Mr Akinniyi Ajiboyede is a technopreneur with huge interest in the ongoing global digital disruption. In less than a decade, the Havard Business School graduate has powered several innovations that have revolutionized the Nigerian tech startup space. Some of his notable innovations include, ‘Matutu’ a tech-driven hyperlocal auto-rickshaw tricycle (Keke) rickshaw aggregator; Workclick, a hair hub startup servicing clients in San Francisco, Lagos and Nairobi and Fleetpartners, a corporate car and staff-bus sharing services. He is also co-founder of several burgeoning tech startups. In this interview, Ajiboyede shares his experiences, the secret behind his achievements and dead traps every entrepreneur must avoid.
My dad was a businessman and so he introduced the entrepreneurial skill to me and my siblings. My dad was also involved in a lot of community projects which formed a basis for my great interest in technology today. As a young boy, while growing up in the company of other boys, we would organise technology competitions amongst ourselves and take our creations to school. In my secondary days, I built my first computer game and instead of being applauded for my effort I was labelled a wizard.
This is because such a feat was not common then. Consequently, I stopped trying to experiment until I left secondary school. After I left secondary school, I grew from being that young boy who was fascinated with technology, and then I started experimenting and trying to create my own products.
I started my first business when I was in university and I continued in that path as a tech entrepreneur. One of my ideas and start-ups in my university days has metamorphosed into my business today. I would say being exposed to technology early as a child has helped shape my personality as a tech entrepreneur.
I started off in 2007 with a mission to provide fleet technology and consultancy services to fleet operators and leasing companies. My major job was to create customized solutions for clients to effectively and efficiently run their fleet. FleetPartners Limited is a peer to peer leasing and fleet management company established to provide unequalled professional services to all fleet operating industries in Nigeria. Today FleetPartners has grown to have subsidiaries which are designed to make life easier for our customers. Matatu, one of our companies is an Auto Rickshaw ride-hailing platform that allows people to book a ride with a tricycle. Healthpoint is our health tech start-up which provides telehealth services and health insurance plans at affordable monthly subscriptions. Healthpoint is an all-inclusive health management solution designed to promote universal health coverage in Nigeria, Africa and the world at large. My motivating factor has been my long interest in technology and my desire to make life better for people by using technology.
Corporate car sharing Our corporate car-sharing service allows executive car owners to offer their cars for rent on FleetPartners platform. This model gives corporate organisations the opportunity to only pay for the time used and vehicles are strategically placed close to the point of use for them. This model is cost-effective as it ensures no ownership risk to the client or paying for idle time. We discovered that a lot of people have idle cars parked in the garage which they only use during special occasions or at weekends. We encourage them to list their vehicles on the platform which we, in turn, put up for rent on our corporate car-sharing platform, thereby making the vehicle become an asset instead of a liability.
Staff bus sharing service
Our staff bus sharing service which was introduced a few months back, allows organizations book seats for their precise number of staffs, saving them money which would have otherwise been spent on hiring or leasing a full bus. The service is a product of research which identified one of the challenges some companies, especially the small ones face in terms of managing transportation for their staff. What we have done is to provide a service that meets that need.
It allows more than one company to book a bus. Since we rolled out this product, a lot of companies have embraced the service.
The challenges peculiar to the tech sector are a shortage of early-stage investors in tech start-ups in Nigeria. Most tech start-ups struggle to get funding at the early stage which is in most case not available, leaving them to struggle on their own until a foreign investor comes into the picture. Today we have more foreign investors coming into this space. We need to have more indigenous investors investing in Nigerian start-ups. Secondly, most tech startups lack the required skills needed as a tech entrepreneur.
Yes, we have an enabling environment for a young mind to succeed with new tech innovations. Every day we see young tech entrepreneurs spring up in Nigeria. In other for this to continue, the government needs to create an enabling environment that aids tech start-ups, create policies for friendly start-ups and encourage financial institutions to invest in them. There should be a system that encourages start-ups to share resources and ideas as this will help the younger generation of tech start-ups grow.
Biggest lessons learnt
My biggest lesson so far has been to raise funds on time and raise enough to take over the market. Another lesson is to invest heavily in advertising and marketing of your product. This is to ensure that you maintain market lead so that you do not get pushed aside by other brands.
I have also learnt that it is better to start manually especially when you do not have the funds to invest heavily in technology.
Adoption of foreign ideas
I think most times there is a lot of innovation ongoing and what we see is that they are a combination of old and new ideas. This is practised all over the world, so it is not peculiar to Nigeria alone. What is important is that we come up with a product that is globally acceptable.
Moments of discouragement
As an entrepreneur, you tend to get discouraged when you do not meet up with your expected target.
However, you must continue to push yourself especially if you believe in the cause.
The values that we create for our customers and the smile that we put on their face is what keeps us going.
Pitfalls to avoid
One of the major pitfalls I experienced as an entrepreneur was not raising funds as early as possible. As a start-up, it is important to raise all the necessary funds needed for growing the business, advertising and marketing.
My advice to business owners and start-ups facing similar challenges would be to raise funds on time, raise enough funds to cover their marketing spend and continue pushing their product out there until they have a large control of the market.
Do not focus all your attention on building technology, you can start manually. Also, get partners that will add value to your start-up.
My guiding principle has always been to do what I love.
My love and interest in technology have brought me thus far in business because I am doing what I love doing. Next is to engage in projects that will generate better profit. This is because you can spend the same amount of time and energy on different projects but will not make the same profit on both as one will outrank the other.
Advice for entrepreneurs
My advice for upcoming entrepreneurs will be to start early and experiment on time. Fail fast, learn fast and move on.