Timilehin Odusina (CEO), Boluwa Olojo (CMO) and Henry Ajisegiri (CCO) of Versecom.
Based in Lagos – Nigeria and co-founded by Timilehin Odusina, Henry Ajisegiri, Emmanuel Marchie, Abraham Ben-Obaje and Boluwa Olojo. Versecom Limited is a technology services company incorporated in 2016 with a vision to provide free wi-fi infrastructure at public locations and monetize the free service via advertisements visible on each user’s PC, Tablet or mobile phone. In order to adequately monetize the free wi-fi infrastructure we also built a programmatic ad network called “GO Ads” that exclusively serves ads to the users of the service (based on advertisers’ demographic parameters). In this interview with Alaba Ayinuola of Business Africa Online, Boluwa Olojo, Co-Founder & CMO at Versecom, a marketing guru with a passion for her company’s brand and the way they are disrupting the traditional above-the-line channels using with their hybrid ad network ‘Go Ads’ and pushing ads on every screen in Africa. Excerpt.
Alaba: Kindly tell us about Go Ads Africa and the gap it’s filling.
Boluwa: A hybrid ad network that serves both digital and traditional media with a granular pricing model. Clients view reports of all channels from a single portal which makes it easy to assess campaign performance. A big issue with LED boards is inability to get accurate analytics, at Go Ads Africa we can monitor the amount of people who view your boards.
The granular pricing model brings campaign flexibility for brands and makes advertising more affordable for lower tier brands.
Alaba: What was your startup capital and how were you able to raise it?
Boluwa: $500,000 which was raised in Nigeria, but it took about a year and the half to close out the raise.
Alaba: As a startup, what are the challenges and how are you overcoming them?
Boluwa: Building the technology was difficult because of the scale at which we were going about it, it hadn’t been done before so there was a serious expensive learning curve.
Relationship management was very tricky because we had a model that was business to business and business to consumers. What that meant for us, what that we had to simultaneously learn how to manage both traditional users (Individuals) and Client users (Business).
Regulations, when we started there were very few/zero regulation in our space, as a socially responsible organization we had to come up with those rules for ourselves but as we grew and opened the space regulations came in. Some we were already compliant, the others we had to immediately evolve and follow.
Monetizing our platforms was another major challenge. To overcome this, we launched our marketing and sales unit. This enables us to tell the story of the company while also selling the products.
Alaba: How’s your brand unique and different from other digital OOH brands?
Boluwa: We don’t run just OOH; our aim is to push ads to every screen in Africa. However, what sets us apart is the Go Ads hybrid network and that we can offer analytics for the Ads we setup.
Alaba: With the evolution of digital advertising, can we say the conventional advertising platforms are gradually going redundant?
Boluwa: LED boards are also digital forms of advertising, in developed tech cities like Japan and New York, Out-of-Home Advertising (OOH) is a big part of advertising, with the inclusion of Analytics, we are certain that conventional platforms will continue to get better.
Alaba: How can African government best support Startups and SMEs in Africa?
Boluwa: Lagos government does a lot to help startups and we are totally grateful for that, something that will really help in Africa is for the government to build more incubators/hubs for startups. This will be exemplary in terms of showing how conducive the market is for innovations and investment, by part taking in various portions of the value chain.
Alaba: What’s the future for Go Ads Africa and what steps are you taking in achieving them?
Boluwa: To become the first self-serve platform where people can buy both digital and traditional media. This will democratize access to all types of advertising channels.
Alaba: How do you and partners feel as an African entrepreneur?
Boluwa: We feel an enormous sense of responsibility to get as many Africans to the path of prosperity by giving them the opportunity help themselves and a responsibility to show the rest of the world the value and ingenuity of the African spirit.
Alaba: What advice would you give prospecting entrepreneurs who intend to start a business or invest in Africa?
Boluwa: Timing is extremely important and see larger organizations as assets and not competitors.
Alaba: How do you and partners relax and what books do you read?
Boluwa: We socialize a lot; we go dancing and we also visit food fairs. We mostly read articles and when we read book or listen to audio books; they are usually about product management and people management.
Alaba: Please teach us one word in your home language and your favorite local dish?
Abraham: Ajaà is an Igala word that means Marketplace. Pounded yam and Egusi soup bangs different, that’s my fav.
Boluwa: ọmọis a Yoruba word that means Child. My favorite local dish is Amala with Ewedu and Gbegiri.
Emmanuel: Nbò means hardworking in Igbo and Abacha is my favorite local dish.
Henry: Ile-Eko is Yoruba word that means School. My favorite local dish is Iyan [Pounded Yam] and Efo-riro [Vegetable Soup].
Timilehin: Opomulero is a Yoruba word that means Pillar. Lafu and Ila is my favorite local dish.
