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‘Either You Are Number One Or You Are Out’

Technology entrepreneur, Kelvin Nyame, is changing how people buy and sell property in Ghana by creating an online marketplace for real estate.

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In the quiet residential area of North Ridge, a four-acre piece of land is being developed into a 200-unit apartment complex. The development in Accra, Ghana, is part of a trend of new real estate projects springing out from previously abandoned parks.

“This is a very competitive market, there are not many people with a lot of disposable income, so the market for potential buyers is very small with everybody going after the same pot,” says Godwin Ofori, real estate agent at BCD Properties.

Skyrocketing prices for properties is making people desperate to find bargains, says Ofori. Kelvin Nyame, the Co-Founder of meQasa, is hoping to ease their anguish.

meQasa is an online property listings site connecting buyers to more than 23,000 commercial and residential properties across Ghana.

“There are about 27 million people in Ghana and we look at how many people have the budget to rent the types of houses that are available for rent, or office spaces, then you look at people who have disposable income. We feel that the market is very small, so either you are number one or you are out of the game and to be number one you need to have three times the content that your competitors have,” says Nyame.

Nyame believes content is king.

“In the listings, we are the highest right now, and traffic wise we have closed the gap with our competitors. We are doing about 40,000 serious seekers with over 290,000 page views per month. More than half of the 40,000 are converting and what that means is that they are sending emails to our agents and calling our agents to enquire about our properties and we hope to grow this number by up to 50,000 to 60,000 by December,” he says.

Nyame came up with the idea, along with Rashad Seini and Kofi Amuasi, at the Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology (MEST).

“So the whole idea of MEST is to learn software and online business. The program is structured such that you do capstone projects and in the capstone projects you form teams with everybody. The idea is that by your final capstone project you will want to develop your idea into a business and meQasa was one of the last two projects we were thinking of making into a business. After analysing our expertise and our skill set we decided to go for meQasa.”

Nyame and his team had to adopt a lean strategy from the start.

“The market is very small but there were a lot of big players and we just had $90,000 seed investment from MEST to operate with for two years. So if you do the maths, you can only spend about $3,000 per month and this includes employee salaries, office space, marketing and product development, so we were very limited and everyone was after the same customers, so it was very tough.”

There is, however, a light at the end of the tunnel. At the end of 2015, meQasa secured a much-needed investment of $500,000 from Frontier Digital Ventures, a global venture capital firm headquartered in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Nyame is using that cash injection to streamline the business.

“We started monetizing two months ago and we have what we call subscription for developers, so every developer has a fee they pay for a number of months with different bundles. We also have banner ads and also sell our newsletter. For agents, we have products that are customized as well and by 2017 there will be space for every agent that wants to list on the site.”

In just three years, meQasa gained a significant percentage of the property listings business, according to Nyame.

“The early days were tough. We did a lot of research but we made some assumptions. We tried models. As a business you want to look at how you can make money and some of the models didn’t work. One of the models was that we recruited agents who we called meQasa real estate agents. So basically we would give them some kind of resources and an ID card so they know that they work for us but they also have their own real estate business. The idea was to send them leads so that when they close the deal we share the commission but that didn’t work.”

“We also hired a meQasa agent relationship manager to manage the agents, which also didn’t work. We made a lot of mistakes by also looking at the US market and what will work over there, but again that is a very advanced market so it wouldn’t work here. Now we are looking more at emerging markets in Southeast Asia, who are not too far from us in terms of developments but they managed to find solutions.”

The company plans to expand to other African countries and Nyame hopes he’ll soon be the top player in the continent’s property game.

Entrepreneurs

Leaving Airplane Middle Seats Empty Could Cut Coronavirus Risk Almost In Half, A Study Says

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A new research paper from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology estimates that blocking out the middle seat on airplanes could cause the likelihood of passengers being infected with coronavirus to drop by nearly half, just as some airlines are starting to book flights to capacity again.

