I hope you’ve heard of Tinder, the social search mobile app that helps people find dates or you are probably on LinkedIn, the Microsoft-owned service that helps people locate jobs or employers find employees.
Here in Uganda, a group of five entrepreneurs is developing a platform with a similar model, only that this service will help you even before using the aforementioned apps so that when the time comes to use them, you’ll optimize.
The platform that has been created by Brian Anyanzo, Patrick Vudriko, Nelson Ndugu and Ronald Komata is called Ma Role Model and they want it to be used by students to find the best possible role models so that this workforce of the future can discover whom they can become, and how to get there.
As Oprah Winfrey once said: “A mentor is someone who allows you to see the hope inside yourself.”
In a recent interview with Anyanzo, a smiley figure that heads the team and is involved the technology bit of the company, he said that by taking mentorship online, it will be easier to scale it and reach more people who need inspiration.
All the founders of BioPhit Tech, the mother company of Ma Role Model, are scientists. Pursuing a field that’s still lacking in numbers, they must have struggled to get the best people to encourage them when things got tough.
Vudriko is a pharmacologist and lecturer, Ndugu teaches Physical Science at Mbarara University of Science and Technology (MUST) while Komata is a medical doctor at Gulu Hospital.
Anyanzo told this website that they’ve employed 2 more people to support their mission.
What Ma Role Model does
We all want to achieve great things in life but unfortunately, the journey to greatness is not rosy. Even more unfair, life doesn’t deal us all good hands. Some of us have to turn the bad cards we have into fortune.
To give a more specific life example, your ambition could be becoming an entrepreneur but all the entrepreneurs you look up to, say Patrick Bitature, Omar Ahmed Mandela, Aga Ssekalaala, or any other name you can think of — are out of your reach. This makes life quite frustrating, right?
And by the way, this doesn’t only affect those in need of mentors. There are people who have great stories they would want to share but they lack appropriate medium to use to the pass on their knowledge.
But at Ma Role Model, they want to make this possible for everyone. At the moment, they have a website where people interested in becoming role models or mentees or both can come and create a profile.
In one of the sections, you mention what kind of mentorship you want to offer or the kind you are seeking and then you’re matched with the people in your area of interest.
For now, Anyanzo says they are focusing on university students since they are the ones that need urgent help as they will soon hit the job-searching market. Their reasoning can be backed by increased complaints from employers who say most graduates are lacking in soft skills. It’s why digital recruitment platforms like Fuzu have added mentorship programs to their offerings, and companies continue to offer in-service soft skilling.
Brian Anyanzo told SautiTech that Ma Role Model is currently looking to raise a “minimum of Shs50 million” which they “believe can really push us to the next level”.
According to Anyanzo, the funds will go into marketing and automating the recruitment and mentor-mentee matching processes so that data gathering and analysis becomes easier by employing technologies like machine learning and cutting-edge data analysis tools. Some apps offering the same service like the U.S.-based STEAM Role are already using blockchain.
The website, which went live in December 2018, is currently offering a free service: subscription and no charges on meeting a mentor. They want to offer the service freely and gain support through grants and donation.
However, Anyanzo says that in future they’ll be able to monetize the platform by helping companies find employees since they’ll have a huge pool of data of employable people and the data itself can also be a source of revenue by selling it to, say, research firms.
The key challenge that Ma Role Model faces is ensuring safety during mentor-mentee interactions. Since the engagements will sometimes see old women mentor young men or old men mentor young women, a lot of precaution has to be taken such that cases of misconduct don’t arise.
To solve this, the company is working with lawyers to offer guidance, on top of training the involved parties ahead of contact.