Ma3Route, a mobile, web and SMS platform that makes it easy for commuters and motorists to move around the city has recently emerged from the woodwork of the Nairobi tech scene. Winners of the Mobile Utility Category in PivotEast 2013, the Ma3Route platform crowd-sources for transport data and provides users with information on traffic, matatu (the name of public transportation in Kenya) directions and bad driving. The only existing solution to Kenyan commuter pains, Ma3Route has hit the streets by storm with over 5,000 followers on twitter, more than 20,000 posts, more than 1000 downloads from the Google Play Store, and more than 6 million serviced requests so far.
The founder of Ma3Route, Laban Okune, grew up in a rural area of Kenya. The first time he touched a computer was when he moved to Nairobi to become a student at Kenyatta University. He quickly proved to be a natural with computers and graduated with a degree in computer engineering in 2008. As he pounded the pavement, hustling to look for a job and dropping his resume off at office after office, he found himself getting lost and wished there were an easier way to know which matatu routes to take. The only possible option to help him at the time, Google Maps, did not have enough local information and did not work on his basic phone. This is where the seed for Ma3Route was planted.
Laban began his career as a computer engineer and also started his own company, Nasoft Technologies. His desire to build a tool to help commuters in developing countries was further strengthened after he bought his first car and witnessed first-hand all the hours drivers waste in sometimes avoidable traffic due to lack of information. The final straw for Laban was the road carnage witnessed in Kenya. Public transport vehicles traverse the roads, stuffed with people, swerve and overlap recklessly, causing them to roll off the road and spill passengers onto the ground. “We lose so many lives”. Laban resolved to build a triple threat tool to address the traffic, directions, and reckless driving challenges faced by commuters in developing countries. By being on mobile, web and SMS text message, Ma3Route is able to disseminate information to the previously unreachable, unlike the existing competition.
Ma3Route, which means “matatu route” aims to make traveling easier and bring sanity to the roads by informing users of city planning and transport regulation in emerging economies through the provision of transport data and trend analysis. Let’s build a smarter transport system, let’s build a smarter planet, that’s the call that Ma3Route is rallying.
In the 10 months of its existence, Ma3Route has had several achievements, Ma3Route was ranked the third most useful social media initiative in Kenya by the Daily Nation ZuQka magazine and won the best startup in the Mobile Utility Category at Pivot East 2013. Also, Ma3Route is among the startups in Kenya selected to work with IBM in its Global Entrepreneur program.
However, the journey has not been all that smooth, reveals Laban. He is learning, like many entrepreneurs that founding a business is no easy ride. Finding the funds to push the product into the market and and people willing to risk working for a startup have been challenging tasks.
For more information on Ma3Route, visit the website www.ma3route.com, Follow them on Twitter @Ma3Route, like them on Facebook and download their app at https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.okune.findit.