Versecom is a technology services company incorporated in 2016 with a vision to provide free wi-fi infrastructure at public locations and monetize the free service via advertisements visible on each user’s PC, Tablet or mobile phone. In January 2017 we were awarded the contract to provide free public wi-fi on BRT Terminals by Lagos Metropolitan Area Transport Authority. We are now able to provide free internet access to 100,000 users per day from April 2017 when we successfully built the largest public wi-fi network in Africa; a 15km continuous mesh network on one of the busiest roads in Lagos (serving more than 1.5 million users per day).
In order to adequately monetize the free wi-fi infrastructure we also built a programmatic ad network called “GO Ads” that exclusively serves ads to the users of the service (based on advertisers’ demographic parameters). Building the wi-fi mesh network opened us to other business opportunities like ‘Infrastructure as a Service’ with products like wi-fi offload and CCTV as a Service; these products share the same wi-fi infrastructure but are targeted at Telcos and surveillance-based businesses respectively.
Similar to the extension of the Free Wifi into the “Infrastructure as a Service”, we have also pioneered a new ad model that disrupts the traditional above-the-line channels using our ‘Go Ads’ Ad network by partnering with owners of other advert channels to sell their inventory on a granular basis.
Timilehin Odusina (CEO) is an Innovative Product/Business developer with an eye for Social-Economic Patterns, working on various product and project across various industries. He has done most of his work in Tech-Start Ups (worked with Sharphire Global, Meditel, Intellectric, Hirefreehand e.t.c…) and Techno-Advertising industry. Currently on the board of KUBADI (Hirefreehand – Syracuse), Discreet Labs and is the Team Lead of the Public Access project in Versecom.
Henry Ajisegiri (CCO) is a Product Manager and Data Analyst whose core interests are in product development, performance insights and optimization. He is the head of commercials and partnerships for the company and has a mandate to drive all products to generate sustainable revenue. He is also a trained project management professional and business analyst who consults for early stage startups.
Emmanuel Marchie (COO) is a Covenant university graduate who studied Building Technology. He is the head of Operations at Versecom Limited; he ensures the stability of Versecom’s infrastructure and network on and off site. He has also worked with a few other startups on their product (MoluePro, Intelectric e.t.c). When Emmanuel isn’t working very hard to ensure the company is operating at its best, he is watching Arsenal play entertainment football.
Abraham Ben-Obaje (CTO)is the Lead Engineer on GO Ads Africa. He has successfully designed the City Connect Wifi and developed the GO access. He is a Technological Enthusiast with a passion in Data Analysis and Pattern Recognition. He also enjoys playing a lot of sports for body development and recreational purposes. He believes in equilibrium and numbers.
Boluwa Olojo (CMO) is a Mass communication graduate from Babcock University. Boluwa started working when she was 17 years old and this exposed her to various people and organizations. The last two years of her life was spent working at a digital agency and working with some prominent Nigerian Brands, which is where she picked up fantastic client management and sales skills. Joining the founding team as the first woman on the team, Boluwa is ready to take on the task of telling the Go Ads Africa story and ensuring the 250 million naira target for 2019 is met. When she isn’t working on getting more clients for the business, Boluwa spends her time sprinkling black girl magic around the world, doing Yoga, travelling and writing articles on medium.
Darlyn Okojie on entrepreneurship and building Memo Africa
Darlyn Okojie is a serial entrepreneur and business expansion expert. As the Co-Founder & COO of Memo Africa, Darlyn is responsible for the day to day operation process while building a team to create a Tech solution to People Management. She founded Memo Africa with Ademola Koledoye to create memorable moments across the world. Darlyn Okojie has a past experience of building a business spanning three countries, raising capital and ensuring that the word about the service reaches the right audience. Her First Business, Rugs and Floors Africa, currently operates in three countries, Nigeria, Ghana and Rwanda. In this exclusive interview with Alaba Ayinuola, Darlyn speaks on her entrepreneurship journey and vision is to make Memo Africa the go-to automated system for People Manager: “Future of Memo Africa”. Excerpts.
Alaba: To begin, could you briefly tell us about your background?
Darlyn: I spent the early part of my childhood up till my youth in Benin City. I attended all levels of education down to university where I studied Accounting at the University of Benin. My upbringing has made me extremely loyal to my city. After I completed my higher education in 2014, I got my first ever job at Lamudi (Popularly Known as Jumia House) in 2015. While at Lamudi, I worked as a key account manager in an online marketplace firm. A year later, I moved to Cars45 to spearhead the company’s efforts in building and maintaining relationships with strategic partners. Throughout my career, I have been involved in various aspects of people management, even through running Rugs and Floors from January 2020. At the moment, I’m focused on building Memo Africa.
Alaba: What inspired you to go into entrepreneurship and the problems you plan to solve?
