Start-up of the week: the Ghanaian OMG Digital expands its web
Officially launched in 2016, this “African Buzzfeed” boasts 4.5 million monthly readers. After conquering Kenya and Nigeria, the Ghanaian start-up is still hungry.
It’s cold-headed, but at a steady pace, that Jesse Ghansah is advancing his pawns. In just two years, the CEO of OMG Digital has managed to impose his company as the new “African Buzzfeed”. Between Ghana, Nigeria and Kenya, this online information site for 18-30 year olds boasts no less than 4.5 million monthly readers. In 2017, OMG Digital had a turnover of around 200,000 dollars (176,000 euros). In 2018, the company will be in equilibrium. And as early as next year, she plans to be a beneficiary. With this success, the young entrepreneur of 26 years does not stop there.
It all started in 2013. “We were frustrated with the traditional news media on the web, it was impersonal. So, with three friends, we created our own blog: a pop culture and entertainment site for Generation Y. It was the time when, in Ghana, the use of mobile internet was booming “Recalls the young man. But OMG Ghana is only a complementary activity, for Jesse Arhin Ghansah, Prince Boakye Boampong and Dominic Ghansah, the three co-founders. “We were feeding the site ourselves, and it was generating a small income. Enough to pay our rent, but not enough to live on it, “continues Jesse.
At the same time, Dominic and Prince are working on the creation of a music streaming platform (bigX media), while Jesse is investing in an e-commerce project. But the three friends struggle to find funding to get their projects off the ground. It is obvious: it is on the development of their site, arrived at 800,000 monthly readers, to focus.
And it is in 2015 that the machine is racing. OMG Ghana is first accepted into a pre-incubation program by early-stage financing company Y Combinator (YC), California. In exchange for 1% of its capital, the company benefits from $ 20,000, and its founders are invited to a nine-week internship in Silicon Valley. At the end of this internship, the company is selected to join the main incubator. OMG again sells 7% of its capital, in exchange for $ 120,000. “We owe a lot to YC. In addition to funding us, they pushed us to be more ambitious. They suggested that we export to Kenya and Nigeria. We were a bit scared, but applying the method in Ghana to the letter worked, “says Jesse. OMG Ghana becomes OMG Digital.
A question of method
On leaving the incubator, YC offers its start-ups the opportunity to sell their project to investors. These include partnerships with the US media group Comcast, the US venture capital firms Soma Capital and Social Capital, and the French investment fund Kima Ventures. That’s $ 1.1 million, gathered in 2016 and announced in 2017. “All this money, we were able to reinvest in jobs in Ghana, Nigeria and Kenya, and we are developing our own video studios “, explains Jesse. Today, the company employs 15 employees and freelancers, but the two accomplices of Jesse Arhin Ghansah, Prince Boakye Boampong and Dominic Ghansah, left the adventure a year ago.
Sheldon Amoafo joins the adventure in 2016 as director Ghana. For him too, everything is a question of method. “Our model is simple: we create short contents, listicles (short text written as a list), with images, videos. It’s content that readers easily identify with. And if we chose Nigeria, it’s because the market and the readership are huge. In Kenya, readership is not that important, but in terms of the capital market, the country allows us to secure our income. Customers and advertisers are numerous. ”
Cameroon for the first steps in French-speaking Africa
Always methodically, Jesse wants to enter a new phase of development of his company. With a strong reader base, OMG Digital is eyeing new countries. The site will open an antenna in South Africa in the summer of 2019. Then it will be Zimbabwe and Tanzania. “It was more natural for us to turn first to the English markets. We did study some countries in West Africa, especially Côte d’Ivoire. But the advertisers were not enough, “says the entrepreneur. For his entry into French-speaking Africa, Jesse has instead set his sights on Cameroon, in which he sees great potential. “We will launch some experiments in the coming year,” he promises.
Markets that will have to be taken, before the competition takes care of it. “There are now big players on the continent,” says Jesse, who does not hesitate to compare himself to Vice, Kombini and even the BBC and the Washington Post. “So many actors who have also bet on the video, and who have a big strike force. But again, the young man wants to keep a cool head. He readily admits having already been approached by at least two of his competitors. “For now, we want to grow as much as we can. We could very well continue to raise funds and attract venture capital companies, and continue to grow as an independent company. But if we find a partner who shares our vision, we stay open, “he says.