KEY FACTS

  • According to the MIT paper (which has not been peer reviewed) the chances of catching coronavirus from a nearby passenger on a full airplane when all coach seats are filled is about 1 in 4,300.
  • However, those odds drop to 1 in 7,700 when all the middle seats on board are left empty, the paper states.
  • Taking into account a 1% mortality rate according to the statistical model, the likelihood of dying from a coronavirus case contracted on a plane is far more likely than dying in a plane crash, which has odds of about 1 in 34 million, the paper stated. 
  • In “Covid-19 Risk Among Airline Passengers: Should the Middle Seat Stay Empty?” the author of the study, Arnold Barnett, wrote that his analysis aims to be “a rough approximation” of the risks involved in flying during the coronavirus pandemic.
  • “The airlines are setting their own policies but the airlines and the public should know about the risk implications of their choices,” Barnett told ZDNet this week.
  • The paper comes just as more flight carriers, like American Airlines, begin booking flights to full capacity despite surges of the virus across the country. 

KEY BACKGROUND

The coronavirus pandemic has been disastrous for the travel industry, and has especially hurt airlines. Major American carriers including American, Delta and United have asked employees to take buyouts and early retirement, Forbes reported, in a bid to cut costs as the pandemic causes them to bleed cash. United Airlines warned this week that it could be forced to furlough 36,000 jobs, or nearly half of its American workers, starting in October if travel doesn’t pick up. In April, the airline estimated that in the first quarter it lost $2.1 billion pre-tax, Forbes reported, and was losing $100 million a day in the last half of March. Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun said in May he expects a major airline to go out of business in 2020 as a result of pandemic pressure.

NEWS PEG

American Airlines announced two weeks ago it would begin booking middle seats again starting in July, although the carrier will allow passengers to switch from a full flight without any extra cost, Forbes reported. United is also selling tickets for middle seats. American Airlines took flak earlier this month when Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) tweeted a picture of his crowded flight

WHAT TO WATCH

If airlines continue to extend their policy of keeping middle seats blocked off or if they’ll be forced to book to capacity to turn a profit. Southwest and Delta have both committed to keeping their middle seats blocked off until at least the end of September, while JetBlue will do the same through July, according to the Washington Post.

Carlie Porterfield, Forbes Staff, Business

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Entrepreneurs

From The Arab World To Africa

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Sheikha Hend Faisal Al Qassimi; image supplied

In this exclusive interview with FORBES AFRICA, successful Dubai-based Emirati businesswoman, author and artist, Sheikha Hend Faisal Al Qassimi, shares some interesting insights on fashion, the future, and feminism in a shared world.

Sheikha Hend Faisal Al Qassimi wears many hats, as an artist, architect, author, entrepreneur and philanthropist based in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). She currently serves as the CEO of Paris London New York Events & Publishing (PLNY), that includes a magazine and a fashion house.

She runs Velvet Magazine, a luxury lifestyle publication in the Gulf founded in 2010 that showcases the diversity of the region home to several nationalities from around the world.

In this recent FORBES AFRICA interview, Hend, as she would want us to call her, speaks about the future of publishing, investing in intelligent content, and learning to be a part of the disruption around you.

As an entrepreneur too and the designer behind House of Hend, a luxury ready-to-wear line that showcases exquisite abayas, evening gowns and contemporary wear, her designs have been showcased in fashion shows across the world.

The Middle East is known for retail, but not typically, as a fashion hub in the same league as Paris, New York or Milan. Yet, she has changed the narrative of fashion in the region. “I have approached the world of fashion with what the customer wants,” says Hend. In this interview, she also extols African fashion talent and dwells on her own sartorial plans for the African continent.

In September, in Downtown Dubai, she is scheduled to open The Flower Café. Also an artist using creative expression meaningfully, she says it’s important to be “a role model of realism”.

She is also the author of The Black Book of Arabia, described as a collection of true stories from the Arab community offering a real glimpse into the lives of men and women across the Gulf Cooperation Council region.

