Ayinde Alakoye is certainly on the generation NEXXXT train. Born in Washington, DC, Ayinde grew up in a home where his parents played King Sunny Ade, Fela, Kollington e.t.c non-stop. His nickname used to be Koko. Try being called KOKO among your peers in school, in America when you are tall, lanky, very dark with features that at that time did not seem appealing. Kids can be so cruel. King Sunny Ade’s song that mentioned the name Ayinde got him to appreciate his name even more. So one day, Ayinde came home and told his mother he wanted to be called Ayinde and nothing else from then on. It stuck and he embraced his name. He started out in life wanting to be a fireman: a career that symbolizes great service, pure trust and selflessness in America. Who would have imagined he would be a part of this new digital generation putting Africa, Nigeria on the map.
A graduate of Juniata College in Huntingdon, PA with a degree in Public Administration and Marketing, Ayinde Alakoye is an avid athlete that played professional volleyball for years and built a name for himself in that world. He is now however a member of the new generation of entrepreneurs. He has been in the TV and radio industry in the United States for most of his career doing sales, management and more. Ayinde Alakoye is the CEO and Co-founder of Hitch Radio, Inc. Hitch Radio is a social network built upon real-time broadcast radio search. You type in what you want to hear and Hitch Radio searches their network of over 33,000 radio stations in real-time to find what stations are playing what you want to hear right now. Once you find a station, you can hitch-a-ride and listen to that song or artist and then discover what plays next. Hitch Radio is currently in its beta stage and will be launching very soon.
Not only is he in the forefront of the NEXXXT Generation, Ayinde is also a former speech writer for President Barack Obama and an on-going advisor to the White House. Ayinde was amplified when he was one of the millionaire bachelors to be a part of the Bravo TV reality show “The Millionaire Matchmaker.”. He was the audience favorite on the 2010 season of the hit show. Feel free to go to youtube.com and put in search words “Ayinde on millionaire matchmaker.”
This handsome and single (yes, single as of today) entrepreneur Ayinde will be in Nigeria for the first time this fall. I expect he will enjoy himself immensely. When asked why he was single he said “I’ve been told that I need an African woman.” We present to you Mr. Ayinde Alakoye.
How did the idea of Hitch Radio become a part of you?
Like any good invention, Hitch Radio kind of happened by accident. It was 2007, and we were analyzing the market after shutting the doors on a precursor wireless radio technology that was getting copycatted everywhere. So, we started brainstorming around the question, “what can we create from all of our knowledge about radio (and the growing demand) that would really be of value to the consumer and stand out?” We came up with the idea of real-time search; basically, we thought it would be cool to add a Google search box on to our technology. Then in 2009, we asked, “What if we made all of this social, too? So that people who were searching for music could see who else was searching for the same thing and listen live with their friends as their song is streaming.”
When did you realize what affect Hitch Radio could have on people and how different has that initial thought changed since conception of the idea?
I had a Nigerian friend of mine tell me, “Ayinde! I listen to God every day on Hitch!” I was like, what do you mean? He told me, he types in “God” or “Jesus” everyday to find sermons being streamed from all over the world. When he told me this, it really sunk in that Hitch Radio was bigger than me. Bigger than anything I could have ever imagined. I had never thought of using the technology like this and it showed me that everyone can create their own experience with Hitch Radio. That’s powerful!
How do you incorporate Social Media into Hitch Radio and what new media innovations should we expect from Hitch Radio?
Never before have you been able to see radio listeners before. The internet makes it possible to take the blinders off and, if you choose, to meet other people who have the same musical taste that you have.
For example, if you try to find-a-ride from Lagos with a music request and someone else tries to find-a-ride from Nairobi, you both can end up hitching-a-ride on the same King Sunny Ade song at the same moment on the same radio station. This is a strong, organic connection. It’s not manufactured. It’s a real connection that two people (or more) share and we want to see what can come of these connections.
One of the other things that Hitch Radio allows you to do is to know exactly what is going to play on the radio. The radio used to be a mystery box of sorts. You never knew when or where your favorites would play. Now, you know with Hitch Radio.
How have your skills and abilities in playing professional volleyball helped you in marketing your company?
I suppose you could characterize me as being “mild-mannered” until you see me on the volleyball court. I can be pretty fierce. I try to harness that aggressiveness when I am promoting my company. You have to earn your points on the court just like you do off the court. It doesn’t have to be hard, but it does require a concentrated effort.
Do you find that being on Bravo TV’s Millionaire Matchmaker has helped you with Hitch Radio or has it all just been publicity?
I think it has helped in a way that I couldn’t have expected. I think when I say, we have 33,000 radio stations to listen to on Hitch Radio, people pay attention. They don’t think its science fiction something made up. They understand that Hitch Radio is in position to be very big. The show definitely helped with that.
As a man of Nigerian Heritage, what “Nigerian” skill or abilities would you say you have utilized that help put you and your brand ahead of the curve?
