If you want to look to the future of business in Africa look no further than Simba Mubvuma, a 26-year-old Zimbabwean law graduate and tech entrepreneur based in Harare.
Simba and Blessing Makuni founded Lexware Inc.
Simba is the chief executive officer, while Blessing is the chief technical officer.
They have clients in 30 countries, mostly in Africa, providing products that help lawyers manage cases and handle billing, among other things.
Simba went to an Anglican mission high school in Zimbabwe where he became president of the debating society and was elected to the local junior council.
At the University of Zimbabwe, where he studied law, he graduated in the top 1% of his class and represented his law school in international moot competitions.
Throughout his varsity studies, Simba worked with a non-profit organisation called Veritas, which monitors parliament and does human rights research.
He researched the death penalty and child marriage in Zimbabwe. After leaving Veritas, Simba joined the Advocates' Chambers in Harare as a pupil to Advocate Firoz Girach, whom he regards as a mentor.
Simba first hatched a plan to start his business in 2014, though it only kicked off the ground in 2016.
The first product on offer was Lexware Mobile, a free application for law students in Zimbabwe. It allowed them to access statutes and case law, even offline.
“At a time when the internet was not widespread and expensive, this product allowed students to still have access to key legal resources. The company generated revenue from advertising.”
Thereafter his first clients included Wintertons Legal Practitioners of Zimbabwe, a member of TAG Law, the global alliance of independent law firms.
Simba recalls landing big fish like this.
“It was such a big step because Wintertons was one of the first traditional law firms to take the leap into the world of technology. It gave us comfort that our technology could actually work and could be embraced by old and conservative law firms.”
Simba’s business has enjoyed phenomenal growth.
He says Lexware Inc now boasts 4500 case management and billing system users in more than 10 countries in Africa.
“At an average rate of US$30 per month per user, we are 500 users away from becoming a $1 million dollar annual revenue legal technology company (possibly the first of its kind) in Africa.”
Simba says the business aims to transform into a pioneer in Artificial Intelligence research, development and implementation for the legal industry in Africa.
Lawyers, he says, need to be serviced by businesses like his.
“Our unique selling point is that we are lawyers, so we understand the intricacies of running a law practice. Our team of developers is also very young, and we have the capacity to deliver unique and customized solutions to clients because of a key partnership with a technology university in Zimbabwe. Unlike some of the competitors, we also offer localized installations (although the systems remain web-based), to ensure that lawyers can guard the confidentiality of client data.”
Simba is constantly amazed at the potential for technology in Africa.
“The biggest surprise in our journey has been how much technology is so underutilized in law firms across Africa. We have seen law firms with over 40 lawyers who still did not have any technology to manage their time and documents in one portal.”
Lexware Inc’s biggest rivals include Clio of Canada, a global company. Simba says he likes to distinguish his company from the competition by offering a localised, yet web-based solution for case management.
“This allows us to give lawyers the confidence that their information is not being accessed by third parties, which is a key concern with lawyers.”
Simba’s approach to life and business is to understand everything that happens is a result of prior processes and input - that leads to results, he says.
The most abiding lesson in his journey with Lexware Inc was realising the value lawyers place on personal engagement.
“Lawyers still value gathering around a table and engaging directly with people. This has been both an advantage and disadvantage in our journey because we have had to travel to meet people who we could have easily engaged using the latest technology in video conferencing.”
Simba and his company appeared in the influential 2018 Forbes Africa 30 Under 30 list along with 29 other young tech entrepreneurs honoured in Africa.
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