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The Story of Nigenius and why teachers love it – Kelechi Uchenna

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Nigenius Founder, Kelechi Uchenna

Nigenius is a smart website that works with teachers, parents and educators to quickly generate well researched, vetted lesson plans and quality teaching resources. Kelechi Uchenna, the Founder and Application Manager of Nigenius, shared with Business Africa Online the story of Nigenius, this is how it began, and where they are now.

 

How it started:

So, in 2015, in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, while waiting on an employment offer which wasn’t forthcoming, I decided that I needed to start a business, solve a problem, and get paid for it. So, I started my first legally registered company called Innovative Digital Learning. Having been good at creating presentations and having been taught extensively with technology during my masters in Cyprus. I noticed a gap in the schools in around me, and that was the fact that schools were not harnessing the power of technology in the classroom. Innovative digital learning was created to train teachers with technology in the classroom to improve student performance and learning outcomes. We started with my neighbours’ primary school, and by 2017 we had trained over 6 private schools in Port Harcourt, with over 300 teachers in teaching with technology in the classroom.

In June 2017, I moved to Lagos and our first training for a school was at Lekki Phase 1. Two important moments, led to the idea of Nigenius. During the 5-day training program for the school, an admin asked me a question and said “Mr Kelechi, what will you be leaving with us after this training? We want more than just the training, we want content, we want resources”. In that same year, Innovative Digital Learning got selected among the Top 50 startups in the BET 7 program sponsored by Diamond Bank (now Access Bank) in partnership with the Enterprise Development Center of the Lagos Business School. During the programme, a fellow female entrepreneur in the programme asked me a very important question, and she said “ Kelechi, how can you prove that you have impacted these teachers, how can you prove that you have transformed the way these teachers teach”.

The Motive:

With those questions bothering my mind, and the resolve to build a solution, I set out on a journey to find out from the teachers if the training had impacted them. We visited all the schools, and we found out that only 2 out of every 10 teachers had actually applied what they learned in the training and actually taught with technology in the classroom. We wanted to find out their reasons for the low adoption and they listed their challenges. Two major problems stood out amongst all the others, the teachers were overworked because they spent so much time creating their lesson plans, and also some lacked the knowledge on how to access these teaching resources online even after they had been taught in the training.

The Idea:

Sitting on a couch one evening, I had a eureka moment, and decided to build a smart digital assistant for teachers. An application to work with teachers, reduce their workloads, and give them access to online teaching resources. We knew that to reduce the workload of the teachers, we had to remove something that took a lot of their time and effort, i.e., lesson plans, and as for the teaching resources. What better way to give them teaching resources if not to give them the resources based on the four components of Innovative Digital Learning of which some of them had been trained. At that point, we called it the “Innovative Digital Assistant for teachers” IDAT. A few days later, in the shower, the name “Nigenius” struck me, build something that can help Nigerian teachers create geniuses. This was the ending of 2017, Nigenius was born.

The Bumpy road:

At the beginning of 2018, I was lucky to have come across some money from family, which I was going to use to invest in my future. We started building Nigenius in January 2018. A friend of mine introduced me to Samson Odele, a web developer, as a contractor at the time, who would go on to later become a co-founder. I pitched the idea to him and we went to work. Building Nigenius involved two things, the application, and the teaching content. We launched Nigenius as a mobile app on the Google store on the 1st of October 2018, Independence Day. Though it had just a few lesson plans, but we launched nonetheless. We started getting downloads, users were growing, but we still needed to get more content in because we believed that only with enough content, we could get people to actually pay for subscriptions.

The Pilot:

After launching in October 2018 as a mobile app, it took us 10 months after to generate enough content to be able to hit the market and offer value to teachers and schools. We were able to fund our content generation and uploads from another of my businesses. We worked with graduate interns, trained them, and set them to work on a pay as you deliver model, that way we were able to get value for the money invested. Our lesson plans and teaching resources were also sent to schools for subject teachers to vet and approve before we upload on our database. One of the biggest challenges in building Nigenius was being able to create a lesson plan which could be easily used and understood by a cross section of both private and public schools.

Before we hit the market, a mentor advised that we do a free pilot with schools as a means of getting feedback on our solution, and to understand our customers experience first, before jumping into the market. At this point, luckily, we had been selected into the Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship 2019 session.

The Take-off and experience:

During the pilot, we collected the feedback data from the teachers and analysed it carefully, some of it was negative and some it was positive. Some of the negative feedback was that most teachers wanted Nigenius on their laptops which was where they went to create their lesson plans and to look for teaching resources, not on their mobile phones. We also discovered a need to make our search algorithms smarter because teachers were searching for content, which we had on our database but they weren’t getting results. Armed with the $5000 dollars from Tony Elumelu, we set out to build the new Nigenius Version 2, which would be on a website, no longer a mobile app, accessible to any one on any device. The new version went live in August 2020. We also added a feature to our admin end that helped us see the searches and the download that our users were carrying out on the website.

