Not many people can claim to have a bigger social network than Facebook. One who can is Alan Wolff. His 2go mobile messaging platform has double the number of active users in Africa’s most populous nation, Nigeria.
Like many US tech startup stories, Wolff’s big idea was born while he was still at university.
He was in the second year of his computer science and mathematics degree at the University of the Witwatersrand when he and fellow classmate and eventual co-founder of 2go Ashley Peter started exploring the possibilities in mobile-based apps.
Wolff had been programming since he was 13 and developed an interest in online messaging.
2go was launched in his third year at university and he has not had cause to look back since. The big draw card and success factor on the continent is 2go’s ability to run on feature phones – standard, non-smartphone handsets – as well as on Android phones.
He believes much of this success lies in 2go being based in Africa, developing a product for Africa. This gives the company the distinct advantage of understanding the continent’s demographic, user adoption and preferences.
He believes that having local context and knowledge
count in 2go’s favour
Today 2go has more than ten million active monthly users across the globe, although Nigeria is by far its biggest market with 13 million registered users. There are more than one million active users in South Africa.
Wolff says being able to make a positive impact on the lives of others drives him.
He has a natural inquisitiveness that inevitably leads to the question: how can this be used to impact people?
He acknowledges that at 28 he still has a lot to learn and still has enormous scope to make a greater impact, particularly across Africa. — Johann Barnard