Founders Spotlight: Tuduetso Masire (Founder, MatchAPro)

As someone who has always had a wandering mind and is always looking for solutions to problems that she comes across, after facing a couple of bad health care experiences in Botswana, including one where she saw someone lose their life in front of her, it made Tuduetso wonder how often those incidents happen and how avoidable they could be. MatchAPro, a healthtech software that matches travelling doctors from the United States to critical patients who cannot be seen within a month in public hospitals in Botswana, was conceived from that wonder. In this interview, she takes us through her basic education and tertiary years, more about MatchAPro, it's future and much more!

In your own words, tell us who Tuduetso Masire is

Tuduetso Masire is from Kanye, Botswana. I was born in Gaborone and raised in the BDF camp in Mogoditshane, Sir Seretse Khama Barracks where my dad served the military for 35 years. I have 2 sisters; Phatsimo (older) and Magadi (younger). My parents are both Batswana; Tebogo Masire and Orefitlhetse Masire. 

I attended Northside Primary School till Standard 6 then departed for Boarding School in Grahamstown, South Africa at Kingswood College. I did my Form 5 at Waterford Kamhlaba in Swaziland then moved to Philadelphia USA for my undergraduate degree where I studied Communications and International Business at Saint Joseph’s University. Through that journey, I did a semester in Rome, Italy at the American University of Rome.

Whilst I was in university I would go to Botswana for summer holidays and work at Botswana Investment and Trade Center as an intern which really kept me in touch with home and got me to understand the work culture. Upon graduating from Saint Joseph’s University I moved back to Botswana. Finding a job was quite tough. I briefly worked as a business development officer at Desai Law Group then later departed to go study French in France. I then came back to Botswana and properly launched my career at De Beers Group where I worked in Corporate Affairs as a Comms Administrator for the partnership Between De Beers Group and Stanford Graduate School of Business. In that role I started to deep dive into the start-up world, conferencing, building brands and managing entrepreneurs and after 3.5 years of that, I decided to move back to the US and did a Masters Of Science in Entrepreneurship and Innovation at the University of Southern California (USC) where MatchAPro was born. 

Your background is in Business. Briefly take us through your journey into the tech space

I have always been someone with a wandering mind, I always find solutions to problems that I have with slow pace systems in our country and society in general; I build innovation models just from being annoyed by waiting in line for something that I don’t believe I should be waiting for. 

It sounds silly but the whole point of innovation is to make life smoother for the world and that is identified through acknowledging the day to day tedious things that annoy us. 

That being said, one of the pitches I had built to solve the issue of high sugar in beverages is the one I submitted to the USC admissions committee, which is how I got accepted into the Entrepreneurship and Innovation program. 

What motivated you to pursue this career path?

Being at USC, I got exposed to some of the biggest tech companies in the world that were built by USC students and Alumni. Every single day there is a new innovation on campus which made me realize how accessible business resources are in Los Angeles, particularly at USC. 

Our classes were mainly based on building a feasible business, having successful tech owners invite us to their companies or come to our class to answer some of our questions. My professor Paul Orfalea is the founder of Kinkos which is now FedEx Office and he was very instrumental in mentoring me into taking a chance. 

Aside from the Grief Center which is where MatchAPro was awarded funds; The University of Southern California was among a group of universities awarded a $15 million grant from the National Science Foundation to invest in and incubate startups, and even more money from Alumni and donors, therefore I just found myself in an environment that promoted self-starters. 

Women's representation in the tech startup space is still unfortunately low. As a woman founder, what has been your experience?

Being a woman founder, especially a black female in a white-dominated community has been challenging at times as it feels like you have to prove yourself a bit more and it’s quite sad that the energy to prove yourself comes from women leaders that we come across more than it does from men in my experience. However, the USC environment is extremely positive and vibrant, there is always someone rooting for you and trying to connect you, which has really been instrumental. 

If there have been challenges as a result of this representation gap, how have you managed to surmount them?

I made sure to always have a respectable reference; people don’t like to talk to complete strangers therefore I advise people to network as often as possible; join clubs, go to conferences, go to business social events and really talk to as many people as possible on a regular basis so that you constantly know someone who knows someone. But also being tactful, don’t become that person who is always trying to make a transaction, learn how to read a room. 

What do you think can be done to reduce this lack of representation?

