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.
Maelle CABARRUS: The Creator Of The A LA FOLIE
Maelle CABARRUS is a hair coach and hair youtuber since 2010. She is the founder of À La Folie, a research company on textured hair, beauty and self-esteem coaching for black and mixed-race women. Maelle started researching frizzy hair extensively pretty quickly, from the moment she became a youtuber. Her goal is to always better understand textured hair and to provide women with this texture with the tools, keys and methodologies to enhance their hair, themselves and restore the bit of self-esteem.
Her motivation didn’t just come from a desire to share and make the best videos possible. It was also, and in large part, a determination on my part to have the longest, most beautiful hair possible. Kind of like a revenge on life, or a slightly childish attempt, to repair all the anger and resentment she had built up towards my hair.
“I want black women to love their hair and think they look beautiful with it. I want wigs and weaves to be for us first and foremost a means of fantasy, not a default option every other month to “take a break”. I want our hair to be “natural” for us. That wearing them is obvious and natural, that it flows naturally, without any fuss”. says Maelle CABARRUS Founder À La Folie
À La Folie have supported more than 3,500 women in our online programs and served a clientele of more than 8,000 people through our various ebooks and coaching services.
Oumy Saran Keita: Eco-friendly African Artist
Oumy Saran Keita is a Senegalese entrepreneur with a passion for African art. In 2021, she decided to step out of her comfort zone to launch a project that was close to her heart, Kalifa design. A brand that specializes in the design of handmade art objects, with recycled materials.
Having been fortunate enough to grow up with a father who was a visual artist, she has always had a rather special relationship with art. In December 2019, tired of the cold of Paris, she decided to make her first lamp sketches, to give more warmth to the decoration of her office. A dozen sketches were made from it, carefully preserved.
3 years later, back in Senegal, she launched Kalifa Design, an eco-responsible interior design brand offering products designed mainly with recycled materials. All items are handmade and made in Senegal. The name “Kalifa”, which means heritage, symbolises his entire project. The logo features an outstretched hand towards a symbol used by the Adinkra, a West African people.
Oumy Saran Keita uses recycled materials to make papier-mâché which is the basis of all lighting fixtures and works with local artisans to create wooden plates, mirrors, storage boxes and textiles. Kalifa has allowed her to return to the things that are essential to her balance: painting, sculpture and drawing.
Lamine Ndiaye: Promoting Senegalese Art
Lamine Ndiaye, a young entrepreneur of Senegalese origin who is passionate about fashion. A costume designer in audiovisual production, Lamine is the founder of the Yelloow brand, which specializes in the design and sale of 100% African bags. A great defender of local consumption and his goal is to promote all that Senegal has to offer in the field of art and creation. Since Lamine was a child, he has been passionate about fashion. It is therefore quite natural that he chose to undertake this field, while seeking to stand out from the others. For him, entrepreneurship is a factor of development.
Yellow is a brand that offers accessories such as backpacks, travel bags, shoes, computer bags, fanny packs, handbags etc. To successfully promote local consumption, Yellow brings out the originality and quality of its products by using very stylish, colorful and rare African raw materials such as wax, woodin, or upholstery fabrics patched with leather or suede, which makes the products chic and stylish with sustainable use.
Yellow aims to be a brand committed to showcasing African potential in all its artistic variations. The know-how of an Africa that restores itself in its dignity and honour through the creativity of the African.