While it’s the norm to talk about how much money tech pays, we forget to emphasize the hours of on-screen sacrifice each techie makes. In the techpreneur series, we’re discussing the strategies, challenges and driving force of African tech entrepreneurs.
Today’s techpreneur, Ifeoluwa Omidiji finds context out of content to help businesses grow. He identifies as a Digital Marketing Expert, Growth Marketer, Content Strategist and Product Owner.
Who’s Ifeoluwa and what does he do?
Ifeoluwa is many things to different people. I’ll just summarize by saying things that I’m really interested in things that shaped my life over the years, which is my entrepreneurial journey, my business life, and career aspects as well as lifestyle. If I look at my entrepreneurship path, I would say that it’s a lot intertwined in my lifestyle in the sense that I like to build things from scratch, with things, see how things grow and play out.
I’ve tried my hands with a few startups, of course, many not successful anyways, but then looking at how I can help myself build competencies that could help me learn how to be more intentional about growing and scaling the business in a tough environment like Nigeria. If you look at me from the career aspects, I’m currently a Digital Marketing Strategist. I currently help B2B companies leverage high-end marketing strategies to reach out to their partners or to their customers in a more personalized and interactive way. I’m exploring my skills internally within organizations to help scale their business and their digital transformation strategy.
Is it safe to say you’re one of the big boys that I could bam with?
No, no, please. LOL. No, no, definitely. I still have a long way to go.
You do a lot of interesting things. How did you start?
I’ll start by giving a lot of credit to Pledge Private School, the secondary school I went to. We had unrestricted access to the computer room. We would often go there and play mine sweeps, ping pong games and a lot of others. And then I stumbled on the PowerPoints. I started playing with it; it was really interesting, especially when I found I could do these fireworks things with letters and shapes.
I had a basic understanding of PowerPoints and general knowledge of office packages. Fast forward to when I was having my tutorial lessons and I got to see someone who was working on Photoshop and it caught my attention. I started doing a lot of things in Photoshop. That was before getting into the university.
When I get to the school, I met some amazing people, people that are still in my life till now. We started talking about ideas and building things that were interesting. We weren’t entirely intentional to say that we’re trying to build a technology product to solve a problem, but it was just interesting for us how we could build something.
From there, a good friend of mine gave me a C# tutorial. I installed Visual Studios, started learning the language and then realized that it wasn’t really keeping up to my beats. I could be on my seat for like six hours and I just coded “Hello world, how are you?” I knew it just wasn’t my thing. Then, I made this amazing friend as well and learnt graphic designs. We started looking into that together.
I had the privilege to intern at a Government agency where they needed a pictorial proposal for their project. Of course, they came to Ife, the design guy. I designed the slides, but they were curious if we could design what the solution will look like. Even though I’d never heard of UI/UX before then, I had to manipulate design elements to represent web designs with PowerPoinrt. It was after then that I got to know about UI/UX and it picked my interest.
Getting influenced by the people around you is a good way to grow. Apart from that Governement project, what was your first project?
I won’t entirely call my first project a tech one, but it involves tech education. It was about training kids on how to be digital literates and use such skills to build ideas that solve real-life challenges. It started by teaching secondary school students on design thinking – it’s an agile method of building their minds simply by identifying problems around them and seeing how to come up with a solution to them.
Tech education is also tech.
What project are you most proud of?
That will be LandQuery. It began with a logo. Then I called on a couple of my friends and we jumped on the project together. More than the product, what I love about the project is the team that worked on it. The way we came together and built that project with zero resources still motivates me and is the reason LandQuery remains the project I am most proud of.
So what’s the future for LandQuery?
Majorly to give people the power to securely buy lands. There are a lot of bureaucracy, misinformation, shady things surrounding the land purchases. A lot of people experience one bottleneck or the other just because they want to acquire a piece of land. Land is an essential means to live and there are a lot of unclarities when it comes to acquiring it. Land acquisition has also caused a number of misunderstandings, court cases and even bloodshed. The future of LandQuery is when people get to make land acquisition decisions based on intelligent data.
Did you study Computer Science?
LOL. Far from it. I studied Urban Regional Planning. On an ideal note, I’m supposed to be a town planner.
Is that why LandQuery is your favourite project?
Not at all. That has to do with my passion for wanting to build things, in this case, a land solution. It’s also more about the wonderful team I worked with. It’s having the right people in the right place that makes LandQuery my most valuable project.
If not tech or enterpreneurship, what would it be?
It is really hard to see myself doing anything. I would still have to sell something.
I was half expecting you to say a Town Planner
You’ve mentioned the strategies and resources you’ve used, which is mainly surrounding yourself with people of like-minds. But it can’t always be smooth. There has to be challenges on way.
Yes, of course. One challenge is managing relationships with people I work with. When working with people, the truth is everyone has an idea or a suggestion. Everyone feels valued when you listen to their ideas and build on them. There are times these ideas won’t line up with your immediate goals; it could seem as if you’re ignoring their suggestions and they could feel bad about it. Another challenge was communication with the team, I was a designer working with developers. It took a while before we could all understand ourselves and synergize.
