Move aside cash, here comes ‘Lipisha’

PHOTO | CORRESPONDENT Lipisha founders Martin Kasomo (left) and Marshall Musyimi.

What you need to know:

  • After a difficult start, new mobile money concept that uses the Safaricom and Airtel money transfer platforms takes off

Imagine walking into a restaurant with a date, ordering dinner, then requesting for the bill... only to discover that you have left your wallet at home. This happened to the founder of Lipisha Consortium Limited.

“Embarrassing? Not if the restaurant uses Lipisha and your phone has money in your M-Pesa account,” says Martin Kasomo, the CEO of the consortium.

After graduating from the University of Nairobi with a First Class Honours degree in computer science, Kasomo was not in a hurry to get a white collar job, unlike most of his peers.

Little did he know that his final year project — the Lipisha concept — would become not only his source of employment but a revolution in the business sector.

Buoyed by the speed at which ICT was taking over most day-to-day activities, Kasomo and five of his colleagues decided to pursue the Lipisha concept. It took them a year and two months to actualise it and another eight months to get investors.

The road was tough and at one point they almost gave up. Raising capital was difficult. On May 2011, the group managed to register the company — Lipisha Consortium Limited.

Surprisingly, some of his university colleagues who had secured white collar jobs sought employment in his firm.

Lipisha was officially launched late last year during the DEMO Africa event. It was among 40 companies from over 400 businesses across Africa that was selected as a viable start-up.

This enabled it to carry out a pilot programme and now it is moving into its growth phase.

“We are generating revenues and, based on our projections, we should reach a million dollars within our first year of active operation,” says Kasomo.

In a recent business idea competition organised by the Catholic University of Milan and Tangaza University College of Kenya, in Nairobi, the Lipisha concept was among the top three viable business ideas and the best in ICT and mobile IT sector.

This earned the brains behind the presentation a full MBA scholarship worth 4,000 euros (about Sh400,000) to study social entrepreneurship.

The course is aimed at building a new class of Kenyan and African entrepreneurs who will be able to combine economic success with social and environmental sustainability. Those who enrol will be trained by international experts and become part of an international network that will be expected to spur business growth.

The Lipisha service allows customers to pay for goods and services using mobile cash. It also allows business owners to quickly receive and process mobile payments through simplified mobile and tablet applications.

The application intends to allow businesses to have their funds settled in real-time in their bank accounts.

It also ensures security of cash-flow and enables businesses to leverage on the money transacted.

“Our overall goal is to bridge the gap in use of mobile money from consumer-to-consumer into consumer-to-business and business-to-business, making mobile cash more useful for businesses,” says Kasomo.

Lipisha is currently working with Safaricom and Airtel via the M-Pesa and Airtel Money platforms respectively and with Kenya Power, banks, and mobile phone companies such as Nokia.

A business or enterprise is given a pay bill number by the consortium which it uses in making transactions.

Statistics from mobile money providers indicate that billions of shillings are transacted everyday on peer-to-peer networks.

Increasingly, more transactions are carried out between consumers using mobile cash than using bank accounts, cheques, credit cards, or other means.

The current investors in Lipisha Consortium Limited are Growth Africa, Village Capital, and Met Fund.