Founder's Corner: Amine Chouaieb of Chifco
Chifco is “ a Tunisian tech start up, specialized in the Internet of Things (IoT) and Machine to Machine (M2M)”. I had the pleasure to interview Amine Chouaieb, the founder and CEO of Chifco. As he shared his vision and mission for Chifco, Amine explained that at the beginning of his venture, in 2010 he set out to understand the potential in IoT most of which he saw in connecting cars but he decided to focus his company and its efforts in connected homes.
What inspired to start a company like Chifco?
The growth of internet usage in Africa has been unprecedented as compared to other developing regions. This has been an inspiration for me and a means to a realization of connected homes. I think that the idea of connected homes has been abuzz since the 80’s, however with fast internet adoption and penetration, now it is increasingly becoming reality. With this in mind, and my accumulated experience in engineering and business, I set out alone to get my foot in the door as a solo entrepreneur. My work was recognized and received backing from a large company in exchange of equity which served me as validation.
The sector in which Chifco operates is its infancy in Africa. How has Chifco adapted to african markets?
In regards to IoT african context, it's a niche market where there aren’t many movers. Because of this, this sector has its own “way of doing business”. However, even between different countries we operate in like Egypt and Cameroon, there are distinctions. For example, we've had to adapt to different ways of operating in Francophone versus Anglophone countries. Another example of this is that we've used different payment plans such as subscription models in fitting markets. This type of nimbleness has been partially attained by Chifco because we control most of the production and distribution process by making all of our products in-house. Chifco’s adaptability to different African markets has been strengthened by paying close attention to market maturing trends to see exactly which ones to focus on and avoid putting “all eggs in one basket”.
In your perspective, what is the importance of an enabling climate for a startup to succeed?
One of the big things that we focus on at CheetaGen is to explore the support entrepreneurs receive from their respective countries and the different hurdles that they face. For Chifco, as Amine shared, it has been extremely difficult to move forward as a startup in Tunisia, thus being strong and dedicated has been a must. From his experience, having a strong network of connections such as his with a big telecommunication company makes the journey easier and may increase the likelihood for success and get you to the point where people and companies come to depend on you.
What does the future look like?
On where Chifco is going, we have our sights set on doubling the size of Chifco every single year and eventually go public and make a mark internationally.
Social responsibility seems to be important to your company. Can you give us an example of how this is practiced in your company?
I recently supported my employees with a project that seeks to leverage our technologies to solve social problems. This project resulted in the making of a safety bracelet to increase security of women. Also I really hope our success will serve as an inspiration to this generation of African entrepreneurs and show younger people that there are other role models beyond famous soccer stars.
Learn more about Chifco (link to the startup's page on the site)