Iyinoluwa Aboyeji is co-founder of Andela. Andela finds bright young people in Africa, trains them to become skilled developers, and connects them with employers around the world looking for technical talent. Iyinoluwa shares invaluable advice and insight that every start-up founder should know.
1. How to Build One of Nigeria’s Greatest Start-Ups ?
I believe Nigeria’s first unicorn will be companies that cater to the mass and gives them their first experience of technology in a productive fun way. Hopefully one of Andela’s fellows builds this company.
2. Where to live in Lagos?
Yaba. The benefits of yaba include linkages to market on the island without the high cost of living, a vibrant university and education ecosystem and a significant concentration of developers
3. Don’t Always seek to make Money
Not everything is about making money. Sometimes just build for the sake of it.
4. The Course every African entrepreneur should take-its called Entrepreneurial Instinct
If I was developing a course for African entrepreneurs based on my experience here I would do a course called Entrepreneurial Instinct. The idea would be to train young startup entrepreneurs to think like entrepreneurs. I find a lot of the young people who start high impact tech businesses tend to fail because under pressure they default to thinking like highly paid employees not mission minded entrepreneurs. It is really not their fault. It is simply the culture.
So what would be in this course?
Module one : Problem Solving and systems thinking. What is your first reaction to a problem? Entrepreneurs see opportunities in hairy problems. Entrepreneurs also realize that solutions to problems can be scaled if they can systematize the solution to the problem.
Module two : lean startup and launching new ventures. Key question is how do you validate a solution you have at a small scale very quickly.
Module three : mental models and decision making. How do you think about the world and how does it impact your decision making. Many entrepreneurs don’t think properly and so they make sub par decisions – especially long term.
Module four : basic finance and investments. Every startup founder should understand what liquidation preference is for instance. They should know how to structure a round (convertible debt, equity, etc) How to present their financials and so on.
Module five: how to hire and build a high quality team. A startup cannot survive on just one founder alone no matter how talented that founder is. He needs a team of people to support him to scale up. This is key as I have seen so many promising one man startups die a natural death in this parts. Two heads are always better than one.
5. Things You Should Do Once You Start Out
1. Traction over everything : Beg, borrow, steal, until you have traction. The magic of raising money in this environment is that there are so few good deals everyone wants in on the good ones. If you show solid traction and your business has good scalable economics, EVERYONE will want to invest which means you get to set the terms.
Find a lead, preferably foreign : Nigerian investors are amazing in their own ways but I believe foreign leads can help set context for a deal since they have probably seen your growth story before. It is easier for even well intentioned local angels/investors to follow their leads than to blaze a trail. It also gives you an opportunity to shorten the time period for raising.
It is never a deal until the money is in the bank. Don’t act like it is. Investors in this part of the world particularly have a penchant for promising and failing.
This is not scientific but for every 3 days you don’t close the deal (with money in the bank) your chances of closing the deal reduce by 10%. After 30 days, write off anyone who has signed docs but hasn’t sent you a wire. They will not close.
6. Do Anything to Find a Great Team
Great companies are often built by a team of people who each could have built something smaller themselves working together who make it work. Don’t rest until you find A-team people to co-found your company with and make sure you don’t hold back on equity (likely your only bargaining chip) when you find them. Do whatever it takes to bring them on.
7. Find a big mission:
If what you are doing is not truly transformative. Stop doing it right now. Especially in a society like this, too many monumental problems for us to be chasing incremental solutions. As yourself, is this a billion naira company? If its not, stop doing it now.