I’m leaning on the shop counter in a village of Keyafer and negotiating the price of black market petrol, when I feel someone is gently stroking the sun-bleached blond hair on my left arm. It is a 25 year old Ethiopian dude. I look at him, he knows I’m looking at him, and he keeps stroking the hair on my arm. Gently gently. I consider asking him to stop but then decide it doesn’t cost me anything and return my attention to the petrol.
We could already see the Kilimanjaro range pretty close ahead of us when Suusi dies out on the next set of speed bumps. She refuses to start. Its clutch had started slipping the day we left Issa’s village and the Indian Ocean behind. Juka can still ride at around 70km/h at high revs, but now we suspect the engine is so hot that it just refuses to get started.
In 2008 October we rode out of London with Suusi and Kotilda and reached Bamako, Mali 6 weeks later. After a longer break, we continued this journey in 2015 from Lagos, Nigeria and have been wandering Africa for a month every year. We first reached Gabon via Cameroon, then next year Namibia via Congo and Angola. Last year we crossed from the Atlantic to Indian Ocean via Botswana, Zambia, Malawi and parked in Dar Es Salaam.
Markets around the world are dominated by large incumbents with a ton of market power – whether it is media, logistics, e-commerce or finance. For a startup to succeed at a busy market they need to out-execute all the incumbents by an enormous margin.
Why is it that only 1 in 100 startups ever succeed after raising $5m in series A? They always have a good idea that could work. Where startups fail after Series A is execution, specifically the speed of execution.
Money is information. Using, storing, moving money should be as cheap and instant as exchanging information. As cheap as sending an email. And certainly it shouldn’t be more expensive or slower if the information crosses country borders.
That’s not the reality. World Bank calculates that people lose 7% on average on cross border, others triangulate the total fees banks charge be $200bn. With TransferWise we’ve brought the fees down to 0.3% on some routes, but we believe it can and should be much cheaper. We have made 27 price drops in the last 9 months and plan many many more. Here’s how we do it.
Four weeks and 3400km later we have reached the Indian Ocean. Kotilda and Suusi did well. Kotilda was fighting back a bit in the beginning, but we reached an agreement. She is now already parked at a friend’s yard inside a deserted shipping container near Dar-es-Salaam. Juka and Suusi are still travelling in southern Tanzania, but in a few weeks Suusi will join Kotilda to wait for next December to continue the journey to Ethiopia, Sudan and the Mediterranean coast in Egypt.
Entering Tanzania we find ourselves in another National Geographic scene. Rolling hills of tea fields and rows of ladies clipping away the harvest. What they don’t show on the NatGeo channel is when it rains.
We’re already behind time. I was hoping to make it to Dar by the 5th to find parking and fly out on the 7th. Now there is also the thundering sky that we have to race away from and many times unsuccessfully. Riding wet is very unpleasant, riding in the dark is even worse.