Pretoria schoolboys in ad-sharing start-up
Ad-sharing service Nexxr is the brainchild of four Pretoria schoolboys who share a passion for digital start-ups. By Craig Wilson.
Nexxr, a start-up established by four Pretoria schoolboys, is an online advertisement-sharing network designed for bloggers, online retailers and other website owners wanting to leverage each other’s audiences, allowing them to advertise on each other’s sites for less than US$3/month.
Mikhaeel Aboobaker, one of the four founders of the self-funded start-up, is only 17 years old and in grade 11 at high school. His three partners — Cassim Moosa, Taahir Ismail and Zaakir Kalla — are all in matric. Aboobaker manages the service, while his partners market it and chase funding.
Nexxr makes its money by taking a cut of the $2,95/month it charges for each ad placed. Users of the service paste a snippet of code onto their own website and their advertisement appears on the sites of other users who’ve done likewise. Users can also choose what sort of audience they’re looking for and Nexxr will pair them with appropriate sites.
“We’re aimed at people starting out online: bloggers, online store owners, entrepreneurs — anyone who wants to advertise but can’t afford regular online advertising or doesn’t want to make that much of an investment yet,” says Aboobaker.
Before going live in August, Nexxr had 3 000 registrations, 1 000 of which turned into sign-ups at launch. The service promised early users free accounts. Since then, it’s had 120 paid sign-ups, of which 35% have come from SA, with most of the rest coming from the US. Aboobaker says these numbers are lower than he’d hoped for, but given it’s done little marketing of its own and has few overheads, he says the company is willing to be patient.
Nexxr introductory video:
The back-end of the system is simple to use, says Aboobaker. “It’s a straightforward ad-sharing script run from our servers,” he explains. “We’re using a US-based service called Single Hop.”
One of the challenges Nexxr is working on is ensuring that only regionally appropriate ads show up on sites that have signed up. “We’re working hard on regional targeting,” he says. “We tested the service for two months, but you can never find all the bugs.”
The founders coded a quarter of the site in SA, with the bulk of development outsourced to an Indian company Aboobaker has used for previous projects.
“Overall, the outsourcing experience has been good a good one,” Aboobaker says.
Nexxr started out relying on word of mouth but is now starting online campaigns of its own using everything from Google AdWords to Facebook advertising and promotion on Twitter.
Aside from growing the user base, there are plans to extend Nexxr into content sharing. “Right now we’re an ad-exchange platform, but hopefully by the end of the year [Nexxr] could also be used to share content.”
Aboobaker has ambitions of travelling to the US when he’s finished school and taking the project with him. “We all want to study and keep trying start-ups,” he says. He and his partners have long been friends and are all intrigued by the possibilities online start-ups present.
“We definitely want to grow Nexxr beyond SA,” says Aboobaker. “We’ve been looking at venture capital in the US. We’ve also spoken to the Silicon Cape Initiative, but most of the interest there has been around funding rather than the contacts and growth opportunities that usually come with venture capitalists.”
In order to ensure ads are of a consistent quality, Nexxr vets each ad before it goes live. “We have the option to pause or reject ads and we have guidelines as to what content should and shouldn’t be included and what sort of sites ads can link to. We’re working on a feature where users can also flag inappropriate ads and other methods to automate the process.”
If the service takes off, the founders will either have to automate the process or hire an army of underlings to ensure no questionable content slips through. For now, though, the founders are happy to watch the service grow, refining it as needed.
“At the moment the service is really simple and we want to try and keep it that way,” Aboobaker says. And if it doesn’t take off? “We’ll try something else.” — (c) 2012 NewsCentral Media