In this interview, she also expounds on her home, Sharjah, one of the seven emirates in the UAE and the region’s educational hub. “A number of successful entrepreneurs have started in this culturally-rich emirate that’s home to 30 museums,” she concludes. 

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Entertainment

Kim Kardashian West Is Worth $900 Million After Agreeing To Sell A Stake In Her Cosmetics Firm To Coty

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In what will be the second major Kardashian cashout in a year, Kim Kardashian West is selling a 20% stake in her cosmetics company KKW Beauty to beauty giant Coty COTY for $200 million. The deal—announced today—values KKW Beauty at $1 billion, making Kardashian West worth about $900 million, according to Forbes’estimates.

The acquisition, which is set to close in early 2021, will leave Kardashian West the majority owner of KKW Beauty, with an estimated 72% stake in the company, which is known for its color cosmetics like contouring creams and highlighters. Forbes estimates that her mother, Kris Jenner, owns 8% of the business. (Neither Kardashian West nor Kris Jenner have responded to a request for comment about their stakes.) According to Coty, she’ll remain responsible for creative efforts while Coty will focus on expanding product development outside the realm of color cosmetics.

Earlier this year, Kardashian West’s half-sister, Kylie Jenner, also inked a big deal with Coty, when she sold it 51% of her Kylie Cosmetics at a valuation of $1.2 billion. The deal left Jenner with a net worth of just under $900 million. Both Kylie Cosmetics and KKW Beauty are among a number of brands, including Anastasia Beverly Hills, Huda Beauty and Glossier, that have received sky-high valuations thanks to their social-media-friendly marketing. 

“Kim is a true modern-day global icon,” said Coty chairman and CEO Peter Harf in a statement. “This influence, combined with Coty’s leadership and deep expertise in prestige beauty will allow us to achieve the full potential of her brands.”

The deal comes just days after Seed Beauty, which develops, manufactures and ships both KKW Beauty and Kylie Cosmetics, won a temporary injunction against KKW Beauty, hoping to prevent it from sharing trade secrets with Coty, which also owns brands like CoverGirl, Sally Hansen and Rimmel. On June 19, Seed filed a lawsuit against KKW Beauty seeking protection of its trade secrets ahead of an expected deal between Coty and KKW Beauty. The temporary order, granted on June 26, lasts until August 21 and forbids KKW Beauty from disclosing details related to the Seed-KKW relationship, including “the terms of those agreements, information about license use, marketing obligations, product launch and distribution, revenue sharing, intellectual property ownership, specifications, ingredients, formulas, plans and other information about Seed products.”

Coty has struggled in recent years, with Wall Street insisting it routinely overpays for acquisitions and has failed to keep up with contemporary beauty trends. The coronavirus pandemic has also hit the 116-year-old company hard. Since the beginning of the year, Coty’s stock price has fallen nearly 60%. The company, which had $8.6 billion in revenues in the year through June 2019, now sports a $3.3 billion market capitalization. By striking deals with companies like KKW Beauty and Kylie Cosmetics, Coty is hoping to refresh its image and appeal to younger consumers.

Kardashian West founded KKW Beauty in 2017, after successfully collaborating with Kylie Cosmetics on a set of lip kits. Like her half-sister, Kardashian West first launched online only, but later moved into Ulta stores in October 2019, helping her generate estimated revenues of $100 million last year. KKW Beauty is one of several business ventures for Kardashian West: She continues to appear on her family’s reality show, Keeping Up with the Kardashians, sells her own line of shapewear called Skims and promotes her mobile game, Kim Kardashian Hollywood. Her husband, Kanye West, recently announced a deal to sell a line of his Yeezy apparel in Gap stores.

“This is fun for me. Now I’m coming up with Kimojis and the app and all these other ideas,” Kardashian West told Forbesof her various business ventures in 2016. “I don’t see myself stopping.”

Madeline Berg, Forbes Staff, Hollywood & Entertainment

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