How technology solutions can be applied smartly in Nigeria with Yele Bademosi – Part 1

Part 1

‘I realised that for Africa to accelerate its economic development, we need better financial services because you cannot develop or grow an economy without the best financial services’ 

He is the founder of Microtraction, an angel fund and director at Binance Labs, and now CEO at Bundle Africa which just launched recently, an African focused social payment app for cash and cryptocurrency. He also studied medicine at Kings College, London before opting out to focus on technology entrepreneurship. Microextraction prys itself, a venture capital firm for tech founders. They invest in early-stage companies and provide operational support for market growth and expansion.

Yele Bademosi believes in three things: Accelerating Africa’s economic transformation through innovation, capital and policy. 

Q: How are you and how are you holding up with the current pandemic?

It’s been a very unusual time but I think I’m doing well. My family is good, my team is in good spirits and in good health. I think everyone should just stay safe and wash their hands. Keep social distancing. 

Q: Do you have any tips for individuals and businesses remote working this period?

I think you will be quite surprised at how well you could work remotely. So, most of my companies, even though we have an office, we usually work remotely. The most important thing is just to have the mindset that you can work and you can still be as productive as a remote team. Everything else kind of fits in once you have that belief that your team can be as productive even if you are not working from the same space. 

Q: How did your love for tech start? When did you know that you were attracted to gadgets and tech in general?

So, I think for me I was a late bloomer. Up until I was 22, 23, I never really knew much about the tech world, like start-ups or anything like that. I never thought of it as a profession. So, for me what really changed it was whilst I was still in medical school, I was very big on Afrobeats and at the time, it wasn’t as popular as it is now globally. I used to do a countdown on Facebook for some of the most popular Afrobeat songs for a particular month and it was very popular.

This was before Afrobeats became a global phenomenon and I just remembered thinking, “Wow I want to build a website for this” and as I started doing research into how to go about building a website, I kind of stumbled down this rabbit hole of start-ups, tech, Silicon Valley, venture capital and I was like “Wow! Okay, this is what I want to do for the rest of my life”. I did not know anyone in tech, any developers, designers or anyone to speak to. At the time, there was no one in my network that was in tech, in my extended network. But yeah, I think it’s been one of the best decisions I’ve made in my life to kind of transition towards tech instead of staying in healthcare. 

 

Q: Let’s talk about the transition. What actually made you bold enough to transition from medical school to tech?

So, I think that whilst I was in medical school, I always used to joke with my friends that I was never going to practice medicine. It was kind of like, I’m just going to do my five years and I’m going to figure out what I want to do with the rest of my life. I always knew I was going to be interested in starting businesses or being an entrepreneur, probably because my parents both started their own businesses and it kind of felt like the normal thing to do, the only thing to do. But, I just wasn’t excited about medicine, I wasn’t used to going to classes. I remember in my first year, I spent about two weeks reading everything for my medical school exams even though I hadn’t gone to class for the majority of the semester.

It was kind of clear that I wasn’t going to practice. I think what happened was, once I discovered tech, I was drawn very naturally into it. It was ever-evolving, had a lot of history. I think it was just clear, like when you know you want to do something, you really want to do it and so the big thing was sort of convincing my friends and my family and my mum that I wasn’t crazy and everything was okay. It took a year for everyone to understand that maybe Yele understands the decision he is trying to make. I was very close to kind of finishing but I just knew that I did not want to practice medicine. The key thing I always say is that for me two years might not feel like a long time but I felt that I could do a lot  in two years if I stayed in school for just two years. The opportunity cost of where I am in my career, I will be two years behind. So, I’m fortunate enough that my family and my mum were supportive and it’s definitely one of my best decisions.  

 

Q: How do you think technology solutions can be applied smartly in Nigeria? How do you think cryptocurrency can be applied smartly in Nigeria?

