Thursday, 15 October 2015

Alain Nteff on The Platform

Did you know that GiftedMom is about to launch an SMS platform for pregnant women & moms in Nigeria? In case you’re wondering what GiftedMom is, and how an SMS platform can help save pregnant women in Nigeria. My guest today is the Co-Founder & Executive Director at GiftedMom. 

He was named one of the Forbes Africa & CNN 30 under 30 entrepreneurs, won the 2014 Anzisha Prize, and was honoured by Queen Elizabeth II in Buckingham Palace as one of the 2015 Queen’s Young Leaders. 

Alain steps on The Platform to share his story, and the launch of GiftedMom in Nigeria. 

ThankGod: Thanks Alain for coming on The Platform 

Alain: Thanks ThankGod, it’s a pleasure. 

ThankGod: For the purpose of readers around the world who are not familiar with you, can you tell us about yourself? 

Alain: Alain Nteff is a Social entrepreneur with passion to use technology to solve local problems in his community. 

My background is in Computer Science engineering and I’m the Co-Founder & Executive Director at GiftedMom. 

I’m also part of the World Economic Forum Global Shapers, named Forbes Africa & CNN 30 under 30 entrepreneurs, Anzisha Fellow and recently named a Queen’s Young Leader by Queen Elizabeth II. 

ThankGod: What drove you into being an entrepreneur? 

Alain: I guess what drove me to being an entrepreneur was my passion for seeing problems as opportunities. As a kid I wanted to be a medical doctor but noticed that to innovate in the medical field, you need to have like 30 years of experience. I diverted to engineering because with just my computer, I can develop a solution and bring change to people’s lives faster. 

Late in 2012 we discovered the alarming problem of maternal & infant mortality, and we developed a solution to compensate the already existing solutions and woke up one morning with the title Social entrepreneur J 

ThankGod: What was it like starting Gifted Mom, how did you access start up fund? 

Alain: I Co-founded GiftedMom with my long time medical doctor friend, Dr. Conrad Tankou, we started with our funds and some contributions from family members. 

Later on we went on to be named 2014 Africa’s Top Young Social Enterprise by the MasterCard Foundation, an award called the Anzisha Prize which comes with a $25,000 grant. We have raised additional funding from institutions like the African Leadership Network Ventures, DPrize and was recently awarded the 2015 African Start-up Award of 50,000 Euros. In total we have raised $120,000. 

Alain and Runners up of the 2014 Antizsha Prize
ThankGod: Can you share the success story of Gifted Mom, and how it has imparted lives so far? 

Alain: So far, the impart of over the last 23 months has been mind-blowing. We have been able to reach over 5000 pregnant women and moms with life-saving antenatal care and vaccination reminders. This number includes queries we have received through our help desk number where pregnant women and moms can submit questions when they have a health concern to get a response from a medical doctor. 

This October 2015, we will be launching operations in Nigeria. A pregnant woman, mom or relative in Nigeria can just send MOM followed by her health concern to 30812 and a medical doctor will reply instantly to her. 

ThankGod: What challenges confronted you on starting up & how did you tackle them? 

Alain: Starting a social enterprise in any part of the world is very difficult but the secret is just to start and let things fall into place with time. We had several problems at the start, like financial and human capital. 

After a tough hustle, we have been able to raise some seed funds and have attracted people who are passionate about our vision. 

Alain with David Beckham at Buckingham Palace
ThankGod: How have government policies and environment affected your business so far? 

Alain: I can say we have been very blessed. Our solutions compensate the efforts of government & development agencies in ameliorating maternal and infant health and we have received a lot of support from the government and its partners. 

The hardest part is getting introductions with key influencers in the public health space. With the credibility we have achieved, it’s easier for us now to follow up on introductions and establish great partnerships. 

ThankGod: Does Gifted Mom have any provision for individuals in the rural areas who do not have access to technology? 

Alain: The rate of mobile phone penetration in Africa is arguably above 70% and Cameroon has seen an exponential growth from 9% mobile phone penetration in 2004 to over 84% in 2015. This is encouraging for us and we wish to leverage this to reach even people in enclaved regions. 

Alain being honoured by the Queen of England in Buckingham Palace
ThankGod: You are one of the 2015 Queen’s Young Leaders. Can you tell us about that experience, and meeting with the Queen of England in Buckingham palace? 

Alain: I remember jumping out from a taxi early this year to answer a call coming from a UK number. It was the program manager of the first ever Queen’s Young Leaders program and I had just been chosen to receive the award from Queen Elizabeth II. 

Getting endorsed by the Queen and also meeting personalities like David Beckham, David Cameron and others was really enriching. During the event, we launched our technologies to impact 5 million pregnant women and mothers across Africa by 2018. 

For now, we are the leading mobile health service in West Africa with operations now in Cameroon and Nigeria and wish to scale across the continent by 2018. 

ThankGod: As a young person how best do you invest in yourself? 

Alain: Hardwork, watching a lot of the Shark Tank Series and just learning from ‘Sharks’ around the world. 

Alain during the World Economic Forum in Davos 2015

ThankGod: What role does God, Family, Friends & Community play in your life? 

Alain: God is the foundation of all we do and every day we work hard not to get distracted from Him. 

ThankGod: Before we go, can you advise young people like you out there? 

Alain: Whatever you have as a project or start-up idea, just decide today to start. Then organize yourself and make a difference in the world, starting with your community.


If you think you're too young to cause change in your community, I believe Alain's story must have inspired you to go all out to actualize your dreams. Until my next guest steps on The Platform, Remain blessed.

(Images Credit: Ashoka Changemakers, Queen's Young Leaders, Anzisha Prize, WEF, CNN)

This interview was conducted by ThankGod Okorisha, All rights reserved, 15th October, 2015.

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