Steven Kinvi, founder of Actafun, opens up about moving to Ireland with no English, starting his own business and the challenges he has overcome along the way.
After spending the first ten years of his life living in Togo in West Africa, Steven Kinvi moved to Ireland without a single word of English in his vocabulary, but that wasn’t to deter him from aiming high and going after his ambition.
After finishing school, Kinvi studied digital marketing and entrepreneurship at National College of Ireland, where his appetite for business really took off. “I was the class rep and when I was booking activities for our class, I quickly ran out of options and I was constantly having issues making bookings. After doing some research, I found that a lot of people were having these same problems, so it sparked an idea for me, and that was the start of Actafun.”
Actafun is an activity booking platform based in Dublin which hopes to capitalise on a growing market that has a global value of €150 billion.
“I quickly ran out of options and I was constantly having issues making bookings”
In the beginning, Steven Kinvi sacrificed 60 per cent of his monthly income from his job at Hugo Boss, so that he had funds available to start the business. After spending most of 2016 planning at his kitchen table before moving to the Bank of Ireland workbench in Grand Canal Square, Kinvi launched the business in mid-2017, but not before he was forced to leave his comfort zone.
“Finding people to support my idea was a big challenge early on because I didn’t have a large business network, so initially, it was difficult to meet people that could help the business. I had to go out of my comfort zone to find like-minded business people that could support me. I am now very fortunate in that I am surrounded by an excellent team that are vital to Actafun’s growth and success to date.”
Unlike most other booking platforms, Actafun is unique in that no booking fees apply to the user, something Kinvi was adamant about when starting the business. “I absolutely hate booking fees. If you’re going to advertise an activity for a certain price, that should be the price the customer is pay. It might not be much, but it’s misleading to the customer,” he says.
Since starting two years ago, Actafun has seen major growth, with a team of nine people in place, and they are hoping to take on two more early in the new year. But it’s not only the team that has grown, the platform itself has seen a lot of traffic. “We now have thousands of users on our platform and we work with hundreds of activity providers. We now find that about 60pc of activity providers are contacting us to promote on our platform, which is huge for us because in the beginning most were very reluctant to work with us.
“Right now, about 80pc of our customers are people living in Ireland, versus 20pc of our customer being tourists and this is a number I’m happy with because it means 80pc of our customers are likely to use us more than once. We’re seeing that the average customer living in Ireland will book an activity every two months, so that’s roughly six bookings a year. Our research also shows that when a tourist arrives in a city, they don’t feel satisfied unless they do between five and seven activities,” Kinvi adds.
“I absolutely hate booking fees. It might not be much, but it’s misleading to the customer”
While plans are in place to grow the Actafun team, Kinvi has identified hotels as the next group to target in order to scale the business. “We know that 54pc of tourists book their activities after they arrive in Ireland, so we hope to gain customers when they arrive at their hotel. We want to create an automated email from the hotel recommending different activities for the tourist which will direct them to the Actafun platform.”
The company is in the process of launching a new kickstarter campaign called ‘funded by the community, for the community’, which Kinvi says the targeted €50,000 will be used to fund a new feature that can “revolutionise the travel tech industry and the activity booking industry”.
“The new feature will allow a single user to book an activity that requires a group, and they will automatically enter a group that might need one more person to have the required amount of people. They can also chat and connect before meeting on the day of the activity. Solo travel is massive now, and Actafun will cater for the solo traveller trying to book an activity,” he says.
“Integrity is everything in the start-up world”
Finishing with a piece of advice for any aspiring entrepreneur, Kinvi says that trust is fundamental to the success of any business. “The best piece of advice I received along the way was to make sure you can trust the people you surround yourself with. You can have the best people around you in terms of their qualifications, but it won’t work if you don’t trust them. Integrity is everything in the start-up world. That’s what I’d tell anyone looking to start their own company.”
Published: 20 November, 2019