by Benjamin Gleisser
Knowledge he gained in an independent study project helped lead Taha Jiwaji ’08 to found one of the top tech start-up firms in Africa.
Jiwaji is CEO of Bongo Live!, an SMS (small message service) provider in his homeland of Tanzania, which was named by Forbes Africa Magazine as “One of the Top 20 Tech Startups.”
The firm contracts with financial institutions, service sector businesses, and even houses of worship to send advertising messages to mobile phones and computers.
“Customers selling goods or services see direct benefits in terms of increased leads and sales,” he says. “Religious groups and event organizers see a direct correlation with higher attendance.”
Last year the company received a grant of 16 million Tanzanian shillings (about $10,000) from the country’s Ministry of Science, Communication, and Technology to expand its platform and services. Jiwaji plans to launch Bongo Live! in Ethiopia and Kenya soon.
Jiwaji, who received a B.S. in electrical and computer engineering and an A.B. in economics and business, worked with Donald Chambers, Walter E. Hanson/KPMG Peat Marwick Professor of Business and Finance, to design a mobile-phone music service for his senior year independent studies project. While not the same mobile technology as his current mobile service, it gave him the idea for his business.
“I was able to study business, arts, and engineering together,” says Jiwaji. “I developed problem-solving skills that help me read and understand the 50-page contracts I must deal with today.”