With the tremendous advances in technology and related know-how, have come the potential and scope to better our lives and improve efficiency. Professional and social activities can and regularly receive a boost from the products and services spawned by innovations in the technological space.
Perhaps more than most global economic activities, this new space is one that Ghanaians and Ghanaian companies can actively inhabit. Among the innovative firms at the vanguard of the country’s push is Streemio, a music streaming service conceived and run by Samuel Owusu Darko and Francis Mawuli Ahose.
Streemio’s basic proposition is simple. By building a huge library of licensed music, it can offer subscribers access to a limitless store of music that they can access once they have the application installed on their phones and a working data connection to enable it. For listeners, this means forgoing the trouble of finding, downloading and holding the files. Advertisers will also find that a more engaged audience as well as the sharper statistics derived by Streemio and the interactive nature of the service will provide not just more bang for their buck but also a keener sense of the where the bullet landed.
Samuel and Francis met while both were undergoing the Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology programme, an initiative of the Meltwater Foundation which seeks to provide the skills necessary for graduates to build software businesses. At the end of their two year training, Samuel and Francis, Biochemistry and Information Technology majors respectively, pitched their idea to the foundation and received funding to start Streemio.
Streemio first launched publicly in December 2011, bringing the young entrepreneurs face to face with the difficulties generated by launching with inadequate information. For one thing, they discovered that while they had built a java platform for Nokia phones particularly, a decision taken based on Nokia’s large market presence, the majority of the download requests came from users of other smartphone brands whose numbers and interest were grossly underestimated. Ideally, that information should have been available before launch to enable the team better focus their efforts and resources in a market where second chances don’t come easily.
Having access to publicly accurate information with regards to mobile phone statistics such as total numbers per platform, age grouping per platform, usage distribution across the country and so on will serve as an almost equally important catalyst as funding in getting the mobile revolution off the ground in Ghana.
Francis believes that this information is necessary not only for Streemio but for the nascent Ghanaian tech industry, given that mobile platforms are the acknowledged future of software development.
“Knowing what phones are out there is a major challenge. When we started Streemio, we learnt some difficult lessons. If you ask some of the telcos how many blackberries are on their network, for example, they either don’t know or won’t tell you. Were that information readily available, a developer would know what to push out there. In our case, we have to seed blindly because we don’t know for sure what is out there. So when we first released the application, one of our biggest objectives was to find out what was out there.“
Lessons learnt, Streemio is now working on android and blackberry platforms. With these, they will be able to reach a bigger market of hip young Ghanaians in and outside of the country wielding smartphones and willing to utilize them to access applications for social and professional services.
Naturally, given its model, Streemio’s success is dependent on the telecom companies who must provide data connections that are reliable and priced in a manner that will allow users to fully enjoy the experience.
“We need to start talking seriously about data”, Samuel says. “The blackberry revolution has shown that for the right value, people are willing to pay up to GHC40 a month. With the right pricing, one could work on ideas without necessarily worrying about what and how people will pay.”
That, as well as stable data connections.
Which are worries that radio stations, to which Streemio poses a real and disruptive threat, do not have. For users, however, Streemio’s success will be a real boon. Users will be able to create their own playlists, for example and not have to rely on the taste of often self-interested disc jockeys and presenters. An audio-on-demand service such as provided by Streemio also means that you listen when you are good and ready, effectively freeing up the listener from the dictatorship of radio programming.
While a consumer-centric service, it also offers great advantages for potential advertisers. The genius of Streemio is that it delivers benefits across the board.
Samuel, whose forte is the business side of the operation, explains.
“Advertising requires an audience – which you can achieve via the content you deliver. Based on our research, we see that people are more engaged when they can decide exactly what they want to listen to, as opposed to the passive experience that radio delivers. This allows us to achieve greater results for advertisers. In addition to that, the ads are targeted which means that we can serve up ads based on the listener’s profiles – gender, age group, etc. The ads are also interactive, so users can immediately engage with products that they find interesting.”
Streemio answers a big question for advertising particularly in terms of reporting. One can tell, for example, exactly how many people have actually heard it as opposed to the vague generalizations that are available for radio spots. It also means that advertisers can determine at which point to initiate engagement with consumers with regard to multi-layered campaigns, for example.
“With a targeted service like this, we are able to tell when you sign on that you haven’t heard an ad so we know not to start at a point that makes it impossible to understand the campaign. With radio, they can only play spots for periods of time without a sense of who has heard it and how many times they have before the move on to the next stage of the story”, adds Francis.
For the artiste, Streemio is a brilliant way to deal with a market that has become used to accessing files digitally. As an alternative to downloads, Streemio gives the artiste an opportunity to make some money off their product. Music licensed to Streemio via GAMRO, earns the artiste revenue while also giving artistes a sense of which of their songs are popular with listeners.
As the service grows beyond the Ghanaian market, this will be even more essential as artistes will be able to determine where their music is popular. It will then be possible for the artiste to discover that there is a fan base in Kenya, say, which might not have been possible without a service like Streemio.
For Streemio itself, going global is not only natural but necessary. While the Ghanaian market is the primary audience, its size or lack thereof makes such a move essential. Luckily, it is also likely. Initial tests have discovered that the service is popular in Nigeria and India, for example. And thus, Streemio could be taking the tentative steps to creating a global winner for Ghana, of which there could, hopefully, be a few. There is a growing community of entrepreneurs who are driving innovation in the face of various challenges.
For one, building the platforms, engaging providers and attracting the interest of users takes time and money – resources that are often not readily available to even those with the best of ideas.
Which is why the Meltwater Foundation’s input is vital for Streemio and others like it. There are currently 6 other Ghanaian Companies in the MEST Incubator with more to come after the MEST graduation and investor pitches in June.
“If we had just been two people right out of university with no savings, we couldn’t have done this,” Samuel says. “So not until you have a system that is very embracing of ideas or an investor culture that is willing to support ideas, it will be hard. “
Streemio itself as a platform has enormous potential for growth. As the listener base increases, the data collected will be of tremendous use to a Ghanaian business community that is largely starved of accurate data about their potential customers and their interests. The platform itself can enable the delivery of content other than music, opening up avenues for creative and corporate data delivery.
More will mean greater and the enterprising duo is determined to build a recognizable Pan-African brand with annual revenues of over ten million dollars, delivering varying content that serves both corporate and individual needs. And quite possibly, helping shape the way media is consumed in Ghana and beyond.