The startup Weebi was ranked in the 1st place at "L'Arbres à Palabres" Hackathon. Its project is a smart cash register helps shopkeepers monitor their business activity.
Interview with Pierre Gancel, founder of Weebi
What’s the story behind your project and what sparked the idea?
It all began with a few drops of oil spilled onto an accounting notebook. I was with Amadou, a shopkeeper from my neighbourhood in Dakar, when he knocked over a bottle of oil that spilled onto his notebook. It sounds like a minor incident, but it actually almost caused him to go bankrupt. Why? Because the list of customer debts and balances was unreadable, a whole series of disputes was unleashed. And that’s how we got the idea for Weebi - an electronic cash register adapted to the constraints of grocery retailers in Senegal, that would provide a reliable back-up for all transactions and help users improve the way they manage their business.
In what ways is your project innovative?
The Weebi tactile cash register incorporates credit management and mobile payments. Its main features make it a perfect match for the needs of the African market. The app runs offline and data is kept secure. And - a major asset - its anti-theft stand has proved highly dissuasive.
What does the Innovation Lab represent for you?
Lab Innovation is a go-between that puts startups in French-speaking Africa in contact with Societe Generale. The Lab teams have a perfect overview of the constraints facing banks, agencies and even clients. As a result, they are able to identify exactly which startups are developing high-potential innovative projects and they boost their growth by putting them in touch with the people who are best placed to accelerate their project. The Lab is therefore a key contact which acts as an essential go-between.
What were your expectations for the Lab?
During our incubation period, we expected the Lab to act as a facilitator, as I’ve just mentioned. We hope that it will help us save time by anticipating and above all reducing the latency periods that are inherent to all major groups. We’ve already obtained some tangible benefits. For example, by putting us in touch with human resources from YUP - the new mobile money solution deployed by the bank in Africa - the Lab made us aware of certain development constraints, which - crucially - we have been able to integrate into Weebi’s online payment functions. We’d like to go even further and have the Lab keep us up-to-date on the whole range of ways we can work with Societe Generale and the conditions attached to each option.
What are the benefits of your project for the African market?
Weebi is a tool designed to help very small businesses, such as fishmongers, wholesalers, grocery stores and so on, professionalise their working methods. Our solution offers managers increased transparency. It also helps make transactions smoother by offering two alternatives for customers who don’t have cash available: either sale on credit or sale via a mobile payment.
How do you see your startup 10 years from now?
We see big! Weebi will be the next Square of French-speaking Africa - that very impressive company based in San Francisco and specialised in mobile and electronic payments. We’ll offer a wide range of high added-value services, such as less restrictive access to capital thanks to improved tracking of transactions, made possible by our Weebi cash registers.
What would you say is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
I was really impressed by some management advice from Madjiguène Sock, the founder of Dalberg Advisors in Dakar. She advised me that running an exemplary business was all about leading by example, not applying an authoritarian model based on the carrot and stick approach. I’m convinced, now more so than ever, that engagement, dedication and merit in the workplace get teams far more motivated than long tirades, recurrent bonuses or threats.