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infoDev network member wins prestigious MPA Ringmasters Award

Catching up with MufataGo Founder, Christine Ampaire

MafutaGo, a woman-led mobile and web startup launched by five Ugandan students, recently won the coveted Ringmasters Award at the Mobile Premier Awards (MPA), the largest open and global cross-platform app competition in the mobile industry.

MafutaGo—a mobile service that displays nearby gas stations’ locations, prices, and special offers—was one of only three major MPA winners announced at the 2012 Mobile World Congress, which drew representatives from such high-profile industry players as Google, Facebook, Apple, Nokia, Microsoft, Samsung, Spotify, SoundCloud, Telefonica, Intel, AT&T, and Deutsche Telekom.

The app was created a mere five months earlier, at the Garage48 hackathon in September 21-23, 2011, by Christine Ampaire and four other developers who were complete strangers to each other at the time.

In their spirit and intelligence, Ampaire and her teammates embody the sort of game-changing entrepreneurs who make ideal candidates for business incubation. “The team and I are very outgoing individuals. We love to seek knowledge. The skills to write apps were mainly self-taught through online tutorials and books.”

Despite the spectacular lift-off of MafutaGo, the path to entrepreneurship was full of challenges for Ampaire.  “Like most fresh faced entrepreneurs,” she says, “being taken seriously is not easy—especially when it comes to looking for funding.”

She describes the phenomenon known in the development community as the “Valley of Death,” the infant period where a startup is too costly for self-funding, but not large enough for most private investors’ radars.

Ampaire also cites lack of business know-how—another target area of incubation work—as an obstacle to budding entrepreneurs, especially mobile and web app developers. “Most times our great ideas need nurturing through proper business training,” she says, so they can become “clear business plans and proposals.”

“We do need that incubation,” she adds.

In the face of these challenges, Ampaire underscores that developers looking to make the leap to businesspeople need a strong support network, which she found in the infoDev-supported Mobile Monday Kampala, the first Ugandan chapter of a global knowledge-sharing and networking community of mobile innovators.

“Developing a business mindset has taught me how think broader, be more aware of my surroundings so as to identify needs,” Ampaire notes. “We had and continue to have awesome mentorship from cool individuals like Richard Zulu who keep pushing and believing in us,” she adds, referring to the organizer of Startup Weekend Kampala, which brings together software developers, graphics designers, and businesspeople to build applications and their business plans.

The Mobile Premier Awards have been held yearly since 2006.

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