I think more women need to take bold steps into fields that aren’t traditionally attractive to women; for example fashion, beauty, culinary arts etc which are all great but within our comfort zone which is keeping us away from tapping into medicine, engineering, coding, agriculture etc 

I have been in rooms with women brainstorming and I just think we are such powerful problem solvers who can conquer any challenge out there; so I just invite more ladies to lose the inner critic and take that leap into tech and other non-traditional female enterprises.

Please tell us more about your startup, MatchAPro?

MatchAPro is a healthcare software that matches travelling doctors from the United States to critical patients who cannot be seen within a month in Public hospitals in Botswana and later South Africa. 

The software automates the matching of patients to doctors who are in a field of medicine that is compatible with their illness. 

What was the motivation for starting MatchAPro?

I have had a couple of bad health care experiences in Botswana, the worst being a time I was in the waiting room at one of the public hospitals at home and a patient died whilst waiting to see the doctor and they just covered him and left him in the waiting room with us. 

It was the spookiest experience ever and it made me wonder how often that happens and how avoidable it must be, which had me do some research on our healthcare system; lots of interviews with doctors, nurses, lab practitioners and people in the ministry, which made me realize how big our crisis is. 

Our infant mortality rate alone is 32 deaths per 1000 live births which is more than 5 times the US rate. These are the contributors to Botswana's slow population growth. 

What has been the proudest moment of your journey with MatchAPro so far?

MatchAPro won $16,500 from the USC Marshall Greif Center and will also receive $5000 from the Blackstone Fellowship which was also connected through USC. 

MatchAPro has received funding and mentorship from the University of Southern California incubator via the Lloyd Greif New Venture Seed Competition.  How important was this incubation in building MatchAPro?

The new venture seed competition offered more than just funding. It put us in touch with industry players who can help advance my business. It gave me consultants who would go over my numbers with me, go through my business model, and make changes in my financial models and budgets, which was very instrumental since I'm a solo founder. 

The funding has been instrumental in paying my software developers off without having to spend my own savings or resources. 

Botswana also has numerous accelerators and incubators for tech startups but their results have not been impressive over the years. In your experience, what are the important elements that make an accelerator/incubator tick?

From my experience, a lot of the programs and accelerators I have come in contact within Botswana don’t have active Venture Capital firms that are consistently engaged and one of the bigger factors is that I feel a lot of them aren’t run by serial entrepreneurs who have gone through all the rollercoasters of business and landed on a successful one that generates large revenues. 

What I got to see is that the people leading the incubators at USC have been instrumental in the birth of many Fortune 500 companies and other successful businesses that are listed. Examples being; Salesforce, FedEx Office, MySpace, Tinder, Box, Riot Games etc. 

What I also find is that Botswana has a very small private sector, which is mostly driven by government business which creates an unhealthy environment for startups and VCs because nobody wants to invest in a company that relies on one entity (government) for profit. 

Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers regarding what MatchAPro is up to, project-wise, currently and in the near future?

Our software simulation will soon be ready for us to start testing its functionality and making tweaks to fit our healthcare systems in Botswana. 

I will be in the Blackstone Fellowship in July and August which is one of the largest financial institutions in the USA and in the world.

I will also be hiring soon. 

What is your vision for MatchAPro in the next 5-10 years?

My goal is to have 1000 travelling doctors on my platform in 5 years which will allow that software to fully run itself without my intervention. 

I hope to clear the backlog in the Botswana healthcare system and rapidly decrease the rising rate of blindness in the country by year 3. 

If any, what is the best advice you have received in your tech startup journey so far?

The best advice I got was that “the best way to predict the future is to create it”

What advice can you give to young girls who are also interested in pursuing a career in tech?

I would advise them to build a strong relationship with their intuition and become its best friend because that is what keeps you reassured at every step of the way. Identify what your inner critic says to you and learn how to cut it out because that is usually what stops us from making moves. Don’t be afraid to fail, also don’t do mediocre work, take yourself seriously because people treat you how you treat yourself. And lastly, believe in abundance, because nothing is out of reach; God made enough for everybody, so it’s up to you to find where your bread is. 

Lastly, please share with our readers your contact details in case they want to get in touch with you

The best place to reach out to me is on LinkedIn as I check it twice a day. 

NB: Interview has been slightly edited for clarity
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