Avner Miznahi – co-founder of engageSPARK, a company that enables anyone, anywhere to build and launch SMS and Voice Call alerts, surveys, reminders, educational curriculums, and on demand information campaigns to 200+ countries – within minutes.
Q1: What do you appreciate yourself in the business mainly for?
Creating a great team and figuring out how to do it with different culture and background. Watching people growing and doing all those things together. It is amazing to watch the team facing challenges together, they are so much into it, motivated, dedicated, for me it’s a huge success.
Q2: What is the biggest challenge for you now?
For me it’s mainly technology, as it’s a tech company and I’m a lawyer. Getting used to the amount of problems that exist with technology. We have bugs, customers have bugs, we get frustrated, they get frustrated and getting used to that technology will never always work, also twitter goes down, facebook goes down, it happens. And what do you do when it happens? Another big challenge has just been… we are still a very small company, selling and marketing is a big challenge. Last year we really proved the concept, we’ve seen that a lot of organizations like our platform but there are so many more which don’t know about us, that’s where marketing comes in.
Q3: What advice do you have for yourself in this situation?
Although right now we do sms and voice campaigns we see ourselves as an engagement platform. Right now engaging poor works mostly with sms and voice but it will change with time. Here, in the Philippines, something like 30-40% of people have smartphones but most of them don’t have access to Internet as they don’t see the value of that. But they have facebook messenger. The future we see is incorporating those kinds of socials into our platform. Having channels like vibre, facebook messenger and others, depending on country, community, who you engage, you can do it with channel which make more sense. That’s one big area we are moving into. Another is to expend to more countries and having lots more impact. Building up opportunities for engageSPARK as business. I think in 2-3 years we will be able to open our next business, we have some ideas already for business which both commercial and NGOs can use, so you have two sources of profit. The plan is to have more and more businesses to fight with poverty. And the big, big vision is to be able to create jobs, increase employment by creating a lot of jobs.
Would you like to add something more?
The idea of engageSPARK is to build a platform for NGOs and businesses to be able to engage with very poor people in the world who has no access to the Internet. The best way to communicate with them is by mobile phone, especially if you want to have personalized, two-way interactive communication. You can cast a radio message but if you want to do behavior change programs where you want to encourage people to do something, good tips on health and so on, with the radio you cannot personalize it. You cannot remind them to take pills, for example. Two-way communication is much more effective. Another thing, sms is good only if people can read. Which often is not the case. Literacy is a huge issues. NGOs need something which is interactive, voice calls. There are tools for that but you need a lot of servers and developers and that’s just too much for many organizations. We wanted to build something easy to use for everybody around the world. We decided to set it up as social enterprise. We also had this idea of building a sort of business incubator to help fighting poverty. So the idea was that EngageSPARK, which itself helps poor, also make money. The profit will go to invest on another social business. With time we will have many social enterprises generating profits and helping the world.
The questions were asked on our behalf by Anna and Andrea from How to (ex) change the world.
Cebu, Philippines, 8th May 2016