Monthly Archives: April 2016

The Most Interesting Thing About Investing in Africa: Innovative News Platform About Nigeria

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Akin Akinboro (left) and Mobolaji Sokunbi (right) are the Co-Founders of The 234 Project

 

The following post is from the e-book, The Most Interesting Thing About Investing in Africa, which features a series of conversations with entrepreneurs, community leaders, students, executives, and doers both home and abroad driving economic empowerment in several parts of my beloved continent of Africa.

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Mobolaji is a results-driven Marketing Executive and Entrepreneur. In his capacity as a marketing manager, he established a track record of successfully recruiting and training top sales teams, managing a $150M+ sales campaign P&L, and driving innovative strategies across multiple business units. He has a remarkable gift for identifying and evaluating intricate challenges in an organization and successfully communicating solutions and recommendations to senior leadership. His experience spans across notable companies including Dell, Procter & Gamble, and The Southwestern Company. In his capacity as an entrepreneur, Mobolaji consistently makes things happen from a business development standpoint including as the co-founder of The 234 Project. He is passionate about sharing the untold stories of Nigeria’s greatness and publicizing the achievements of Nigerians around the world.
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Akin exhibits a masterful set of skills in his work as an Enterprise Systems Engineer and Entrepreneur. Pertinent to his work as a systems engineer, Akin enjoys bridging the gap between IT experts and non-experts alike. Throughout the course of his career, he has established a solid foundation in product & solution development; and he is very experienced in leading efforts related to solution design, infrastructure architecture & implementation, test & testing frameworks, and project management. This experience has allowed him to excel in a variety of engineering roles with major technology companies such as Oracle and Dell. In his entrepreneurial endeavors, Akin is involved in a number of successful ventures including co-founding The 234 Project. He believes that the future for Nigeria is bright and thus essential to the world. Akin is passionate about impacting lives positively and encouraging others to find sustainable solutions to everyday challenges.

Investment: Online Platform to Tell the Positive Stories of Nigeria | The 234 Project

SITUATION
There are many fascinating things about investing in Africa, especially investing in projects that empower young minds. To that end, Mobolaji and Akin sought to develop a deeper understanding of the growing interest in startups and self-employment among young Africans, particularly young Nigerians. This perceived interest seemed to be buoyed by a number of factors like high levels of youth unemployment, lack of opportunities at more established companies in Nigeria, and the foreign investment shift from BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, China) to MINT (Mexico, Indonesia, Nigeria, Turkey) countries with Nigerian startups at the beneficiary forefront of this shift.

Upon closer examination, Mobolaji and Akin discovered that young Nigerians were not only motivated by economic factors, they were also motivated by the opportunity to live out their own definition of success; and so, working with a startup or being self-employed in Nigeria offered them the best chance to stay close to home and stay even closer to self-actualization.

Brck-Maslow-YourStory-Africa-624x495

Historically, many young Nigerians yearned to leave Nigeria for greener pastures in North America or Europe (see Forbes article on Brain Drain). They tended to identify with a skewed version of professional success in life i.e. the “non-African” version. Nowadays, with the widespread use of the internet and mobile phones, more young people in Nigeria opt for a career path which allows them to think global but act local.

In his interview, Mobolaji expressed that he had always wanted to reach out to young Nigerian professionals in Nigeria… “to be a mentor or offer some advice from the standpoint of [his] experience in sales and marketing”. The 234 Project now allows him to take his mentoring to a whole new level– the project is an ongoing investment to tell a different story of Nigeria.

“For some time now, if you ask people, particularly westerners, what they know about Nigeria, you’re likely to hear about terrorism, corruption, the Niger-Delta violence, or those kinds of negative stories; before you hear many westerners and sometimes even Nigerians say anything positive about Nigeria, they probably would have already gone through a list of negative things,” he noted.

 

I am Nigerian

In 2011, I was at a stopover in London Heathrow Airport and I met a young man from Katy, Texas (United States). He worked for Shell and was on his way to Port Harcourt, Rivers State (Nigeria). He was reading a thick book about the dangers of living in Nigeria. We got into a conversation about his trip and I could tell he was petrified about going to Nigeria. At that moment, I thought to myself, what if this young man also had easy access to the positive elements of living in Nigeria? Imagine a platform that would have shown him great places to eat and visit while living in Port Harcourt.
-Mobolaji recounts his experience on a business trip

Akin and Mobolaji believe that Nigeria, known as the Giant of Africa, has positive stories to tell– from technology to politics, from politics to entertainment, from entertainment to fashion, there are people making positive waves…

M.O.

