We had an informative interview with Mr. Fritz Ekwoge Ekwoge, a serial entrepreneur who co-founded Kerawa and founded Iyam.mobi. This is the second interview we had with Mr. Ekwoge Ekwoge, the first occurred in 2007.
In this interview we discussed Cameroonian tech and the recent Barcamp Cameroon 2010.
TechMasai: What is Barcamp Cameroon 2010?
Mr. Ekwoge Ekwoge: Barcamp Cameroon 2010 is the second edition of the Cameroonian version of Barcamps which take place world wide.
I consider it the most interesting tech gathering in Cameroon, which particularly stems from its ‘non-conference’ nature. The 250+ participants we invite every 6 months are the principal actors, and they always have lots to share with each other.
TechMasai: What is particularly unique to Barcamp Cameroon compared to other African hosted Barcamps?
Mr. Ekwoge Ekwoge: It is our bilingualism. Our talks are both in English and French
You might expect an event like barcamp to be filled with pure technical guys. In this barcamp we had those who were interested in pure dev, those interested in open source, and those interested in ICT4D. I expected the ICT$D section to be less populated. The attendance and participation in the ICT4D section was above expectation.
The developers were in heaven on that day, from technical talks, to venture talks, to experiences of those who’ve had some success in the Cameroon software industry, to Google coding sessiosn with a Google representative from UK.
We had women too! 20 out of 250 participants is always a good score with respect to African tech gatherings.
We are happy our participants made it a success. We want to thank our sponsors and organisers for a job well done.
TechMasai: What was different about this year’s Barcamp compared to other previous events?
Mr. Ekwoge Ekwoge: Both Barcamps were great. The first was in Douala , in November 2009, and was themed: Digital Dreams. The second was in Yaounde, in June 2010, and was themed:This Is Our Land.
Still, there were some improvements we implemented this year.
Mr. Ekwoge Ekwoge: It felt great. It was an honor. This is the second time a proposed manifesto of mine was adopted for Barcamp Cameroon.
The first time was during the 2009 edition of Barcamp Cameroon, where I proposed the theme “Digital Dreams”. It was a wake up call where I accused Cameroonians of having stopped dreaming: a link to that is here
Boy was I wrong. The attendance and participation from that first barcamp proved me wrong. I did see that there were Cameroonians who had not stopped dreaming.
Sixth months later, in the second barcamp, I proposed the theme “This is our Land”. Another wake up call for Cameroonians to put in more effort in fixing their land: article link. I am glad because during this second edition of Barcamp, I did see many Cameroonians proposing solutions to change this Cameroon from what we know right now, to the Cameroon where we rightly belong.
TechMasai: What Is different in Cameroon web 2.0 compared to a few years ago when we last interviewed you at TechMasai?
Mr. Ekwoge Ekwoge: Since our last interview with you, lots of things have changed in the Cameroonian web space.
We now have many more ISPs in Cameroon who are doing their best to promote the use of the Internet. Their combined effort has increased the degree of Internet penetration in Cameroon.
We also have more tech gatherings like Barcamps that help geeks and friends of geeks to meet with each other and share. These were completely inexistent a few years ago. The media itself, is becoming interested in the tech market.
We tapped an untapped online classifieds market in Cameroon a few years ago with Kerawa. Our success there has created a whole new market for online classifieds, with new offerings springing in almost every day. We joke internally at Kerawa that , at this rate, there will be one online classifieds for every Cameroonian. We do have other Cameroonian startups that are doing interesting stuff not directly related to online classifieds though.
I am glad to say we’ve recently launched a new product in the Cameroonian market callediYam.mobi.
iYam permits you to Find Anyone and includes lots of SMS apps that make your phone more useful and fun. You can use iYam to find the contact number of any registered business, organisation , friend or family member. And it does that beautifully.
We already have a bunch of cool SMS apps in our inventory. Some of these apps are so interesting you would think they were on steriods . SMS apps on iYam are a bunch of SMS services people are willing to pay for. We’ve created an SMS Apps Store around these SMS services so as to permit developers and content creators earn some money from their effort. What we’re telling local developers is, there is an alternative to developing complex web apps with little revenue. Develop SMS apps with iYam.mobi
A few years ago, we set out to conquer the Cameroonian web space with Kerawa. Now we have set ourselves a new goal with the SMS market. Only time will tell if the decisions and bets we’re taking right now will pay off.
There are so many things I could say about iYam.mobi that would warrant another interview on its own. Until then.