Feb 13 , 2021

A local tech firm has joined forces with an Israeli technology startup to launch a digital business card platform that will allow users to create and distribute their business cards online. The developers plan to charge users 180 Br a month for the service.

Zelimma Technology & Services Plc, which was established in mid-2020 by spouses Biset Beye and Helen Eyasu, developed the platform with L4, an Israel-based technology startup. Zelimma, which has five employees, came to a licensing agreement with L4 at the end of June to implement the project in Ethiopia.

To sign up for the digital business card (E-card), which was launched this week, users have to go through a registration process wherein details about the user like phone number, email address and social media addresses are inserted.

An E-card web-based platform, E-card application and AfriHub library comprise the three components of the project. The web-based app is already available, open to registration and the browsing of others' business cards. AfriHub is a digital repository for business cards for Africa. AfriHub can be used as a messaging or advertising platform as well.

Different pieces of information are displayed in a somewhat unsophisticated user interface design on a user's digital business card page. One of the features that stands out is a counter that allows users to see how many times their business card has been viewed. Besides, viewers can schedule an appointment with the person or business they are interested in and browse through pictures and contact information.

The beta version of the web platform allows customers to create an account and start deploying their business information. Once a user sets up their digital business card, they get a shareable link they can send to whomever they want.

"We believe we're living in an era where wealth is generated through technology," said Biset. "We knew L4 has wanted to invest in Ethiopia, so we reached out to them."

"We're big believers in the coming power and business positioning of Africa in general and have decided to focus on Ethiopia first," said the founders of L4, which was established two years ago by Manny Rosenblum and Ron Bony, who have more than 20 years of experience in finance, organisational and business IT applications. As part of its East Africa expansion, it moved to Ethiopia after finding a home at Zelimma. L4 is also operating in Djibouti, Somaliland and South Sudan.

The licensing agreement covers the first phase of the project, where only features developed by L4 are made available. In the second phase, more features and integrations will be built locally by Zelimma. The platform as it stands now was fully developed by the L4 team in Israel with certain input from Zelimma's end.

An expert in digital entrepreneurship with decades of experience who wishes to remain anonymous believes that digitising business cards is not something customers would care about. He raises the concern that customers would have to make a lot of effort to build and maintain their digital business cards.

"I highly doubt it would help in the digitisation of Ethiopia," he remarked.

Various technology firms such as Raxio Group have recently started expanding to Ethiopia, according to the expert, and this can be attributed to the government's willingness to open up sectors to foreigners.

"With the recent government change, they have shown an interest in coming to create a new market or to expand their market," he said. "This phenomenon can be either good or bad news." Local companies will face strong competition as foreign companies can come with more resources."

It is an either "merge or die" situation for local companies, according to him.

However, the good news is that more expertise will be needed and companies will have to train lots of people to meet the demand for jobs, he explained.

PUBLISHED ON Feb 13,2021 [ VOL 21 , NO 1085]

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