Interview of Ranto Andriambololona, Founder of HaiRun Technology and SmartPredictSubmitted by Admin on Tue, 04/20/2021 - 18:55
A native of Antananarivo and a graduate of the Institut Supérieur Polytechnique de Madagascar, Ranto Andriambololona worked for 15 years in France before returning to Madagascar in 2018 with two entrepreneurial projects in the tech sector. Three years later, HaiRun Technology and SmartPredict are growing rapidly and have more than 150 employees.
We met with Ranto Andriambololona to learn more about his background, the challenges he faced and the partnership with Miarakap and our new program I&P Acceleration Technologies.
Can you tell us a few words about your background?
I grew up and studied in Madagascar, at the Institut Supérieur Polytechnique de Madagascar. I then worked for fifteen years in France in the IT sector, for different software editors.
I always had the aspiration to come back to Madagascar one day, and fully take part in the development of my country. I went back when I felt I had enough methodical background and experience
In 2018, I founded two entities: SmartPredict, a SaaS platform using artificial intelligence, and HaiRun Technology, a Digital Services Company (DSC).
How do these two companies complement each other? Where do they stand today?
HaiRun Technology is specialized in the development of customized softwares for start-ups and companies. The company employs more than 120 people to date, and will be recruiting significantly in the coming years, as the number of projects under management increases. The human aspect is at the heart of this project: we aim to create a local entity of 300 to 500 employees and to federate competent people on digital issues.
I will play only a role of administrator in HaiRun. The company is headed by Chantal Razafimahatratra, who will be supported by top managers (financial director, commercial director, operations director, etc.).
As for SmartPredict, it is a completely technological adventure, on which I must focus in the years to come. My goal is to make it a true African unicorn, a flagship of the African tech sector worldwide. It is a SaaS platform using artificial intelligence to perform predictive analysis that helps companies in the deployment of their projects.
To date, we have completed the platform, collected feedback from users, and reached a first fundraising milestone thanks to the financing of I&P Acceleration Technologies. Finding the right funders is really the key step at this stage of our development, and we are currently finalizing a second round of seed funding, at 1 million euros. We expect a series A at the end of 2022, and if all goes well, a series B, etc.
What were the main difficulties you encountered along the way? What solutions did you identify to overcome them?
The first months were quite difficult. First of all, we had to identify skilled and reliable human resources. Madagascar is a small country where engineers are rare, and this is a real challenge for HaiRun Technology. This is why we are going to create an innovative technology school to teach young people the skills needed in the tech industry. It will be an academic training under the authority of the Ministry of Education, oriented towards the youth in Madagascar.
We were also confronted with a problem that every fast-growing company faces: financing investments while maintaining a sufficient level of cash flow to meet the ever-increasing costs. Developing a business in Madagascar, or elsewhere in Africa, means overcoming many obstacles. There is no support for the private sector, and entrepreneurs are rarely backed by the banking system.
I personally invested a lot of my savings when starting HaiRun and SmartPredict, and without Miarakap's contribution, we would have imploded. It would have been impossible for us to get the larger projects that get us growing.
How did you meet Miarakap?
From the very beginning, I realized that external financing was necessary to develop the company. We needed a Malagasy investor, specialized in SMEs. Miarakap was the perfect match. I met its Managing Director, Emmanuel Cotsoyannis, after a conference and we connected very quickly. I think the parameters were optimal on both sides.
Miarakap's support was strategic. Beyond the capital contribution, Miarakap brought its expertise and its network. If SmartPredict was able to obtain financing through the I&P Acceleration Technologies program, it is also thanks to Miarakap. The fund also helps us to get in touch with banks, even if they are still rather cautious.
How has the Covid-19 crisis affected the two companies?
The crisis has put us through a difficult phase, especially when the strict lockdown measures were announced in March 2020. We called each of our clients to set up payment facilities so that they would not stop their projects. We did have a few financial concerns, however, with some customers experiencing late payments. This could have resulted in cash flow shortfalls.
From a logistical point of view, we had to adapt quickly. We focused our efforts on prevention, chartering private transport, purchasing masks and hydroalcoholic gel, and covering the health costs of sick employees.
But overall, HaiRun Technology and SmartPredict have been strengthened by the crisis, which has created a digital shift for many companies. We received more orders, and our numbers increased significantly in this context.
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