I am very proud of my Nigerian heritage even though, like many Americans, it is not simple. My parents were both “American.” My father, who passed in 1980, was born in New York City and my mother Philadelphia. When my parents met in NY in the 60’s, during the latter part of the civil rights movement, my father’s ideas were considered very radical. Though most were stressing an unconnected “Black America” my father taught and published poems about our rich African ancestry. I have been told that you would never see my father without a book in his hand as he studied the African Diaspora intensely. He and my mother eventually change their names and began to practice Yoruba to reconnect us to the culture that was taken from us. My father was named, Adesanya, and my mother, Amoke. When I was born, I was named in a traditional naming ceremony by a Yoruba priest, as well. Obviously, my name is very important to me because of the sacrifice my late father made culturally and economically to restore our heritage to us. So, I was pleased when we recently discovered a blood link to Nigeria through my mother’s mother’s side. I plan to do more research to know more specifics about our Nigerian blood line in the future. Perhaps, it’s that renegade quality that my father possessed that is still with me today. I am sure it is that same independent thinking that I have taken into Hitch Radio to keep us ahead of the curve. We can thank Ade for that.
You are one of the Advisors to President Barack Obama. Is there any advice you have applied to your business model that you have also shared with the Advisory team?
Make it personal. During the debate on Health Care, I was seeing that The White House had allowed the debate to get into the minutiae and off track with false characterizations like death panels. One of the things I counseled was to remind the American public that Barack’s own mother had died because of an inability to afford and manage proper healthcare. The president was in effect the poster child for Health Reform, but they were not using his story. We do the same thing with Hitch Radio. It’s not about music. You can get music anywhere! It’s about a personal connection you have with your friends when you post a ride you are on to Facebook or Twitter. It’s about the personal connection with the DJ you find in the UK that says something that makes you laugh. Radio is personal and Hitch Radio is as well.
Your professional background has mostly been in Entertainment: TV, Radio e.t.c . If you were not in the entertainment industry. What industry do you think would interest you and Why?
That’s easy. I would be in politics. I love politics, particularly shaping public opinion and have always wanted to help people. After college I worked on Capitol Hill for a little while. But, I realized that Washington, D.C. was broken in many ways. I felt like the people who were making the changes were the people who were not dependent on money they didn’t answer to anyone but their conscience because they were independently wealthy. So, I sought to be one of those people. Right now I hope I am helping people by making their lives a little easier with technology. And, ultimately, Hitch Radio can bring people together from all over the world and put more understanding in places that need it.
When should we look forward to your brand extending to other African Countries? Do you have any interest in business in Nigeria? Why or Why not?
We have always set out to be a global company with Hitch Radio. We want every radio listener in the world, particularly my brothers and sisters in Nigeria, to use Hitch Radio as a part of their daily routine because it will allow them to get the content they want faster, free and in a more enjoyable manor. Information is very important and the spoken word is very important particularly to African culture, so Hitch Radio must be big in Nigeria and all over the continent.
Many countries in Africa are now known as “Emerging Markets” Do you see Hitch Radio coming to be a part of this emergence?
Perhaps the most important thing to me is to do anything I can to be a part of the movement to restore Africa to its birthright of power and grace on the planet. I believe, as Africa goes, so goes the world. When we have a strong, stable and vibrant Africa, we will have a strong, stable and vibrant planet again.
If you could develop an ideal programming for a Nigerian version of Hitch Radio. What should we expect?
That’s really the beauty of Hitch Radio, it is universal in many ways. But, I do believe in customization and we would like to work with Nigerian product managers to see what, if anything, we have missed that will make Hitch Radio more personal to more Nigerians.
What do you do to get away from all the Entertainment and relax or rejuvenate?
In the morning, I play volleyball with a group of 10 or 12 guys who have all at one time or another played at the highest level of the sport. It is fun to get out there with them, scream and scramble for the ball, run and jump, and utterly finish exhausted after a great couple of hours rallying. When I am out there, I don’t have my blackberry, I am surrounded by sand, ocean and beautiful scenery. It’s heaven.
Name one single moment you recall in the past 9 months that has profoundly changed your thought process or your life?
I was meeting with one of my advisors about nine months ago exactly and she hit me on the head and told me that I was playing small. Other than the fact that she is a very charismatic woman, I don’t know why I chose to listen to her that moment, but I did. And from that moment on, things have been (and are continuing to) move at lightning speed with my company and me personally. It’s amazing what we can do when we open our eyes to all that we are.
What one word would you use to describe your drive and ambition and why?
Perseverance. I graduated from Juniata College and while I was there I played on their Division 1 volleyball squad. When I graduated my coach sent me a gift and on the card, which I still have today, he wrote, “Perseverance is your greatest strength.” I just looked at that card for the first time in 15-years the other day and had to shake my head. The same was true then as it is today. I don’t know how to quit. I keep charging ahead and I think doors open when you show the Universe that you are committed to your goals happening one way or the other no matter what.
What should we look forward to with Ayinde Alakoye as a brand and Hitch Radio?
There are a number of opportunities opening up for me right now. I am so grateful. I do not know how it will look, the How is all God, but I can tell you that it will be big, it will be global and more great things are coming through me!