The new Nigenius ran on single and multi-user subscriptions. We offered users a free one-week trial, after which they would have to subscribe. However, 6 months after launch of V2, we didn’t have a single subscription payment. We discovered lesson plans and teaching resources were valuable to our users, but they weren’t enough pain point for our users to pay for. So, we decided to pivot our model. We made Nigenius free to use and launched the Nigenius Home tutor service. We already had over 500 teachers on our platform as at March 2021. And were going to sign up our teachers as tutors, connect them to parents who were looking for tutors for after school lessons for their kids, charge the parents a monthly fee, pay the tutors and collect a commission.

The Nigenius home tutor service had a unique selling point, we are not just providing highly trained, and qualified tutors, our tutors also leverage online line digital resources from our application to give kids the best learning experience.

We were also lucky to receive an investment from Aidi ventures as we joined their group of portfolio startups. With the investment, and immense expertise and mentorship from Aidi we are now charting a new course as we add amazing new features to our business model.

We are building a vibrant ecosystem of teaching and learning where teachers can access free lesson plans and teaching resources, parents can request highly qualified home tutors from top schools across the country. Teachers can create, and host group online lessons and parents can sign up their kids for these lessons.

 

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Theo Baloyi on building a sneaker brand for Africans

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Theo Baloyi, Founder of Bathu (Image: Supplied).

This entrepreneur created a 100% African shoe brand to wage war on Nike and Adidas. His name is Theo Baloyi, and he is a South African entrepreneur. Judging the market shares of the shoe giants too high in Africa, he decided to leave an important position at PWC in Dubai to launch Bathu Sneakers. 

After months of feasibility studies, and being rejected by 13 different shoe factories – Theo Baloyi’s perseverance pays off and the Mesh Edition Sneaker is born. Bathu, which means shoes in townships across South Africa, is a sneaker brand launched in 2015, in a local township (Alexandra), whose colors and patterns are inspired by Africa. Bathu bought its first delivery vehicle and opened its first physical store in Newtown Junction Mall in Johannesburg, South Africa. 

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Part of Theo Baloyi’s pillars for Bathu from the start was to create 100 meaningful jobs. In 2020 this was achieved. The brand has been a dazzling success, with more than thirty stores now in South Africa, and numerous distinctions.  It has now grown exponentially over the years, with 32 stores nationwide and a staff complement of over 300 employees, who are predominantly youth. 

The Bathu story is more than just a story of sneakers. It’s a story of owning your destiny, staying true to who you are, persevering, following your dreams and doing something you are passionate about. It’s a story of walking your journey. The brand is more than just a sneaker business but a beacon of hope that each person has valid and attainable dreams regardless of background and unfavourable personal circumstances.

The Bathu tagline, “Walk your Journey”, is centered around its mission statement of reigniting hope and creating sustainable employment. We believe everyone is on a journey; ours is to equip, ignite and enable that journey.

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Afripreneur

Ideas Origin Media: Unearthing Innovation and Transforming Brands With Disruptive Creativity

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Ideas Origin Media CEO, Israel Obatunde (Image: Supplied).

Ideas Origin Media is a creative powerhouse disrupting the advertising industry since its inception in 2022. Led by the creative juggernaut, Israel Obatunde, the Originals as they are popularly called, are making strong waves in providing solutions for people and businesses who need unique strategies and creative innovation that can help their brands break through clutter in their industries.

In today’s competitive business landscape, brands are constantly seeking inventive ways to engage their target audience without breaking the bank. Against this backdrop, creative agencies with unique strategies are bending the rules and changing the game. One agency that stands out from the lot is Ideas Origin Media, a trailblazer reshaping brand narratives and consumer connections.

Driven by a profound comprehension of consumer dynamics, Ideas Origin Media’s strategic framework rests upon meticulously gathered insights. At its core, the agency champions originality, data-driven creativity, and innovative storytelling, catalyzing brand visibility and resonance in an interconnected world.

Israel Obatunde, the visionary CEO of Ideas Origin Media, believes the agency’s operational ethos is emphasizing a culture of risk-taking and collaboration. By prioritizing client-centric strategies and ongoing skill development, the agency ensures tailored and impactful creative solutions that transcend traditional advertising norms.

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Central to its organizational ethics is the acronym CANVAS: Creativity, Ambition, Novelty, Versatility, Accountability, and Support. Elizabeth Adesina, the Business Director, underscores these values as guiding principles, driving the agency’s mission to effect meaningful change in the industry. Shedding more light on this, she added that Adaptability and flexibility form the bedrock of Ideas Origin Media’s competitive edge. 

