Campus Discounts, a Kenyan based tech startup, is a global social network where students find and recommend discounts offered by businesses near campus. The app has quickly gathered a large, loyal following, with thousands of users spread-out across the globe. The discounts showcase the product on offer with the price reduction shown as a percentage and in monetary value. Students find discounts by visiting their respective campus page, via a link in a friend’s recommendation or through a product search.
The Campus Discounts founding team is made up of Don Omondi and Naomi Wambui. Don Omondi is the CTO while Naomi Wambui is COO. Don is a self-trained IT guru, system admin, web and mobile app developer experienced in the entire software lifecycle, from application design and new development, through maintenance to end-of-life migration onto other systems. He has 5 years’ experience with PHP (versions 5 and 7) with a solid understanding of object-oriented programming.
Don was an exceptional student throughout his education attended in Canada and Kenya and has an Actuarial Science background. Naomi holds a B.A degree in Linguistics, Media and Communication from Moi University and a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) III qualification. She has worked in marketing and communication roles for over 5 years at Enactus Moi University, Phoenix Players Limited and served as a business news journalist with the People Daily Newspaper. She handles the conceptualization, development and distribution of content, branding, customer support, social media management and user experience (UX) design.
They share their progress story with CP-Africa.
What is your work history like?
We have known each other since 2009. Together, we have started and worked on Toto, an online parenting forum and MyBiz; a social e-commerce site for small businesses similar to wix.com. These projects were shelved to help us focus on Campus Discounts.
Why and when did you start Campus Discounts?
In 2014, Don, whilst still a university student, wanted to buy a mobile phone without having to walk from store to store or searching online for nearby stores. He simply wanted to get referrals from his fellow students with similar interests and budget constraints.
The lack of collated information on what he needed annoyed him given that we live in a connected world. He was sure there was a smartphone that befitted a student budget and probably on sale nearby. Maybe a fellow student in his campus had bought one recently. That knowledge, if shared would help students save time and money. Businesses too would benefit from a quicker turnover and increased exposure.
We also realised that businesses are constantly searching to attract and retain millennial consumers through several strategies like offering discounts. Students are on a tight budget and looking to conveniently buy quality products and services at affordable prices. In 2015, we launched the beta version.
The web app is global; what is the patronage like outside Kenya? Can you share your statistics?
On our platform, students view discounts by visiting their respective campus page, by conducting a country specific product search or via our global map display. This does not require one to be logged in. However, when students register, they can perform actions like, subscribe to a page’s discounts feed, as well as comment on, like and recommend discounts to their friends.
We have over 1,000 registered early adopters whose feedback has played a key role in helping us fine-tune our platform.
Most of our traffic we receive is from users in Kenya, Nigeria, USA, Canada, Peru and Colombia.
What challenges have been peculiar to your business?
Unlike many software-as-a-service companies who offer users a direct product, ours offers students a digital platform to find discounts while simultaneously offering businesses a platform to market to students.
Our main challenge is the classic chicken-egg question: Which came first – the chicken or the egg? Businesses find value on our platform when students interact with them and purchase their offers. Students come to the platform specifically looking for discounts. Thus, businesses need students so as to post discounts, and students want to find discounts.
How was the funding sourced?
Although without an exact figure, together we have catered for all costs ranging from domain registration, legal services, application development and hosting, buying necessary software and equipment, and more over the course of our startup’s life.
What are the future plans?
We are looking to raise a $300,000 seed round to bolster our operations and global expansion. Once this is secured, we plan to kick off a global campus ambassador program to grow our student user base. We also plan to launch marketing and outreach programs to build brand awareness and boost uptake.
What is the biggest lesson you have learnt in this short period?
The most valuable lesson we have learnt this far is that you need to keep working on and improving your product. Determination and sheer hard work is also important in startup life.