- What have been the most significant high and not-so-high points of that journey?
I am always amazed at how quickly time flies. The highs always change. I remember the first time I used Paga and got an automated phone call back – I screamed “it works!”…my current high is serving 3million users and over 8,000 agents. When I meet our agents and they thank me for what Paga is doing for their lives and families I know it is all worth it…
On the lows, I must say my biggest low was when the first person I asked to join me on this journey decided to leave less than 2 years in. That was really tough for me especially because it wasn’t on the best of terms and I also lost a dear friend in the process…
- Financially, what was it like running the business in the early days, specifically for those first 6 months before any outside investments came in? Did you have to borrow money from friends/family or did you save everything all on your own to get started?
I bootstrapped Paga for the first 6 months…it is tough!! After my first investor meeting, which was a negative response, my uncle asked me “Do you think Google and Yahoo wanted to start in a garage?” Even though I lived in Silicon Valley for so long I never once considered this question. He continued “of course they didn’t – do whatever it takes to move you forward” In the early days you should talk to people who know you and believe in you. Hopefully you have some people who can give you money to do the things that matter to prove your idea or demonstrate it.
- How do paga differentiate in a market with loads of competitors? For example, Konga just acquired Zinternet.
In all humility, the first time I heard of ZInternet was when the news came out…let’s separate competitors from licenses. If there is anything I have learned it is
a) Focus is King and
b) Don’t underestimate anyone. I’ll leave it at that and say Nigeria is a very big market and there is room for more than one successful payments company. I also know by experience that our business is incredibly tough, I can’t imagine fighting an expensive battle on multiple fronts..
- I learned that Paga’s tech is developed and maintained outside the country. Paga has hundreds of thousands of Nigerians patronizing your service and bringing you revenue, why have you chosen to not recruit local developers and give them a chance to work on a project of this magnitude?
Paga is designed ground up by Nigerians. Our Chief Technology Officer, Eric Chijioke, is Nigerian. It is a complete coincidence that he ended up in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and we have a team of 20 Software Engineers there working hard on implementing designs from our Product Innovation team based in Lagos. Our goal is to build an engineering team in Nigeria and we’ve already made steps towards that. Last year we hired a Junior Software Architect who is Nigerian, moved him to Ethiopia with the intent to move him back to Nigeria to lead our team here. But trust me we are big believers in Human Centered Design so all the innovation is done locally listening to our customers and seeing them first hand…I believe the crop of developers in Nigeria is improving and that is also why I like companies such as Andela who are working to ensure we can have a solid crop of developers. Soon enough we will have developers here…
- How are you positioning Paga to compete effectively against the international players (paypal and stripe) who are likely targeting africa as the final frontier?
Our focus is to win Nigeria. If we win Nigeria all these players will look for us to work with them. Indeed the two you mention already know us well and we have good relationships with them…
- Sorry to say this but entrepreneurs are termed as crazy people, But what was your vision/passion that kept you going. When things go bizarre during your startup days and you felt like, I QUIT!!! What was that thing that says push on the tunnel will be bright when you get to the end ?
Only start something you can get passionate about – there will be several tough moments and not just in the “startup phase”…your passion and desire to make a vision come through is what would keep you going
- I am young in my early 20’s do you think a young person can manage this? Based on your experience or do i have to wait till i am 30 to do this.
Don’t discount the value of building your skills and experience first. Most successful startup founders started their companies in their late 30’s after years of work experience. Does not mean its not possible, just saying make sure you are prepared. I had worked over 11 years before I started Paga…All the best!
- What helps YCombinator and SV startups (especially B2B) is there being this large subset of (loyal) early adopter businesses to try out new thing. How do we best champion that mindset here in Lagos/Nigeria?
The best way to champion is to help each other. Jason Njoku of Iroko was at my office yesterday and the collaboration between Iroko and Paga is a great example. We help each other by sharing ideas on how we are tacking problems and the day to day of the business – not just about our businesses collaborating (which we are), but on the practical things – how do you do X or Y, how do you handle this issue. I wish more founders made time for that kind of honest and open discussion…
- Windows vs. Mac? Android vs.iOS? Egusi vs. Ogbono ?
I spent over an hour on saturday watching on Youtube an interview of Steve Jobs and Bill Gates. Their strategies were very different and yes, Bill was wealthier, but Apple anyday – MAC over Windows. Interestingly though, I think Android over IOS. Android is perfecting the model Windows started – create an OS for ANY device. However, open source from day 1 was brilliant! That took it to another level – then not wasting time to create their own hardware! Fantastic idea! I use a Google Nexus and love it!my guy you know my heart is with Calabar food and I love me some good Afang…
- Can you give a ballpark figure of how much money Paga processes annually?
Last year, Paga processed 6.6million transactions worth over N68bn. We will certainly blow past that this year, but not ready to share where I think the year will end…
- Are you ever considering listing Paga on the NSE?
It would be a dream come true to list on the NSE!! Maybe a dual listing with NASDAQ! I would love to see a broad range of Nigerians be able to participate in our business and hope we do one day. Talking about the NSE, we recently had the former head of the SEC, Aruma Oteh, recently invested in Paga! She is a big fan of Paga and definitely wants us to list on the NSE!!
Culled from AMA on techcabal.com. Read full session here