While attending a youth event in Johannesburg, South Africa for the MTV BASE Meets show, First Lady Michelle Obama (wife of the 44th President of the United States, Barack Obama) was spotted wearing Nigerian label Maki Oh by the young designer Amaka Osake. Michelle Obama took to the stage wearing a chiffon blouse from the Spring/Summer 2013 collection. – Source:africanfashionguide.com

 

 

 

The 234 Project is not in the business of denying that there are negative things to report about Nigeria, instead the project is simply advocating for the other side of Nigeria’s story.

Nollywood

The cinema of Nigeria, referred to as Nollywood, grew quickly in the 1990s and 2000s and became the second largest film industry in the world in the number of annual film productions, placing it ahead of the United States and behind only India. In 2013, it was rated as the third most valuable film industry in the world after generating a total revenue of NG₦1.72 trillion (US$10 billion) in 2013 alone, placing it behind India and the United States.
– Source: un.org/apps/news/story (UN News Centre)

ACTION
Akin and Mobolaji, in collaboration with their global team (a collection of young, brilliant minds), are building out an online platform with global access to tell the positive stories of Nigeria– from positive stories that impact celebrities to politicians, from boardroom bosses to classroom champions. The platform will be used to create and share content.

There are two value proposition pillars that they are keeping in mind:

Stewardship;
Empowerment

  • Stewardship – they are employing a network of young people in Nigeria to help create the content.
  • Empowerment – they are then connecting the content they create to action items like raising awareness, project fundraising, and professional networking.

 

RESULT
They have implemented some key performance indicators that are part of an ongoing evaluation process to measure the success of the project on multidimensional scale. Notably, in five years, the groundwork is in place to create hundreds of jobs (across different disciplines such as videography, writing, editing, and more).

Investment: Online Platform to Tell the Positive Stories of Nigeria
L = 50
I = 30
C = 40
Business Idea Metric: 120

To learn more about The 234 Project, please check out the online community

The 234 Project is active on social media: Twitter – @the234project | Facebook – The 234 Project | Instagram – @the234project

F.I.V.E Questions with Rachel Hill, CEO of RachelTravels.com

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I’d like to introduce you to the elegant, business savvy, and well-traveled Rachel Hill. Rachel left a very lucrative corporate career with Johnson and Johnson to follow her passion and has continued to blaze her path to success. She’s been featured on multiple online publications and recently launched a new venture: i Hired Me, co to provide coaching services to aspiring entrepreneurs. This is the 2nd installment of our Find Insights Via Engaging (F.I.V.E) Questions with an Entrepreneur series.

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Rachel the Tiger whisperer…

1. Briefly describe how you got started as an entrepreneur. What is the most exciting or rewarding aspect of what you do?

​After leaving my job in Summer 2014, I decided to take some time to travel through South East Asia solo. I rebranded my blog, www.RachelTravels.com as a ‘journal’ of sorts for my family and friends to keep up with my travels, people I met, my perspective, and some ideas on how to travel authentically but on a budget. Never looked at it more than a travel blog of my thoughts.

I always knew there was a way to create Online Businesses, but never quite knew how ​to start and what was really out there. As fate would have it, in Thailand, I ended up meeting a young guy from Ireland who was splitting 6 months of the year traveling the world (at the time he was studying Muai-Thai in Thailand) and the other 6 months in Ireland! He told me he had online businesses and connected me with his Mentor. The rest is history from there!

The most exciting and rewarding part about running a travel blog as a business, is all the AMAZING people I have an opportunity to connect with very organically! On top of that, I am sharing my love and passion of traveling the world, especially as a woman of color, with others and showing them how they can easily do it too!

What could make it even more exciting and rewarding is showing and inspiring even more people of color to travel and experience the world abroad!

 

2. Flash back and then fast forward to the present, what has surprised you the most about mastering your unique set of skills and what advice do you have for others looking to learn a similar skill or discover their talent?