Another is managing expectations from people. That has taught me that I should work with only a small circle of people to make it easier to manage communications, expectations and even failures.
Let’s go back in time. Take the knowledge you have today back to your university days when you started. What would you have done differently?
This may not be a common thing to say, but I don’t think there’s anything that I would have done differently. Maybe, I’d pay more attention to Software Development. LOL. That way I won’t have too much back and forth with my developers. Honestly, I wouldn’t have done much differently. I remember when we got an MVP for LandQuery and they wanted to buy the idea. We were offered a cheque on the spot, and we’d be employed to continue building the project. We made it clear we had to communicate with our lawyers first. That it felt like we didn’t trust them.
At that time, I felt it was a good decision not to sell. Then, I went broke and I wished I had signed the document. LOL. I got back to them to see if they were still interested and there was no response from them. I was told I made the wrong decision and felt bad.
Yes, the money and the job offered would have helped my life, but I realized I shouldn’t give up on myself yet. Less than years after that, I made the money I was offered in less than a month for consulting. If I could make it in one month, I realized that I didn’t make a bad decision not to sell to them. The value they offered was not worth the product and my value.
What’s your driving force?
My entrepreneurial spirit. I got it from my mother. I’ve seen how she’s supported our home in desperate times, how she showed up during hard times. Somehow, she transferred that spirit to me. No matter how tough it seemed like entrepreneurship was, I remember her consistency and perseverance and that inspires me not to give up. Entrepreneurship, to me, is more of a lifestyle.
That’s sweet. Let’s talk about the risks you’ve taken.
There was a time I consulted for a company and I made quite a lot of money. I put this money, all of it, into a business I was about to start. It was a retail business where I’d sell both offline and online. I invested all my money into the offline store. The business started well until it got burglarized. So, I lost everything in one night. The business failed.
I am really sorry to hear that. But you’ve gone really far since then.
I’m still hustling. LOL
What’s the next milestone for you?
I came to a point where I got to realize that as a professional in product and digital strategy, there’s a lot of demand and I’ve worked in a lot of industries. I have gathered the experience and now would like to build competence and depth. With core competence in the field such that I could hardly be matched in that field. Several businesses are trying to adopt digital transformation to their business model, but several of them have no idea how to adopt technology skills for a transformative strategy. One of my next milestones is to come to a point where a very short period of time, I’m able to look through the business model and give advice on strategies on how they can grow.
Talk of digital adoption for businesses, I saw you have a webinar coming up. Could you tell us what should we be expecting from the webinar?
A lot of companies think they’re the ones driving digital transformation, which is untrue. Customers are the ones really doing the job. Businesses get ideas and they feel that it’s a need. Meanwhile, it’s a need only in the mind of the CEO or a small set of people. There’s a need to know if the solution will genuinely solve a problem.
What makes the difference between digitizing your solution and digital transformation in itself is the strategy behind it. This is where most companies fail. They do not know the difference and are unable to leverage digital transformation. For the webinar, I would be addressing these differences and how you can fully embrace digital transformation in your business.
Any role models in and out of the field?
Growing up, I had different role models at different points in my life. Right now, there’s just one person that inspires me to do what I do. He is Vusi Thembekwayo. I admire how he encourages entrepreneurs and try to create equal opportunities for everyone to get to their highest potential. He is not the type that gets carried away with motivation. He preaches discipline and perseverance.
In your opinion, what’s the unspoken truth about tech enterpreneurship?
There is something we don’t talk about enough. Tech is crazy and entrepreneurship is hard. Vusi will say enterpreneurship is a very lonely journey. Our society is built in such a way that what we will call culture or people or society is just a set of normalized averages. We’ve all agreed that this is the way things should go, that if anyone does anything different, he seems separate from that society. That separation itself is loneliness and that is what entrepreneurship is.
Entrepreneurs do not get as much support as they should. We also don’t talk enough about the challenges and stress they got through before they get this seed funding or that. That hardship and loneliness are not talked about enough. The insecurity, risks and uncertainties that come with running a business can make an entrepreneur anxious.
One piece of advice I give people is not to get carried away by social media because it deceives a lot of people. Be real with yourself, do your thing even without the public validation. It’s okay if you’re the only one who knows of your failures and your successes.
What’s your definition of success?
Quoting Vusi again, success is what fulfils you. If what fulfils you is a million naira in your account, then you’re successful. You don’t measure yourself by other people’s; you measure your success by what fulfils you. If all someone ever wanted is to have a civil service job, earn minimum wage, be able to care for the family, have a single car, and send their child to a Federal Government College. The fact that he has chosen that kind of lifestyle, comparing him to someone who has more, doesn’t mean he’s less successful. Success is personal, it’s something that is defined by you and you alone.
Any last messages for our readers?
You can be successful how you choose to be. Don’t get carried away by the noise and clout on social media. Define what success is to you, focus on the goals instead of comparing yourself to others. In an interview, Vusi mentioned that thirty years ago when we had no social media, didn’t mean we do not have unreasonable people back then. The only difference is that the unreasonable people today now have a platform to display their stupidity. Forgive my language. With social media, you can get wise or otherwise, depending on who you’re listening to.