CoYP is currently a web application which is silent for College Yellow Pages. The idea was conceived by a young Nigerian scientist and budding serial entrepreneur in the middle of an MBA – marketing class at Boca Raton, Florida, USA. While there is nothing American about CoYP, its creation was spurred on the heels of an interesting discussion about existing “corpo-similars” (we’d say “bio-similars” if CoYP were a biotech product) like Yelp, YP.com and others. But back in Africa, the only thing that comes to mind about Yellow Pages are the big yellow books containing classified ads often found by those old Nitel telephone booths. That is where we would find local business listings for “Baba Jamiu” the plumber, “Bala” the “mae-shai” (a skillful road-side tea brewer in northern Nigeria), or “Mama Okoro” the “Ugwu” (green vegies) seller. Naaah! You really won’t find such listings in Yellow Pages, but in my mind, I thought that is what they should contain. However, back in those days, only the rich and the high middle class families would have a Nitel home or business telephone line in the first place. “Baba Jamiu” or “Jamiu” himself with the side hustle wouldn’t possibly be able to afford placing a classified ad in Yellow Pages. And as a matter of fact, the entity (YP.com or Yellow Pages) used to be owned at a time by AT&T but it was later sold to Cerberus Capital in 2012 for about $1billion – for a controlling stake. Yep, it was and is still a serious but evolving product.
So right in the middle of this MBA class, all I could think about was a social utility that would be useful for student entrepreneurs back in Africa – but starting out at my crib in Nigeria and maybe Ghana. At least, those markets are understandable or at best identifiable. According to a recent (2017) data by UNESCO, Nigeria alone has a school-age population at the tertiary level of about 20million people – which is a target marketplace about the entire population of some African countries like Ghana, Angola and Cameroon – among others.
So from conception in 2015, it took about four more years of initial ideation, design iteration and eventual launch of an MVP (www.coyp.biz) in the Spring of 2019. We pushed out a bare minimum functional application where college students (and by college, we mean tertiary institutions like Universities, Polytechnics and Colleges of Education) can list, find and share college businesses. To list a business, a college entrepreneur just needed to sign up on coyp.biz with an email address, activate the account via an email generated activation code, then complete a business listing form that will be published as a public business page to the world. There are even options for a YouTube video upload (if the business has product videos to share), a business logo or picture upload, and basic business contact details such as a physical business address, phone number and a clickable website url – if there is any. Listed businesses can also have followers from users registered on the platform – where complementary business reviews or comments can also be made on a CoYP Entrepreneur’s page.
These features sound basic and cool, but then there needs to be something of value to onboard actual college entrepreneurs. Typical Nigerians for example would browse through such apps and ask you – so what?! Then we would attempt to recap what the app could do; but to the nice ones, they’d just applaud the application as a laudable idea, and that would be it. So we thought we needed to integrate something of value that could make it stick or at best stand out beyond the regular business directories.
Beyond listing, sharing and finding businesses on our platform, we intend to buildout the application into many facets of value. We have just completed a crowdfunding application which can be used by student entrepreneurs to crowdsource funding for their businesses right from their social circle. “CoYPFundMe” campaigns can be easily launched on the platform once a user signs up as a CoYP Entrepreneur and lists a business on CoYP.biz.
Following the integration of “CoYPFundMe” and since we had been bootstrapping CoYP from scratch with no external funding yet, we thought the application has got some merits and can now be put to work. So we focused on some targeted social media advertising via Facebook and Instagram as well as Google just to maintain an easy search presence. However, Facebook seems to have driven a lot of traffic to CoYP.biz because it is regarded as a continental village with more than two billion global users; and Instagram because it is probably the millennials’ haven. With a modest advertising budget to test the waters, we have been able to sign up more than 500 users till date while the platform’s engineering was being optimized. Even with a targeted social media advertising to onboard users from Nigeria and Ghana for now, we noticed that a typical college entrepreneur (age range 18 – 34) is not by any means an easy catch, so we decided to put up a N500k promo to complement our ad-efforts, where the cash award would be shared among the top three CoYPers with the highest followership. For a virgin app that is yet to gain significant traction like ours, such incentives are able to push mere clicks to converted leads – which would be actual signups, possibly listed businesses and crowdfunding campaigns on the platform.
Although we are providing a freemium version of the application for now, our major revenue model will be hinged to corporate ads and commissions from the crowdfunding feature. And should we land a major significant seed investment (which we are still open to from interested backers) in the coming weeks, the mobile version of the application will be launched. We also hope to further integrate additional valuable tools for CoYP Entrepreneurs such as “CoYPay” – a robust fintech feature to facilitate payment transactions safely on the platform. We are also looking into making physical cashless operations fluid with “CoYPSquare” – which will be a card processing device that can be requested and used on the platform by CoYP Entrepreneurs via their mobile phones.
In the near future, if CoYP survives its first 2-3years of mastering its predominantly millennial market, then a pivot into the general non-student entrepreneurial population might be tested. We would therefore scale the product one step at a time into new territories (countries), then after we may have onboarded a good number of African College Entrepreneurs, we might go all out for the rest of the Corporate Entrepreneurs – and the possibilities would then be endless.
We have set out with a reasonable vision, and we hope that CoYP will indeed be the next big thing for college and corporate entrepreneurs in the years to come. Check us out at www.coyp.biz today!