Many of us have gone through the nightmare of losing important documents and having to find a way of getting them replaced. It could be an ID, birth certificate or university transcript. E-Pate is a website that helps relieve the stress of dealing with lost documents. Crossover Kenya had a Q&A session with E-Pate founder Sami Wambua to find out more about the company.
Crossover Kenya: How would you describe E-Pate?
E-Pate: E-pate is a website that helps people find their lost personal documents that have been found such as I.Ds, Passports, Log books, title deeds etc. Simply put, we are a safe haven for lost and found personal documents!
Crossover Kenya: How did the idea to start the company come about?
E-Pate: My friend, Mike, and I were walking near our university’s security desk when we realized how many unclaimed ID’s there were in the possession of the security staff. This got us thinking, “what if there was a way to get these ID’s back to their owners and generate income by so doing?” We sat down and thought of how we could do it. That is when we came up with the idea of starting a website that would help individuals in solving this kind of problems.
Crossover Kenya: What challenges did you face while setting up the company?
E-Pate: Overcoming mental hurdles and doubts was probably the largest challenge we faced.
Often a time, we would go through various cycles of saying, “This is awesome!! It will work!!!” to “Oh no!! This might not be accepted! Our idea may not be as good as we thought!!”And eventually going back to our “This is awesome” phase once again. Starting up was a rollercoaster of emotions and we’d always have to keep ourselves motivated otherwise the self-doubt and idea doubt would have killed our website before it even got off the ground.
Coming up with a working product was also slightly challenging. We were venturing into murky waters and really had no idea with regard as to how exactly the website should work. We simply knew the end result but the “how to achieve this result bit” was simply through trial and error. We ended up making so many errors along the way, such as launching a prototype that was faulty. We do not regret this mistakes though, it is through such were able to grow and learn.
Crossover Kenya: Can you briefly explain how the lost and found system works?
E-Pate: To best explain how our website works, allow me to use an illustration of two individuals, Dave and Bob. Say Dave drops his I.D Card in town and Bob finds it. Bob will take a picture of the ID and upload it onto our website, www.epate.co.ke . The uploading process is similar to that of most social media platforms. Once uploaded, we crop out any sensitive information from the personal documents such as the thumbprint ID, and serial numbers. We only leave information that is sufficient for an individual to identify a document as theirs upon seeing it. Once posted on the front end, Dave will come and find his ID on the site. When he clicks on his ID, the first thing the site will do is ask him to input his ID number. We must do this so as to verify that he is indeed the rightful owner of the ID. If he gets the verification wrong, the site will not proceed to the next step. If he gets this step right though, the site directs him to the payment platform. Here, he will be asked to pay on our M-Pesa or AirtelMoney Numbers. The amount to be paid will vary depending on the document. Upon payment, an agent of E-pate (called a Dedicated Finder) will pick the ID from Bob, pay him his finder’s fee for his good service and eventually hand the ID back to Dave. Bob gets a little extra cash and Dave gets his ID back. It’s a win-win situation for all parties involved.
Crossover Kenya: Does it only involve lost and found documents?
E-Pate: Yes, for now we only deal with lost personal documents. We plan to expand into other types of items later on. We will let you guys know when we launch a new line of business!
Crossover Kenya: How do you ensure security for all parties involved?
E-Pate: First of all, we have in place the dedicated finders. A dedicated finder is a person that is employed by E-pate whose sole function is to be the intermediary between the person that has lost their personal documents and someone that has found them. This ensures that our users never have to meet face-to-face. Secondly, we also have an additional feature on our website to ensure that user’s personal details are kept safe. For example, we crop out any sensitive information from the posted personal documents (such as I.D Numbers, serial numbers etc.)
Crossover Kenya: In your experience, which are the top three items searched for as lost?
E-Pate: National I.D cards, School I.D Cards and Driving licenses.
Crossover Kenya: Have you encountered a situation where someone steals people’s documents then comes to your site to report them as lost?
E-Pate: To this point, no. We are yet to encounter such a case. However, we are overly cautious and have set up a safeguard against this kind of occurrence. If a single user is noted to be posting multiple personal documents, the website flags this as being irregular activity and thus prompts us to involve the relevant authorities.
Crossover Kenya: Do you have plans to expand to other areas in this sector or another sector?
E-Pate: Yes, with time. However, we are still in the planning stages. Nothing to call home about yet.
Crossover Kenya: Advice to budding entrepreneurs
E-Pate: Boldly go! You will have doubts and fears as you start. Simply do your homework and when you have enough information to work on, take that leap of faith. Things have a way of sorting themselves out once you are already started.