Another episode of the Building From Ground Up series held virtually today. The event was powered by UK-Nigeria Tech Hub in collaboration with Techpoint Africa.
Moderated by Awabah co-founder Tunji Andrews, the online event featured a session with Jobberman and TalentQL co-founder, Opeyemi Awoyemi.
Opeyemi’s journey as an entrepreneur started out as founder of WhoGoHost Limited in 2006. He then co-founded Nigerian recruitment platform Jobberman, where he spent over eight (8) years before the company was acquired by Ringier One Africa Media (ROAM).
He is currently the co-founder of Adewale Yusuf’s TalentQL and Vela Business Solutions.
At the event, Opeyemi shared insights from his entrepreneurial journey through the years and how he has succeeded.
Weathering the Early Storm
After graduating from university, Opeyemi and his Jobberman co-founders, Olakunle Olude and Ayodeji Adewunmi had to make do with a small corner of an office in Kakawa street of CMS, Lagos.
“Getting to the office was quite hard, but we looked forward to days when all that was going to change and eventually things got better,” Opeyemi recalls.
That was then, anyway and he says almost every startup faces such early struggles in the first few months or years. He gives an interesting statistic to buttress his point.
“Five months after Uber launched, the city of San Francisco gave the company a Cease and Desist letter. If Uber had closed down because of that, then we would have no Uber today,” he said.
Opeyemi believes that early-stage startups become better each day that passes as long as their leaders continue to solve the problems that come up.
Speaking on what kept him going, he says that providing a very useful service people really needed as well as having capable co-founders as a support system helped him through his early days at Jobberman.
On Finding the Perfect Co-founder(s)
Opeyemi believes that while sole founders can successfully scale a company, there are clear benefits to having a co-founder.
You don’t necessarily need a co-founder to succeed, but there is a reason why accelerators and incubators want co-founders. One of the things that keep you going is your co-founder. Even if you are the one coming up with all the ideas, they help you prune them, make them better.Opeyemi Awoyemi
“Then you can actually skip work and go on a well-deserved vacation when you have a strong co-founder,” he adds on a lighter note.
In the case of Jobberman, I had the idea in my third year in college and the business didn’t really take off until the fifth year. It was actually Deji (Ayodeji Adewunmi) who found me and said, “Ope, this jobs thing you’ve been working on for a while, I think it can go somewhere. Let’s see what we can do on it.”
Opeyemi explained that he had worked on some projects with Deji prior to that meeting, pointing out that Deji was the kind of person who was ambitious, had strong strategy, experience and could also lead a company.
Opeyemi then goes on to talk about co-founding TalentQL with Adewale Yusuf and Akintunde Sultan, stressing that the key attributes founders should look out for in a co-founder are the ability to execute, complementary skills, alignment and mutual respect.
“Adewale is someone I’ve known for a couple of years now. I remember when he wanted to start Techpoint and in my mind I was like ‘blog? It won’t work’. But I saw that ambition, relentlessness and ability to get things done from him. So when he told me he was building TalentQL, I just had to be part of it.”
Build for the World
Opeyemi is fully convinced that entrepreneurs are presented with massive opportunities at this time to build for not just Nigeria, or Africa, but the world.
He draws special attention to the global appeal of Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) products, stating that at the very least, Nigerian founders can build cheaper versions of what exists in other parts of the world.
According to Opeyemi, emerging startups should seek to build products with a view of going global.
I see that already happening in the talent space with the likes of Andela, TalentQL and I look forward to seeing that happen from other startups as well.
“I believe that over the next 10-20 years, we’ll have billionaires in tech from Nigeria who are building for the world. It’s just a matter of time but it will definitely happen.”
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