiations we were already having with the government through the Traffic Safety Council of Zimbabwe by giving us credibility.” He got his deal, bringing on all of the Simba investors.
The idea for the app came while Chikosi was in the U.S. as a participant in the Department of State Professional Fellows program called Young Africans Leaders Initiative (YALI) for business & entrepreneurship. Through this program, he spent two months serving as an intern at Ventureprise where he explored various uses of technology in the U.S. While at Ventureprise, his mentor, associate director Devin Collins, worked with Chikosi to identify problems in Zimbabwe that can be solved using technology.
One problem they identified was the 60 percent failure rate on the Zimbabwe provisional driver’s license test, which costs the 243,000 citizens registered to take the test each year $20 U.S. dollars per sitting. A part of the reason for the high failure rate was that the study books sold on the street corners are poorly printed and outdated with inaccurate information. This was a problem that could be solved with technology.
Chikosi was then introduced to Professor Mohammed Shehab from UNC Charlotte’s College of Computing and Informatics (CCI) and CCI graduate student Manju Raghavendra who developed the first prototype of the application as a part of CCI’s Data Science Initiative.
“Their development was quite good, and the result assisted me in being selected to be a part of an entrepreneurial delegation from my country that attended Barack Obama’s 2015 Global Entrepreneurship Summit in Kenya – an opportunity that gave me a chance to research the Kenyan market for future expansion,” Chikosi said.
Through the help of the CCI team, they were able to create a prototype that was turned into a working beta version. When the Road Rules app eventually launched, the value proposition and market need was validated with 27,000 downloads.
Ventureprise has served as hosts for a variety of international entrepreneurs participating in U.S. State Department programs that are organized locally by the International House. “We are privileged to share the entrepreneurial and innovation eco-system on the UNC Charlotte campus with entrepreneurs around the world,” Collins said.
Shehab echoed Ventureprise’s sentiments, “A key takeaway from this experience is that UNC Charlotte students could gain experience by working with startups to solve real world problems. We look forward to future collaborations to help startups worldwide to engage with UNC Charlotte,” he said.
To watch Tawanda Chikosi on South Africa’s Simba Savannah visit https://youtu.be/JwTLPLGEWTc.