Founders Spotlight: Martin De Klerk Moatshe (Founder,iFirsh)

Having been bitten by the entrepreneurship bug from as young as six years old, Martin's desire to create and experiment has led him to come up with iFirsh, a game-changing procurement app. In this interview, he talks more about the app and his entrepreneurship journey.

In your own words, tell us who Martin De Klerk Moatshe is

I'm a full-time student of life, I love people, nature and believe in humanity. I believe if you ought to make an impact in the world your reference point for developing any solution should be in sync with these three. 

Please briefly take us through your journey to being a tech entrepreneur?

I believe that I fall on the side of born entrepreneurs. From as early as 6 years of age I have been creating and experimenting. I grew up in the dusty, small village of Mmathubudukwane, Botswana, raised by an incredible single mother who could not afford us toys or a TV for entertainment. So the only thing we could afford was crafting our own toys to play with. We imagined and executed. At some point, I had a 1  by 2 metres mouse farm cage structured with mud houses and roughly 15 breeding mice we trapped from the nearby bushes. At 10 years old I was selling wire cars I hand made. Incredible wire cars, you could say they were the village Tesla’s and I sold these to my primary schoolmates and cousins for BWP2.50 each. As I grew up, I sold different products up to varsity at the University of Botswana where I sold sweet potatoes and hotdogs. Just one day I decided to google about young billionaires and Mark Zuckerberg was all over the search results. I researched more about him and fell in love with the impact technology can make. For me, it was unbelievable and shocking to be able to talk to anyone anywhere in the world and build new friendships. I was hooked and left the small hustle i had to pursue the digital economy. 

Why did you choose tech entrepreneurship instead of going the corporate route?

Fate led me. Having been enterprising throughout my growth years at a small scale, there was no doubt about the direction I will take. In pursuit of my dreams, I even dropped out of the University of Botswana doing a double major in Economics and Accounting. So I left with no formal education certificate to jump right into entrepreneurship. All my educational certificates are from self-development programs with the recent being the Google certificate course in Foundations of Project Management.  

You recently launched an app called iFirsh. Please tell us more about that?

We have been working behind the scenes for quite some time developing iFirsh and it was about time. Every day someone somewhere is purchasing goods and services; it could be an individual, organisation or government department, and up to this day, there is no seamless sourcing platform that is efficient, convenient, transparent and benefits both the buyer and supplier. Launching iFirsh is a game-changer in the procurement field that will see SMEs getting the exposure, growth and scale through an on-demand quotations platform that links them with buyers. Buyers will get to create a request for quotation and instantly suppliers will respond and submit quotations back to the buyer; who can choose to negotiate the quotation through our inbuilt chat tool, approve the quote and close the purchase.   

What was the motivation for building iFirsh?

Before any purchase, the first thing is to look for quotations. Any buyer does it so that they can get the best price, right service and quality products or services. Conventionally, this process would mean one has to physically go from store to store in search of quotations;  using up fuel, losing out on time spent in traffic, ques at the stores and many other inconveniences. The delays in procurement go down to affect the overall delivery of projects since productivity is compromised. Therefore, iFirsh stands to connect any buyer with potential suppliers instantly. Last but not least Covid-19 has disrupted our lives and iFirsh answers to the shortcomings that were brought about by the pandemic. People will get to access marketplaces digitally and SMEs get to continue doing business during restricted business operations.

How long did it take to conceive iFirsh from the idea phase to the complete app you just launched?

It has been an evolving project that dates back as far as 2015. At one point it was a website for tender notifications. Later on, we pivoted to bring RFQs and RFPs. The platform got endorsement from the Ministry of Investment, Trade and Industry, Botswana Investment Trade Centre and the Ministry of Youth Empowerment, Sports and Culture. In 2017 we redeveloped it from scratch to create a Software-as-a-Service platform that scooped position 4 in the National Creative Business Cup Botswana finals. We then piloted it for 2 years in South Africa, Pretoria.  Not achieving our KPIs, in 2020 we regrouped, re-organized to create an On-Demand mobile app to connect a buyer and supplier. iFirsh app is now available on google play store and Apple Store.

What challenges did you face during the development of iFirsh?

Getting the right developers turned out to be the hardest part. So this caused a lot of delays in completing our first minimum viable product.  

How did you overcome those challenges?

We outsourced some of the tasks through the online freelance site gave us room to focus on what we know best and save the time of not trying to learn the new.

On the other hand, the iFirsh app is the first of its kind in Botswana. How excited are you for the potential impact it might have?

I cannot express enough how excited I am. It's been playing non-stop in my head for so many years and now it's time to relay it to everyone so they get to live the dream of a seamless and efficient purchase process. The vision is big, it scares us. We have created a platform that will flourish SMEs not only in Botswana but in Africa at large. iFirsh is poised to be the trading platform for Africa Free Continental Trade Area to link buyers and suppliers across the African continent.

iFirsh recently completed the Africa Entrepreneurship Program by the Wadhwani Foundation. How did the learnings from this program contribute towards the development of the app?

Product roadmap, establishing unique value proposition and a lot of Masterclasses from experts and successful entrepreneurs contributed to our business model approach. We mirrored ourselves among the best and our in-house processes were architected from the teachings we received.

In your opinion, how important are innovations like the iFirsh app in helping the country keep the economy going whilst also fighting the COVID-19 pandemic?

The unmitigated prevalence of the highly contagious COVID19 has upended the daily lives of the average person. Schools, businesses closed, curfews imposed and worst of all lives are lost but lives must go on. Families and businesses still need assistance with sourcing other necessities and that's where iFirsh truly shines. iFirsh ensures the economy keeps running and further cements the government’s aspirations of being an inclusive digital economy. 

What advice can you give to individuals who may be doubtful of the convenience that the iFirsh app can offer?

Try the app, be patient. The traffic won't be that much from the beginning but with time will have more companies to respond to requests for quotations instantly. 

Apart from the recent launch, what other plans do you have for the iFirsh app in the near future?

I will rather not say for now and what I can assure you is that the best is yet to come. We are building for regional adoption and by March 2022 we will be ready to step outside Botswana.

Knowledge of software development is essential to developing important innovations like the iFirsh app. What advice can you give to young people who are interested in learning this skill?

Talent/ skills cannot be used in their raw form, you must offer blood, toil, tears and sweat. It’s one thing to develop an app and it's one thing to enterprise it. So, build a team from the word go to bring different skill sets, schools of thought and experience to form a formidable force. 

Lastly, please share your contact details for our readers who might be interested in getting in touch with you

LinkedIn :


Cell: +267 7171 2007

NB: Interview has been slightly edited for clarity
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