Re-shaping the future of Ghanaian & African start-up businesses using phone verification

It was 5 am in the morning, but I was already getting ready for work. No, this wasn’t my first day at work, I am already three months in. However, my drive and passion were burning as strong as they were on the very first day I stepped into the company because the company promised a great future, not just for me, it promised to re-shape the mobility future of Ghana, and improve the lives of people in Ghana. I was working in a ride-sharing company, Taxify; it empowers anyone to drive to make a living, and it also increases the mobility of Ghanaians, which promises to bring about economic efficiency and effectiveness.

Four (4) months later, having helped Taxify grow several hundreds of drivers more, and several hundreds of rides in a month, I felt joy because I was making an impact in Ghana. I was creating a wave of change. It was also a learning experience. I become exposed to how similar ride-sharing businesses were thriving in other parts of the world, and the technology they were using. In particular, phone identity platform providers, which offer phone verification and phone-based notifications, is critical to ride-sharing business; phone number verification creates a strong form of accountability, which is the foundation of building a trustworthy user base, and timely communication (as well as over-communication) is key to ensuring that transactions get completely quickly thereby creating great user experience. What was interesting is phone verification, and notification, are also used in a lot of disruptive business models: sharing economy, collaborative consumption, marketplaces, Fintech, cryptocurrency, e.g., hospitality – airbnb.com, food preparation & delivery – dahmakan.com, reselling used items – mercari.com. The role, and importance of phone verification and notification in trust building and timely communication in all these business models made sense as these models sought to empower people to make money, by making instant connections to the right people, whom there is no prior relationship with, in order to allow a transaction to happen in the shortest amount of time.

Then it struck me like lightning, instead of creating a single wave of change with a ride-sharing economy, what if I could bring a phone-based identity platform to Ghana and to Africa, to spark multiple waves simultaneously; a phone-based identity platform forms the foundation upon which entrepreneurs can create these disruptive business models in this part of the globe.

I could not sleep well on the night of the serendipity because my heart was racing just thinking of the magnitude of change. I started googling for various phone verification and notification platform providers, and from my experience with Taxify, I know exactly what I had to look for to choose the winning provider among the many available ones; the best combination of user experience, reliability, customer support, ease of integration, and price.

User Experience

Phone verification can be implemented by sending one-time PIN (OTP) over SMS or voice, and then requiring the user to input it into the website or mobile app. Upcoming technology minimises the need for a user to act during phone verification, thus making the user onboarding process even more seamless. E.g., the user can click on a link to verify or even do nothing at all.

Reliability

From my experience at Taxify, OTP deliverability depends on phone operator and regions. Reports have confirmed that some phone verification providers perform better in certain regions compared to others. Therefore a single provider may be insufficient.

Customer Support

If you use phone verification for user sign-up, you need to monitor user sign-up rates. A drop indicates OTP deliverability issues with your OTP provider. A responsive, and knowledgeable support can resolve the issue in a timely manner, instead of leaving you helpless, as potential users slip away.

Ease of Integration

Some providers require a lot of effort to integrate because you have to figure out which API endpoints to call, the order to call them, and the parameters that you need to pass from one endpoint to another. The difficulty in integration also create a lock-in; once integrated you are stuck with the platform because your code is complicated and difficult to switch to another provider.

Price

Comes into play if the difference is significant. A successful phone verification acquires a customer whose lifetime value (LTV) is at least $20 and most of the time magnitudes more. A successful OTP enables a customer to login without password seamlessly and increases the LTV. Given the potential loss of customers whose LTV way exceeds the cost of SMS/voice OTP, there is almost NO reason at all to save a fraction of cents, e.g., $0.01, and risk OTP non-deliverability, which results in potential customer loss or existing customer churn.

Based on these criteria, I went on a hunt for the best phone identity-based platform. To cut the long story short, I found RingCaptcha, a San Francisco born company.

RingCaptcha User Experience

RingCaptcha offers phone verification through traditional SMS and voice OTP, but also through the more seamless one-click and touchless missed-call verification. In one-click SMS OTP, clicking on the link embedded in the OTP will verify the phone.

In missed-call verification, you can create a mobile app with their SDK, and it will automatically intercept the OTP call that lasts less than a fraction of a second, and verify the phone.

RingCaptcha Reliability

RingCaptcha seems obsessive about reliability. They address the issue of different phone verification providers being reliable in different regions by integrating with ALL of them, constantly measuring OTP deliverability over them, and using the best providers (depending on the country and phone operator) to send OTP for you. RingCaptcha further enhances reliability by monitoring requested OTPs that have been requested but not used; it auto-sends follow-up OTPs for the same phone number through a different route.

RingCaptcha Customer Support

RingCaptcha has multiple routes to send OTP to a phone. Thus when you report a deliverability issue, they can switch you to an alternate route immediately without putting you on hold with “we are looking into that, and will get back to you soon”, leaving you feeling helpless as your potential customers slip away. Given that RingCaptcha auto resends unconverted OTP through alternative routes, most of the time you may never experience OTP deliverability issue.

RingCaptcha Ease of Integration

RingCaptcha has only a single API endpoint to request OTP making it easy to integrate, and keeping your code extremely simple. You do not need to build complex logic of ensuring security and reliability; all those have been built into the endpoint. Each OTP request will pass through fraud mitigation (to protect against Sybil, resource exhaustion, Denial-of-Service attack), and reliability enhancement, i.e., OTP will be sent over different medium (missed-call, SMS, voice), through different routes (across all different platforms), and further supplemented by dashboards alerted unconverted OTPs, and AI-assist system to reach out to users who have not used their OTPs.

RingCaptcha Price

RingCaptcha can be integrated and de-integrated with ease, thus you don’t worry about being locked-in to the platform, and be subjected to draconian price increases. Moreover, RingCaptcha allows you to choose to use other phone verification providers to send your OTP from within RingCaptcha; thus sparing you the effort of integrating directly with that provider and offering the flexibility of pricing. However, trusting RingCaptcha to put your OTP on the best route, which may sometimes be at a slightly higher price compared to a platform of your choice, is well worth it given the better deliverability that high customer LTV relies on.

I am convinced that this will be the platform that will help launch the next wave of disruptive startups in Ghana and Africa. I am willing to bet a few years of my life on this. Thus I reached out the CEO of RingCaptcha, who has worked in startups, which graduated from popular accelerators like Y-Combinator, and 500-Startups, started and failed a couple of his own, and is now running companies (RingCaptcha being one of them) acquired by a private equity fund. We shared a common goal of empowering people to succeed while eroding the power of monopoly and centralized authorities, which are often inefficient, and harmful to society’s progress.

“If you want practical implementation of the Know Your Customers policy, then let’s get talking, to drive qualified leads into your business sales conversion funnel; to build customer trust and to keep the fraudsters galaxies away from your business.” – RingCaptcha

Anthony is an open-minded entrepreneur who has 7+ years of professional experience that spans FMCG, world-class tech start-ups and academia.

Profile:

Currently, he is the Africa Director for RingCaptcha Inc., a San-Francisco born tech start-up that specialises in phone verifications and fraud analytics of high-value SMS/Voice-based transactions via OTPs running on a highly efficient true single API Endpoint that interfaces multiple providers. In this capacity, he is responsible for sales and business growth strategies of the brand across the Sub-region.

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