I mean I think it’s still a niche. I want to separate awareness versus utility. So, definitely a lot more people are aware of crypto, about bitcoin and various crypto assets. But in terms of people that own it or use it, it’s still a small segment and that’s what we are trying to do at Bundle which is to sort of bring this technology into the mainstream and discover use cases for it that the average young African millennial can relate with. So, I think I will kind of go broadly. Technology to me is just a vehicle or a medium for solving problems in a much better way than what the current status quo is.

I look at the world and I just see problems to even start opportunities for entrepreneurs to solve for and Marc Andreessen, said something famous awhile back where he said software was eating the world compared to like other segments where you are like working in healthcare and that’s only pretty much all you can do, you’re an engineer, you’re an architect you can only work within that profession or space but in tech, there is something for everyone in any industry, from education to healthcare to financial services to e-commerce to whatever the case may be.

I think for someone like myself who loves to get involved in the number of things, that’s sort of what drew me to tech and I felt that technology was just entrepreneurs figuring out innovative ways to solve whatever the problem may be. So, my interest in Crypto really stems from the fact that I realised that for Africa to accelerate its economic development, we need better financial services because you cannot develop or grow an economy without the best financial services and financial services to me is not really about can you move money from A to B right? So, up until the pay stacks and flutter waves of Nigeria, it was very difficult for people to accept money online and that reduced the number of start-ups that were existing at the time. I think like blockchain and digital assets in crypto are kind of like fin-tech 2.0 and unfortunately, technology is still a little bit difficult to use.

I think about it as the internet in the 70s and 80s, it was the sort of thing that was used by like geeks and academics and it wasn’t until 1994 or 1995 whereby Marc Andreessen who built the first web browser really simplified how people use the internet, and so for Bundle, that’s kind of like our goal. We want to put it into use cases that are easy, friendly and more inclusive for the average African.

 

Q: What is your advice to tech start-ups, entrepreneurs, who are looking to scale internationally? 

So, I think like there are sort of two ways to approach that question. There is kind of like how to begin a start-up and how do you build a business that can scale internationally. In terms of how to start a start-up, I think the most important lesson I have learnt is to build something people want and that means you need to start with a problem. Not all start-ups have to have a specific problem but there is definitely going to be a challenge if you cannot articulate the problem you are solving because then you cannot tell a story to new or potential employees who want to join your company or you cannot even raise capital. You definitely do not know who your customers are and what problems they are having, then you cannot even sell a story to the customers on why they should use your product in the first place. The most important thing when you are thinking about starting a start-up, in my opinion, is to make something people want and be very clear about who you are solving the problem for and what the problem is. 

Then, I think the second thing that a lot of entrepreneurs do not pay a lot of attention to is, you need to know how you are going to get your first set of customers. A lot of people spend time working on the product, working on a business plan and doing all of this stuff that I call busy work but very few people say okay if I want a 100 customers, how do I get these 100 customers and so, a lot of companies who don’t have any way to acquire users really struggle. The reason why that is so important in terms of thinking about your acquisition strategy is that it also forces you to talk to your customers before you build anything because every single entrepreneur that has a new idea has an assumption of what they think people want.

You want to start a business and you sort of assume that people want red shoes but actually, they do not want red shoes, maybe they want black or maybe they do not want shoes in the first place; they would want a handbag. Instead of building a factory that will produce red shoes, what you are actually doing is buying second-hand black bags and that’s a very different business. So in summary, I think the three key things I will say is: make something people want, start with a clear customer segment and know the problem hypothesis.

Number two is your acquisition strategy; how can you get your product in front of those users and number three, the problem you think they have is just a hypothesis until you speak to customers and you confirm that this is something that they want and the way to confirm that is by them giving you money or signing some sort of contract that commits them to provide capital and then you are onto something. There are a few non-negotiables like having a strong founding team, like starting a business with someone that you have known for a couple of years. Although, I think there are always going to be exceptions to the rule. But what we have seen in the past is, it’s always good when you have founding teams that have known each other for a while but there are definitely workarounds for that. That’s my clear tactical advice on how to start a start-up.  

 

Listen to the full episode here 

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