Kemi Olawoye didn’t get into tech the traditional way we have seen or heard that most people go through in recent times, Where they learn new skills like coding, UI/UX and other skills needed to land a dream job in the tech space and then proceed to Make an effort to get in the space.
Kemi wasn’t looking to pivot into tech or anything related but in the course of working as a physiotherapist. You could say that tech found her.
In this week’s edition of women in tech, we interview Kemi Olawoye, the co-founder, and CEO, of Babymigo, Nigeria’s largest parenting community with over 250,000 female members. And, she talks to us about her journey from being a physical therapist to getting into tech. inspiration for founding Babymigo, their goals, her challenges as a tech founder and many more.
Kemi Olawoye graduated from the college of medicine, the University of Lagos with a degree in physical therapy. Thereafter, she went on to work in both private, government-owned hospitals and the health care industry in general. While working in the hospital, her work saw her working with a lot of expecting moms, she says;
“ While I worked in the hospital, I led the women’s unit in the physiotherapy department and every Wednesday, we would have a physiotherapy antenatal classes and throughout my work, I got to interact with many pregnant women and expecting moms and was opportune to see what the gaps are and I realized that there was a lack of accurate health information and lack of community.”
But, as she found, the women were unconsciously finding solutions themselves with each other. Yet, it may not be enough:
“So when many of them come for their classes they would refuse to go as they were able to talk about things that related to their condition with other moms. I also saw that lack of accurate health information was a major issue especially here in Africa as there are lots of myths around pregnancy from people believing you can use herbs to turn a baby’s head, to force-feeding a baby, to putting a pin in front of a pregnant woman’s clothes to prevent witches and wizards”.
Olawoye’s time working in the hospital exposed her to the different challenges not just pregnant women but parents face in our society. These experiences allowed her to see what the gaps are in our healthcare system, especially concerning maternal healthcare.
And, she was determined to do something about it.
Her journey into tech
Olawoye believes her tech journey wasn’t the traditional journey we hear of every day where people in other sectors who seek to pivot to tech pick up new skills and then make the effort to land a job.
For her, it was a case of stumbling on a problem in the course of her work as a physiotherapist and coming to the realization that the best way to tackle the problem and create a solution would be by leveraging on tech.
“ My tech journey was not the traditional one, where I was looking for a way to get into tech, it was just us trying to solve a problem and realizing that we can leverage on tech to proffer these solutions. It was in the process of trying to solve a problem, I found my co-founder and we proceeded to build babymigo together”
According to her, the goal is to empower and equip expecting mums as well as parents across Africa with culturally relevant information, tools and resources, community support and other products and services. Expatiating on the problem Babymigo proffers a solution to, Olawoye tells us they proffer solutions to three key problems in the maternal health care space.
“ At Babymigo, we proffer solutions in three key areas”, she says. “The first is the lack of access to culturally relevant information for parents and pregnant women. So what we have done is that we have used our platform to provide this information and resources to parents, pregnant women and especially women in hard-to-reach areas.
The second problem is the lack of access to the community, she mentioned. “We believe that community is important for parents and what we have done to provide this is to build a platform that allows community engagement.”
And, Olawoye explains how this works: “When you go to our platform, you’ll observe we have a community discussion page where moms are allowed to start conversations, we also have events and other opportunities which allow moms to connect physically with other mums in the same stage as they are.”
The 3rd problem is inadequate access to medical professionals. She believes that anyone who is pregnant or a parent needs constant access to medical professionals. Unfortunately, the brain drain in the Nigerian health sector has made the doctor-to-patient ratio about 6000-to-1. And, this is not enough.
Here is how Babymigo is solving the supply gap:
“So what we have done is to leverage technology and say that these doctors could be anywhere in Nigeria, so we provide access to medical professionals making it possible for pregnant women to have access to them for questions and answers or a one-on-one consultation”, Olawoye.
Babymigo’s memorable experiences
Considering there are several other players in the maternal healthcare space, Olawoye speaks on what makes Babymigo different from the others:
“ Our biggest competitive advantage is that we involved users, parents, and mums in developing this product, our understanding of the market and the industry is also a factor. Because we were involved and had our users in mind in building the platform, we have real-time feedback on what the actual challenges are to ensure we are providing a solution to real problems.”
She also says that the expertise of the Babymigo team is a huge competitive advantage. The expertise of her co-founder, Adeoye Olarenwaju, our content team, and the tech crew is worthy of note, she tells me.
Providing services and products in the health tech sector is neither cheap nor free and Babymigo offers several products and services using a dual B2B model and a B2C business model.
Olawoye tells me that being in tech and proffering solutions in the healthcare sector has been very rewarding and has provided her with a lot of memorable moments. The most memorable of this is the feedback they receive from moms who use their platform;
According to her, “we have had several memorable moments so far, from being recognized by the US department of state, to being recognized by google but best of all is the impact we are having, to see that we are solving a problem and to hear from them how that has impacted them, it is always so exhilarating for me when I receive that feedback”
Challenges as a woman in tech
While Olawoye is not certain the challenges she faces are peculiar to her as a woman in tech or a founder, she talks about the difficulty in finding and keeping talents.
“ For me, I believe funding continues to be a challenge and finding, maintaining and keeping talent continues to be an issue in Nigeria. The unstable economic climate is also a big problem for a startup like ours.
Speaking on the men to women ratio, she says that the ecosystem has more men but also believes that it will see more women players rise as we continue to empower more women with funding and mentorship.
Advice for women in tech
Kemi Olawoye has this to say to women who have aspirations in the space about building relevant skills:
Ensure you hone your skills, I have observed that because of the whole glamour, you find that when you work with a lot of people, they mostly do not know their onions. I think that because of the trend of the pivot and everyone is all about tech tech tech most just want to jump in but I would advise that they focus on developing their skills.”
Kemi says that self-development is an endless journey, even for her. “Even for me as a founder, am constantly developing my skills either in leadership or management or technology, whatever it is we must continue to improve ourselves and hone in on our skills”.
Then, solving a problem is as important:
“There’s a lot of clamours right now for women moving into tech but what ill say to women is, ensure that you are solving a problem, solving a problem doesn’t mean you have to be a founder you can do that as a product manager, marketing manager or a developer but if being a founder is the best way for you to solve problems then go for it.
Olawoye sees more impact in the future of Babymigo and more reach, she says;
“ We want to see more reach and we Are planning to expand to other countries as we have the data that tells us that other countries are also faced with these challenges which we proffer solutions to, so expanding is in our future. We also will continue to develop and launch innovative products that continue to empower moms across Africa.
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