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Using WhatsApp & Messenger, SA’s FoondaMate is helping students with internet study

Basically, you can search for whatever you’re confused about, get arithmetic help, and get practice problems and notes by sending a text to the startup’s WhatsApp number. Watch this demonstration for more information.

FoondaMate was founded by Dacod Magagula and Tao Boyle in August of last year, although its roots can be traced back to Magagula’s high school days in Daantjie, Mbombela.

“At the time, he was the only student in the school with a computer. He would walk to his local internet café to download study resources and practice questions. However, because no one else had smartphones or computers, he struggled to share the resources with other students,” Boyle told Disrupt Africa.

Magagula, who graduated as the top matriculant in his class, was the first student from his school to be accepted to the University of Cape Town, where he studied computer science before leaving to pursue opportunities in South Africa’s burgeoning e-commerce sector. When WhatsApp launched its business API in 2020, he saw an opportunity to address a problem that he and his classmates had faced in high school and that many African students still face today: a lack of resources.

“Through our WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger bots, anyone with access to a basic smartphone – most of which come with these apps preinstalled – and some data, including social data, can study online and succeed at school. We believe that talent is equally distributed, but opportunity is not. And we aim to change that,” Boyle said.

“The majority of our users can only access educational resources through textbooks, which their families struggle to afford and their schools often have limited supply of, dictated notes from teachers, a library if there is one in walking distance of their home or study camps. Few can afford to download and run additional apps or search the web for extended periods of time, even with access to smartphones. FoondaMate is a low data and instant solution to this problem, enabling anyone to study from anywhere.”

FoondaMate has already been utilized by over 120,000 people in more than ten African nations, as well as many in Latin America and Asia. It is gaining 600 new users each day on average, according to Boyle, with uptake boosted by the fact that it is accessible in a variety of languages, including isiZulu, siSwati, isiNdebele, Afrikaans, chiShona, Xitsonga, Tshivenda, isiXhosa, and Sepedi.

“For many of our users we are the first tech product they have ever engaged in their home language, and the response has been overwhelmingly positive,” said Boyle.

FoondaMate is supported by XX, a WeFunder-affiliated accelerator headquartered in San Francisco, and it presently has an open round on WeFunder in which it is seeking an additional US$50,000.

“We wanted to give an opportunity for people who believe in our mission to invest. Since our entire ethos revolves around access to the opportunity, it seemed wrong to not enable individuals to invest in our high growth startup, and instead reserve that only for those who can afford to put their money behind institutional investors. While we have taken institutional funding, we believed it was important to reserve a portion of our raise for anyone from anywhere who cares about equality,” Boyle said.

FoondaMate is now pre-revenue and is concentrating its efforts on increasing its user base and expanding into other areas, with a particular emphasis on Latin America and Southeast Asia.

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