Sometime last year I mentioned someone by the name Nkosana Masuku in one of my articles. This young man is the founder of a startup called Phenomenon Technologies. It was registered in October 2018 but commenced its operations last year. It is important to publicize the noble efforts of young Zimbabweans who are championing the use of technology to impact society. In this article, I shall be discussing Nkosana Masuku’s startup and some of the initiatives that he is has or has been rolling out.

What Inspired The Birth Of Phenomenon Technologies

Being a teacher in the rural part of Matopos, Nkosana Masuku started noticing shortfalls in the education sector. He noted with concern that rural students often do not have the opportunity to experience applied learning experiences of what they learn. The stark reality about rural students is that they have zero or limited exposure to modernized environments.

This is something Mr Masuku realised; the unfortunate lack of opportunities for rural students to travel out of their surroundings. He also noticed that this makes science learning very abstract and difficult. This makes aspirations to venture into fields such as astronomy, robotics engineering and many more non-existent amongst rural students. Earlier on I mentioned the apparent lack of exposure – it is major challenge stopping such rural folk from having global aspirations.

As a teacher, he also realized that one of the most difficult things you can do is to teach uninspired students. This is why he started Phenomenon Technologies. Thus the quest of Phenomenon Technologies is to empower and enable globally competitive learners through the use of virtual reality technologies, making it cheaper for the average student to explore limitless possibilities through the technology and be able to apply themselves in advanced fields of study.

What Phenomenon Technologies Focuses On

Phenomenon Technologies works on creating virtual reality experiences that allow learners to travel and explore various career paths and applied learning experiences at a low cost. They use Virtual Reality (VR) because it enables the learners to have an immersive presence of the environments presented to them. Through this, students have been given the opportunity to virtually visit locations they never thought physically possible and gain a better appreciation of what they learn as the experiences are in line with their curriculum.

From FundoVR To Sciency

The FundoVR initiative saw over 200 schools signing up to be on the platform. In August 2019 however, operations for the platform had to be discontinued due to economic challenges. This was a turning point as more sustainable ways to roll out the service had to be explored. Fortunately, that happened at the same time when Phenomenon Technologies became the first Zimbabwean startup to be enrolled in the Google Launchpad Accelerator Class 4. This is an intensive 3-month program that is designed around three ‘high-touch points’ or boot camps. Those boot camps provide startups with the best of Google experts, resources and training. Class 4 had 12 startups chosen from 649 applications and it was a great opportunity for the company.

During the course of the program, a closer look at what was is necessary for startup success (Phenomenon Technologies in this case) was made possible. Streamlining of their value proposition was done and most importantly their product-market fit was fined-tuned. Their thrust was to come up with a more sustainable business model that would also allow them to generate the impact they wish to reach i.e. seeing over a million African learners get access to applied learning experiences in the next 5 years.

Pursuant to that, that is how Sciency was born. Sciency is a learning platform for IGCSE (Cambridge) learners that integrates virtual reality and gaming to improve Science learning. Why IGCSE, you may ask? Well, the curriculum opens up Phenomenon Technologies to a global market which then allows for a sustainable revenue model. Through providing the high-end platform, Sciency, to private school students across the globe, a certain percentage of the revenue can be used to provide the FundoVR experience to the rural students.

Sciency has been under development for the past 5 months including beta testing and it is now being polishing up with an expected launch date of early March. The private schools have already welcomed the platform and successful launch is imminent. It is also hoped that FundoVR will be rekindled on a much bigger scale once Sciency is launched.

It is remarkable to note that ever since the commencement of operations last year, Phenomenon Technologies has been leaving indelible marks of impact. So far they have won a number of accolades which include 2018 African Union Top 10 education innovations, UNWTO Top 5 Tourism Tech startups and Creative Business Cup Zimbabwe. Nkosana Masuku also emerged as first runner-up during the Youth Connekt Zimbabwe Startup Tour Bus last year. This should serve as an inspiration to other young Zimbabweans out there. I would also like to wish Phenomenon Technologies all the best in their endeavours – impossibilities are illusions.