Darlyn: An impactful model to me is my father. I didn’t realise he had that effect on my entrepreneurship life until I looked back on how much I have been able to achieve career-wise. He showed me the only way to gain success is through hard work and dedication. His tenacity and energy in delivering is extraordinary. There have been countless times where I’ve found myself wondering how he gets the energy to go even through obstacles. A quote from a book by Shakespeare, Macbeth, pops into my head whenever I think about my dad. “I am tied to a stake I cannot fly, but bear-like I must fight the cause.”
The life of an entrepreneur is quite fast-paced, there’s no time for breaks and no option to quit, you just have to keep going. It reminds me of something my mum always says, “Person, nor dey Live life go back”. Good or bad we need to keep moving forward in life or in business. I believe my motivation stems from the ability to keep going and building.
Alaba: Memo Africa is one of the startups you co-founded, what sparked the interest? How does the platform work and who are your target audience?
Darlyn: Memo Africa was birthed by various challenges both my co-founder and I faced throughout our work life. From my first job to my current ventures, I have seen how people managers handle welfare related issues in organizations and it inspired me to create a solution that makes their work seamless. We notice that people struggle to remember important dates when it comes to the lives of their employees and it is key because it makes the employees feel valued and appreciated. But dates like birthdays, onboarding and orientation processes, sendforths, and many others dates are lost in transition.
Memo Africa is a simple solution that people managers can use to automate welfare packages to be delivered to both remote and on-site teams across the world. We believe this technology solution will boost business productivity as the team members feel motivated and cared for while saving people managers time to focus on more critical issues.
Alaba: Since you launched, what are the challenges and successes?
Darlyn: It would be best if we start with the positive aspect of the business, the success. At the moment, we have acquired clients both from Nigeria and Ghana, and signed three companies into our system. We have achieved these while facing various economical challenges like Inflation, exchange rate and cross-border payments issues.
I also noticed that small business owners and other entrepreneurs face these challenges which is why I recently started recording my journey on my Medium account.
Alaba: What’s the future of people management? Do you see Memo Africa as part of the future?
Darlyn: The future is Tech! The world is evolving to become digital and automated. It is important to ensure that regardless of where people work from, they are treated with the same respect and dignity as they would be if they were working from a traditional office space. Memo Africa is the technology solution born to connect the people in an organization through our automated management system of celebrating them. Staying connected to and creating memorable moments for your team is the best way to keep them motivated while working.
Alaba: Where do you see Memo Africa in the next 5 years in terms of market and expansion?
Darlyn: We have a large vision set for Memo Africa and are ready to take the action to grow and scale up the Tech StartUp. Currently, our most viable product which is our website is up and running. We are planning on developing the Mobile App version to increase the accessibility and personalisation of the system. We expect to become the go-to platform for all people’s welfare across Africa and in the world. Our tentacles are set to expand into many African countries. We are open to acquiring more clients, partners and Investors.
Alaba: What fuels your passion and how do you relax?
Darlyn: Aside from the rush of the non-stop cycle of developing businesses, I find myself passionate about finding and implementing solutions to create value in people’s lives. You can find me locked on Netflix to unwind after a busy day or exploring the different countries in the world.
Alaba: Lastly, your advice to young women who want to launch into entrepreneurship?
Darlyn: My number one advice to young women who are launching or building their business is that your key to success lies within you. Everything you need to succeed is in you, your thoughts and action shapes your future. As long as you can think it, you can absolutely do it. You need to study and understand your potential, strength, weaknesses and limits. I believe self awareness is the most powerful tool to achieve anything in the world.
I would also say you shouldn’t believe you can only grow & scale up alone, it’s okay to have mentors and role models. These people have walked the mile. All you need to do is find someone who has successfully crossed the path you are hoping to pass. You would be surprised by the number of people ready to guide you or refer you to the next life challenger.
Eno Eka: Creating Her Dream Life in Canada
Eno Eka is a business analyst and consultant based in Calgary, Alberta. An award-winning career coach and keynote speaker who has been recognized for helping more than 100,000 professionals in 90+ countries kick start their professional careers. She is a business analysis content developer and course instructor at the University of Manitoba. Eno is the CEO of Eny Consulting Inc. and the Founder of Business Analysis School.
In 4 years of arriving in Canada, Eno has touched the lives of thousands of immigrants in Canada. She has curated mentorship and coaching programs for immigrants to Canada which have sought her recognition and awards globally. Eno is an embodiment of service as she volunteers with several non-profit organizations to help immigrants to Canada integrate successfully and become gainfully employed.
Eno volunteers as a mentor with Calgary Region Immigrant Employment Council (CRIEC) and sits on the Board of the IIBA Calgary Chapter as Director of Education. She also volunteers at the Calgary Drop-in Centre and Calgary Dream Centre. She is a Giving Back Sponsor for the Women in Need Society (WINS). Eno Eka is the host of the Livestream Podcast, Fireside Chat With Eno where she shares valuable insights on job search tips and strategies for new immigrants.
