While many prototyping and business design tools can be used around the world, every region comes with unique challenges, opportunities, and ecosystems. Starting with Kenya, we want to translate these market-specific insights into practical toolkits.
We are planning to add more items over time and compile additional toolkits for other focus markets. The modules below are based on what has worked for us only, so feel free to share more ideas and perspectives that should be taken into consideration!
There are plenty of service providers in Kenya that ship small items and even heavy consignments within the Nairobi area or across the country. You can use those companies’ apps and websites to ship your products without establishing your own last-mile delivery network.
Flutterwave allows you to receive mobile payments through M-Pesa or credit cards. You can customize their ready-made payment links and share them with your clients or seamlessly integrate their payment gateway in your app. The service can also be used to pay others into their mobile payment wallet. Recently, they launched a shop feature for simple e-commerce applications.
We have used Facebook Ads in Kenya several times. From our experience, they perform quite well especially for target groups of 20 – 39 years old and are relatively cost-effective.
Working with influencers has become a fairly common marketing strategy and can also be used for product validation if target groups need to be specific and match well with the idea to be tested. The Kenyan Startup Wowzi, for example, makes it easy to engage with the right influencer in Kenya and measure the campaigns’ performance. Besides individuals, also niche media outlets or professional associations could act as an influencer.
From our experience, most Kenyan professionals are signed up on LinkedIn. It has been a great way to identify interview partners, potential clients or insiders that helped us to validate business models or learn about different industries.
Lean Customer Development
This method is named after the book of Cindy Alvarez which teaches entrepreneurs how to validate and invalidate business hypotheses through interviews with potential users. The book is very practical and provides clear guidance on how to identify a problem that simply does not exist or is not relevant for your clients and users.
Given that most startups fail because lacking market need, this method should be the first business design exercise. For us, the book’s approach has been fully applicable in Kenya, especially for B2B products.
WhatsApp has been a successful way to set up a simple conversational interface for your early users, without writing a single line of code. Ideally, get a free Airtel sim card with a nice phone number and set it up with the WhatsApp Business App. Other than the regular app, it will give you additional features such as automatic responses.
For complex WhatsApp business prototypes, check out GubShup, which allows multiple people to manage a single number from their web browsers and check out our video on the topic:
USSD’s, SMS, Calls
With solutions such as Africa’s Talking, you can easily integrate communication interfaces with Kenyan consumers into your prototype. Send interactive bulk SMS to your users, develop USSD applications or handle calls at scale.
With web design tools such as Webflow, you can build responsive websites quickly without coding or building anything from scratch. Webflow has a wide range of templates and features that help you to get started even faster. We use it on a regular basis, for example at Drivas Shuttle. It allows us to make small and major changes over time as we run product experiments and identify value propositions.
‘Get out of the building’ is one of the most important lean principles. Seeing first-hand how things work and understand how your clients and partners work on a daily basis is very important for every product development process. It’s not too hard to get an invitation to companies in Kenya and they usually have someone who will proudly show you are around and answer any questions you might have about their business.
Letter of Intent
A Letter of Intent (LoI) is a written confirmation of terms negotiated between two parties. While they are not binding, the involved bureaucracy and formality might be a valid indicator of the client’s interest in your offering. From our experience, LoIs may be useful to proof business interest of certain target groups to third parties such as investors. However, assessing the validity of your problem/solution is also possible using pure Lean Customer Development.
Let us know what should be added to this list based on what has worked for you in the Kenyan market: