While going through facebook one late evening in July, Irving Mukasa, a student at JKUAT, came across a video from the I-am initiative that asked innovators to come up with something focusing on sexual reproductive health. He immediately contacted a friend, Derrick Mureithi and they immediately went to work trying to remake an older app, Aibible Their idea was to get the app to answer questions on sexual reproductive health.
A week later, the I-am initiative set up a bootcamp at JKUAT intending to introduce as many people as possible to the initiative. It was while in attendance that they met the other four members with whom together they would form #TeamSophie. Irving and Derrick chipped their idea to the other four; Beverly Chogo, John Nzau, Rashid Beduni and Justice Nick.
They decided to name their app Sophie after a character from the marketing material from the I-am initiative. Sophie had a messed up life as a result of insufficient and incorrect information on sexual reproductive health. As they were coming up with an artificial intelligence system that knows so much on the same, it only seemed right to name it after her.
One month after starting out, Team Sophie was shortlisted for the I-am initiative finals and a week later, they were announced to be part of the four winners to get funded and accelerated at Nailab, a startup incubator. The app was to receive four months acceleration plus $10000 in funding from UNFPA(United Nations Population Fund). They are currently in the process of growing the Sophie user base, improving the experience and finding the perfect market fit.
As expected, it hasn’t been easy. Due to the anonymity they pride their solution on, the team has challenges observing isolated user behavior so as to get insights on how people are using their product. Juggling the strict school schedule and the accelerator program proves to be quite difficult since they have to incorporate progress meetings and meetings with their mentors into their schedules.
Despite the above challenges, Irving and his team are quite positive about the app’s progress. So far, they are growing at a fast rate of 30% every week, which is way past the recommended accelerator speed. Sophie now has a wide base of verified knowledge from UNFPA, National AIDS council among other partners. 90% of the current users are Kenyans though it is quite amusing the higher number of male users as compared to female users.
Irving says that the vision for Sophie is to eventually offer services such as discrete contraceptive deliveries and recommendations. They also intend to implement machine learning to answer even the most complex questions not only in sexual health but matters pertaining to general health. Most of all, they see Sophie being used not only in Kenya but also in Africa and a probable future listing on their stock market.