We at CreativityTurf got to know about Emeka Akano and Chinedu Onyeaso the two Nigerian entrepreneurs who launched the co-founder match-making network– a place where individuals could possibly find co-founders for their start-up by bringing Founder2be’s co-founder match-making service to Africa.
We had a chat with them, and they took some time out to answer questions relating to their business start-up (Entarado and Webblis), also sharing their entrepreneurial journey and challenges they have faced in setting up.
What Is Your Start-Up Story?
Entarado was formed by four enterprising young men towards the ending of 2010 at the end of our Master’s Degree in the UK, all engineers by background (with a bias for IT and technology, simply put,a bunch of technology enthusiasts) and in 2011 all branding and CAC registrations were completed, being engineers by background we wanted to get right into engineering facility managements, oil and gas business from the get go, but then such projects usually require substantial amounts (Capital) to kick off, so we kind of halted on that.
Just to mention our startup name was derived from the Spanish word “Enterado” which means “very well informed and knowledgeable” which depicts an exact description of how we portray visions and missions of our company.
The vision of the company is to be a global conglomerate which churns out business models across various industries all towards the empowerment of the Nigerian workforce and economy as well as make a global impact, starting from home, Nigeria. Ashish’s Mara Group here in Africa runs this business model quite well which is inspirational.
We are currently focused on the IT sector at the moment as our starting point.
What Happened Next?
Our first main project was to create a Digital Year Book for a community (made of over a thousand postgraduates) in the University of Nottingham, UK that was following a pilot project we did for one of the Engineering Postgraduate Classes in Robert Gordon University, UK. We then spent some time trying to push it here in Nigeria but most of the schools we approached weren’t ready for that yet so we put that in the back burner for now.
Afterwards we decided to launch a service Web Blis which offers website design and development as well as corporate identity branding (logo designs, business card designs etc) services, targeted for small to medium size organisation who so dearly need an online presence.
We are currently building online software solutions to help improve operational efficiency in the Nigerian education sector from school result posting and management to school fees payment management to name a few.
I think I probably need to mention here that we also host founder2be co-founder match-making events in Lagos. The event is basically a platform for founders to meet potential co-founders for their business. Besides that, you get to hear great talks and meet really cool people. The first event in Africa, which was held on the 11th of August, 2013 was a success and we are currently putting plans together for the next one. We kind of got involved with that because we felt that there was a need for something like this in the Nigerian tech & entrepreneurial community, and by helping put it together to help the community, we will be helping our business too (by getting our name out there).
How Did You Finance?
The first project I mentioned Digital Yearbooks was actually funded fully by the University of Nottingham’s Engineering Graduate Centre, where the Manager of the centre liked the idea and financed the project as they intended to hand the Yearbooks free to their members.
All other projects has been financed through bootstrapping by the founders really, as the Web Blis business is currently only sustaining itself.
How Was It Marketed?
The Yearbooks and Web Blis service were predominantly marketed via social media (i.e Twitter and Facebook) as well as word of mouth referral which has proved quite successful in marketing the Web Blis service, we’ve also recently introduced a referral program for the Web Blis service where we are partnering with interested Sales & Marketing agents across the country.
What Were Your Major Challenges?
As may well be the case for most startups if not all startups, access to funds to operate as a startup to fast track business ideas is always a challenge, until you secure financial investments or are able to bootstrap your way through. For us, we have been bootstrapping which has been quite challenging as it results to slower executions of our business ideas/concepts, from the idea validation stage, to feasibility and viability analysis stage to launching to market, access to funds is of paramount importance for each stage of the product to market cycle. Another challenge has been co-ordinating the full team remotely since we are rarely in one location at the same time, so we have had to rely on Skype meetings for full team collaboration or tele-conference calls which at times are affected by Nigeria’s not so great internet access and phone networks, and the fact that physically meeting is arguably the best form of communication.
How Would You Assess Your Industry Right Now?
The IT industry is very young but promising. A lot still has to go into educating and enlightening people to make them know that technology is our friend and could really help us to improve our lives and businesses. The industry still has a long way to go but the good thing is that we are making progress. There are also a lot of opportunities because a lot still has to be done and as people become more enlightened these opportunities will start to emerge even more.
What Next For You?
The opportunities are endless and we are here to stay. As I mentioned earlier, we are working on a couple of projects right now. Our plan is to provide technological solutions for different industries from Education, to Healthcare, Agriculture and Government, you name it. The cool thing is that IT and technology cuts across every industry, so hope to be relevant in as many industries as we possible can. As the industry evolves, we intend to learn and evolve with it.
The advice I will give to people who are thinking about getting into business is that you don’t have to wait till everything checks out before you start. Now is the best time to start. There is definitely something you can do now to get started, and once you take the leap, opportunities start to open up and you can learn as you go. But I must warn you that it’s not going to be easy… but in the end it would be worth it, cliché as it sounds now and as it did when I used to hear it just before I started, I can now really appreciate the warning :). I and my team are still very much on our own entrepreneurial journey but when we’re going through challenges in our business, we always believe that it’s going to be worth it in the end.
It’s also very important that you get knowledge; know about your industry, read books to see how other people have done it, find good mentors, etc. A quote I once read comes to mind here. It says; “You either learn from mentors or you learn from mistakes, your choice”. Of course it’s more expensive to learn from your mistakes so I would rather learn from others.