We are happy to introduce to you today Joseph-Olivier BILEY, C.E.O. and Founder of WeFly Agri, a start-up from Abidjan, Ivory Coast.
1. First of all, can you introduce yourself to our readers, who you are, where you come from and what’s your background.
My name is Joseph-Olivier BILEY, I am dual Ivorian and French. I am driven by innovation and challenges. I got a double Bachelor in Marketing & Finance at INSEEC Bachelor (Paris-London-Chicago) and a Master in Management (Startups major) with merits A+ in San Francisco, after being selected among the most promising entrepreneurs from INSEEC Group, which is the biggest French private school. I also got an executive Certificate in Venture Capital from WHU (One of the Best Business School in Germany).
In 2017, I have been selected among the 20 ChangeMakersXChange West Africa by Ashoka & Robert Bosh Stiftung.
As you can notice, I have no background in agriculture, but that helped me think outside the box and stand against the statu quo.
2. What is your startup and where is it located?
My startup is WeFly Agri and it is located in Abidjan, Ivory Coast.
3. What is the problem you are addressing and what is your solution?
WeFly Agri is the multi awarded Ivorian startup that provides user-friendly, drone-enabled technologies and services developed exclusively for agriculture. Agriculture is key in Africa. We decide to create a revolution in that sector thinking outside the box and provide concrete solutions to real problems in order to make change.
A couple years ago, my father took me with him on a surprise visit to one of his rubber plantation. After driving for hours, we arrived at destination. However, what we found was flabbergasting: the employees had been using the fertilizers and other supplies given to them by my father to start a plantation of their own, on my father’s property. This made me realize that I could never manage plantations the same way than my father did. I needed visibility, transparency, control and … digital. This particular breach of trust made me think: what if my father could monitor his plantation remotely? At the time, I was already reading about UAVs. I connected the dots, and this is how we startup WeFly Agri: UAVs + Softwares + Apps and a wonderful team.
Our land owners do not have time to go on their lands on a regular basis so they suffer from a lack of transparency and visibiliy from their employees.
So we give them eyes in the sky to remotely monitor their lands and their employees in the confort of their home, office, …. Their location and their device is not a limit anymore.
Thanks to WeFly Agri, they regain control over their lands.
We decided to impact their production to impact the entire value chain
4. What is your target market? And the market size?
We started in Ivory Coast but we think Africa. In the coming months, we will scale to few others countries.
But in Ivory Coast, we have 2 main targets:
-Individuals (plantation owner living in Abidjan or abroad)
-Companies (including cooperatives)
Agriculture accounts for 25% of our GDP. The market is huge and the potential tremendous.
Few numbers: The total area of the country is 32 250 000 ha, the cultivable lands represent 24 000 000 ha and the cultivated one, 9 500 000 hectares. Again, agriculture is key in Cote d’Ivoire.
5. How has the traction been so far on the customer side?
Very good. At WeFly Agri, our customers and innovation are our main focus. We started with a prototype + that we tested with our targets. We get feedbacks, advises and we are about to launch the 2.0 version by mid-July with new amazing features. Till date we are working with one of the biggest rubber company in the country, we have strong partnerships and have a nice visibility. We won many awards, from Abidjan to Boston.
6. From the investment perspective, where are you at now?
We received many funding proposal that we have all declined. We preferred to bootstrap, get a better traction and be able to negotiate some better terms. Steeve and I focused ourselves on love money and are still in touch with some investors.
7. What is your view about the startup scene in your countries and more regionally in Africa?
Africa is poor, there is war, diseases, hunger, problems …. I hear people complaining all the time about my continent. To me, and for many entrepreneurs, now problems mean opportunities you can leverage to something impactful for your community using technology and disruptive innovation. So startups are booming, we had the chance to observe the success stories and the failures from outside and we want to do better. We want to master and adapt technology to our realities. Our talents are coming back with a new vision.
Africa is becoming the place to be, the youngest continent, the future… But we want to be the present, not the future, we want to change things now, we need to change things now.
Something is happening. Africa is changing, Africa is moving forward, I can feel it, I can see it. But we have to make sure we do not mistake hype for reality, we will not mistake hope for achievement, we still have still a lot of work to do.
So after these last words, I go back to work 😉
8. Can you share with us 3 other startups in your country, that you find interesting, either from a product perspective, vision one or their founders?
Thanks again for your time and let’s catchup in a few months to follow up on your milestones and development!