Recognizing and swiftly addressing operational inefficiencies such as bureaucracy and accountability gaps, the agency has fostered a culture of transparency and nimbleness within the agency, ensuring prompt, top-tier deliverables. 

To remain relevant amidst evolving consumer trends and technological disruptions, Ideas Origin Media prioritizes continual evolution. And by harnessing cutting-edge technologies, embracing industry trends, and championing originality, the agency sustains its innovative edge. 

The agency’s Creative Director, Segun Ayinla highlights the agency’s commitment to crafting culturally resonant campaigns that connect with diverse audiences. He elaborated further that by leveraging Nigeria’s rich cultural heritage, Ideas Origin Media delivers authentic narratives that captivate and inspire.

With a portfolio boasting impactful campaigns like the 2024 DStv-AFCON and Jack Daniel’s Jack and The Beat campaign where the brand partnered with Hilda Baci, Ideas Origin Media continues to consistently push creative boundaries and deliver unparalleled brand experiences. Its recent expansion into the United Kingdom also signifies a bold stride towards global competitiveness, underlining the agency’s commitment to excellence and innovation. 

The CEO, Israel Obatunde has re-affirmed the agency’s ambitious growth trajectory, with plans for further expansion across Africa and beyond. Built to stand the test of time, each campaign undertaken by Ideas Origin Media is not just noteworthy but a glowing testimonial to the agency’s unwavering dedication to transformative creativity and unparalleled impact. 

As Ideas Origin Media charts new territories and cultivates strategic alliances, its journey unfolds with promise and potential, poised to redefine the contours of brand communication in Africa and beyond.

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WaxPrint Media and AfricaNXT Unlocking Growth for African Founders at NY Tech Week

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WaxPrint Media partnered with AfricaNXT to present #dmaAfrica (Download My App), an interactive platform for African founders to foster meaningful connections with potential customers and investors. The program was held at Linkedin Social Impact HQ at the Empire State Building in Manhattan, NYC.

Each of the 5 startup founders engaged groups in 2 rounds of flash focus group sessions where attendees downloaded the apps or engaged the website for onboarding and provided feedback in real time. Following the focus groups, the founders pitched their early stage startups to a panel of investors/experts which included:

The featured founders represented diverse startups focused on tourism, sustainability, networking, and cultural experiences:

  • Isaac Otoo, founder of MigranX, the cultural copilot connecting immigrants and international students with authentic cultural experiences
  • Cavaughn J. Noel, MBA founder of daap, “Connect better”
  • Ibukunoluwa Adebayo, co-founder of Greensol.io, an All-in-One App focused on Utility bills payment and Solar Sales, Maintenance and Management
  • Marwh Nabil, co-founder of Easy Meets, a marketplace that simplifies planning hangouts & trips for groups or individuals and provides businesses with valuable information about potential customers.
  • Yoma Onosemuode, founder of Travelbay, the best way to plan, curate, book and experience travel across Africa.

“I have worked with African tech startups and founders over the past 10 years and have a deep understanding of their needs to achieve growth. A viable product and a community of loyal ambassadors can determine their capacity to scale and we sought to create that bridge for these founders with a focus on Africa during NY Tech Week,” shared Muhammida El Muhajir, #dmaAfrica co-host and Director of Strategy at WaxPrint Media, a boutique digital/communications agency with clients in over 22 countries.

#dmaAfrica co-hosts: WaxPrint Media Director of Strategy , Muhammida El Muhajir and Ngozi Odita, founder of AfricaNXT

NY Tech Week is an “unconference”,  an unbranded week of events sponsored by Andreessen Horowitz (a16z) a Silicon Valley based venture capital firm and  hosted by various members of the tech community all under the umbrella of “Tech Week.” NY Tech Week was an opportunity to showcase what makes the New York tech community special, meet people from across venture and startups, and learn from the best founders and companies.

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“The #dmaAfrica  event was an extension of our mission at AfricaNXT where we serve a global community eager to connect to Africa through diverse programming, immersive experiences, high-level conversations, and game-changing connections. We were thrilled to collaborate with Linkedin to support us in making an impact for these innovations from the African tech community in NYC,” added Ngozi Odita,  founder of AfricaNXT one of Nigeria’s leading innovation conferences.

The program closed with panelists iterating on each startup and answering the question “Will you download my app?”.

“Participating in #dmaAfrica was one of the best event experiences I have had as a founder. It was unlike any other and allowed me to intimately exchange with users and investors, share my story and see how they experience my web app. It forced me to go deeper and rethink how I communicate my vision and product,” said Yoma Onosemuode, the founder of Travelbay.

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