Her awards and achievements include:
- Forbes 30 under 30 nominees 2020, Education Category.
- Alberta Top 30 under 30 recipients 2021.
- Calgary Top 40 under 40 nominees 2019 and 2020.
- Universal Women’s Network, Winner 2019 Award for Mentorship.
- RBC Women of Influence 2020 Award Recipient.
- Top 100 Black Women to Watch in Canada 2020 Award Recipient.
- Canada’s Most Powerful Women: Top 100 award Nominee 2020 and 2022.
- RBC Top 25 Canadian Immigrant Awards Nominee 2020.
- Alberta Women Entrepreneurs Nominee 2021.
- Immigrants of Distinction Awards Nominee Finalist 2021.
- 2020 Tällberg/Eliasson Global Leadership Prize Nominee.
- Top 8 Female Business Analysis Influencers To Watch in 2021-Globally Recognized & Featured by the IIBA.
- Women of Impact Awards Nominee 2022.
- Women Empowerment Awards Nominee 2022.
- Campaign Ambassador for the United Nations and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
- Host of the Global Business Analyst Online Meetup.
- IIBA Global Corporate Member.
- IIBA Endorsed Education Provider for all IIBA certifications.
- Authorized Training Partner for Agile & Scrum through ScrumStudy
Oumnia Boualam is helping African and Arab Women “do business better”
Moroccan Oumnia Boualam is an experienced Business Growth Expert and the Managing Director at Brussels Global Review (BGR). She helps Arab and African female entrepreneurs and coaches get clarity, build a personal brand and grow a successful business online. Currently, Oumnia oversees several advisory reports on key economic trends in the Middle East and Africa, helping businesses and investors get key information for their decision making process. In this interview with Alaba Ayinuola, Oumnia Boualam talks about her corporate experience and her passion for Arab and African female entrepreneurs. Excerpt.
Alaba: To begin, could you briefly tell us about yourself and Brussels Global Review?
Oumnia: Growing up I was very shy and introverted. I never felt comfortable socialising and even dreaded going to school in Morocco (which is where I am from). That completely changed once I moved abroad at 18 to study then work in international sales and marketing. I used to work for a very demanding company selling High Ticket advertising in Emerging Countries. This meant I had to live in various countries (9 in total) and conduct on average 300 meetings per year. While this was an exhausting job, It allowed me to learn how to become adaptable and sociable in the business environment. When the pandemic started I decided to move away from this environment and start building my own business focusing on Sustainable Development and helping Africans and Arabs “do business better”.
I moved to Brussels and co-founded Brussels Global Review. We produce Sustainability reports on the MEA region for an audience of EU decision makers (here in Brussels). In parallel we have 2 signature online programs designed to help African and Arab professionals develop their digital skills, communication and confidence.
Alaba: Could you briefly share some of your experience as a corporate leader, your highs and lows?
Oumnia: Highs: Being able to see how many people I help through my social media content. Lows: Having to deal with toxic corporate culture, lack of support and judgments as a young African, woman entrepreneur.
Alaba: What is your greatest professional accomplishment to date?
Oumnia: I am most proud of the program I have created: The Digital Boss Academy. It’s going to help so many young professionals in Africa and the Middle East to leverage the digital economy to earn more.
Alaba: What are some of the strategies that you believe have helped you grow as a person?
Oumnia: I wouldn’t call it a strategy but more of a personality trait: Curiosity. Being curious and not always following outdated methods and strategies just because that’s what is being said or that’s the way it’s being done. I also strongly believe in learning from life experience rather than having prestigious degrees and that is a crucial skill in Business.
Alaba: Can you share your thoughts on Gender Inclusion in Africa and the Arab entrepreneurship ecosystem?
Oumnia: Not enough is being done to change the mindsets. There can be new regulations, new programs and so on. But if the mindsets of both men and women don’t change in terms of really considering equal opportunities for both genders then we will make very slow progress. Women are still expected to have kids and get married before having a career in our society. Some women founders are being asked what will happen to their business once they start a family. We also don’t have enough success stories to inspire and empower women to follow their dreams.
Alaba: Kindly walk us through a typical day as an entrepreneur and how do you relax?
Oumnia: Every day is different for me because I tend to get bored with routine activities. But one thing remains the same every single day from 06.00am to 09.00am I write and create content. This is the time of the day my brain is most active and also as a natural introvert I feel much more comfortable when things are quiet so I can be deeply focused.
Alaba: What advice would you give to any woman who wants to launch into entrepreneurship?
Oumnia: Starting a business is not as hard as you think if you’re willing to learn. The hard part is to overcome your fear and mindset blocks. That requires a lot of personal development work and it’s not comfortable to go through it.