Motorbike taxi hailing startup SafeMoto, plans to expand its business after securing an Rwf11 million ($12,870) interest free loan from Bank of Kigali as part of the lender’s campaign to support local startups.
SafeMoto was launched in 2015 with the aim of improving the safety of both motorbike taxi riders and their passengers though IT solutions.
The firm bagged the top accolade in the competition, which saw 13 startups win a total Rwf60 million ($70,200) in interest free loans offered by Bank of Kigali through its Urumuri initiative to support local entrepreneurs.
Nash Barret, one of the founders of the tech company, said the loan would support the company’s growth plan and ongoing internal reforms, which have seen a number of employees laid off recently.
“We are launching a new version of SafeMotos in January. After carrying out efficiency surveys we found out that many customers were uncomfortable with using maps and the drivers needed to be properly motivated. The funds will finances these proposed changes,” he said.
Mr Barret said the company was using Rwanda as a testbed for motorbike hailing apps as this will inform the firm’s expansion plans to other countries in Africa.
He defended the recent layoffs saying the changes were intended to arrive at a leaner and more integrated team that fully relies on ICT to deliver services.
Retrenched workers who spoke to Rwanda Today said the downsizing caught them by surprise.
“We thought the company was growing but we were told the company was downsizing, due to financial constraints,” the workers said.
However, SafeMoto disputed this view saying it was adequately capitalised.
“The business broke even, which means we are making money on every trip,” said Mr Barret.
The company is owned by Nash Barret from Canada and Peter Kariuki from Kenya.
The service allows customers to choose who drives them based on the riders’ safety record. It works with moto-taxi riders already in the business who are given smartphones installed with GPS.