Honestly, I had no idea that being a Project Manager in Digital Marketing would equip me to grow my Brand to this level so quickly. As a Project Manager by trade, being very strategic, analytical and organized comes with the job. But continuing to nurture these set of skills helps in staying consistent, planning out content, and negotiating contracts/ agreements, or even creating product offerings.

My advice would be to continue to cultivate any skill set you have. While I am no longer in Corporate America, it is a priority for me as an Entrepreneur to stay abreast of what is going on in the industry, by investing in Coaches, mentors, courses, training, etc. It is the only way you can become a Master in your craft.

If you’re looking to “discover” your talent, ask yourself questions such as:

  • What do I LOVE doing that I am always wanting to learn more and more about?

  • What do people constantly ask my opinion, insights, and advice on?

  • What truly lights me up on the inside?

Start there and see what you come up with!

Rachel Hill

3. What is your unfair advantage?

​Hmmm. Not sure if this is “unfair”, but I rarely ever meet a stranger. I just love people and can easily connect by being unapologetically, genuinely, and authentically myself. I have found that being unapologetic and vulnerable with my personal and professional experiences really allows potential and current Customers and Clients to trust and identify with me.

 

4. What is your current favorite and least favorite city that you’ve visited and why?

​Favorite City: Cape Town, South Africa – outside of the stunning views, wine country, and gorgeous people, it has such a rich history and culture. While it is not perfect (but what place or person is?!), it was one of the BEST travel experiences I have had.

Least Favorite: Every city I went to in Cambodia! It seemed as though everyone was trying to get over on you and rip you off. Not to mention it was the hottest I have ever been in my life. Perhaps one day, I will give the country another try. ​

 

5. What is the best piece of actionable advice you received that influenced your decision to launch your business and has still continued to deliver dividends till today?

​”It does not have to be perfect the first time around, just TAKE ACTION!” ​

Perfectionism is a real thing! Attempting to get everything perfect is only delaying you from starting and making progress. Getting started and taking action NOW is the only way to progress, you can tweak, build, and implement along the way! And 9 out of 10 times, things will change anyway!

******

Rachel is active on social media. Connect with her on LinkedIn: Rachel Hill | Twitter@RachelTravels_ | Instagram: @RachelTravels

The Most Interesting Thing About Investing in Africa: Mobile Banking in Nigeria

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The following post is from the e-book, The Most Interesting Thing About Investing in Africa, which features a series of conversations with entrepreneurs, community leaders, students, executives, and doers both home and abroad driving economic empowerment in several parts of my beloved continent of Africa.

Amara Udokporo, MHA and Kenny Udokporo, MCE, MCO
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Amara and Kenny are investors in Net Gold Business Consulting.

Amara-Kenny

Investment: Banking of the People, By the People, and For the People in Nigeria
SITUATION
The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) spends approximately 34 billion Naira (N34bn) a year to print new paper money due to currency mutilation.  To address this critical issue of “cash waste” in Nigeria, CBN introduced the “cashless” initiative as part of an overall policy framework in 2011.  The framework identified a number of cashless methods (including checks, ATM cards, online banking, and POS terminal); but the most promising solution, both from the standpoint of dealing with cash waste and pulling the unbanked out of the shadows, has been mobile money.  Mobile money consists of a number of money transfer processes but it’s basically an electronic payment system that enables one individual or entity to transfer a specified financial value through a mobile phone to another individual or entity without using a bank account.

Unbanked

ACTION
NETGOLD MOBILE worked with the CBN to register as an aggregator and set up partnerships with CBN-licensed mobile money operators such as eTranzact International, First Bank, and Pagatech.  Here’s how the work flows:

  • Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN): Provides general oversight and issues licenses to the Operators.
  • Mobile Money Operators: Manage the technology platform needed for the financial transaction (eTranzact, First Bank etc.).
  • Aggregators: Act as the middle man between the Operators and the Agents.  An aggregator is a company that is registered with a specific Operator.  An aggregator recruits, trains, and manages agents within the platform.  NETGOLD MOBILE is an aggregator.
  • Agents: Sign up users and make a commission on the active users that they sign up. Agents are individuals recruited by an aggregator, and they can also conduct transactions on behalf of their users.
  • Users: Use the mobile money service to send and receive payments. Registration is usually free.

The daily mission for NETGOLD MOBILE is to break down the banking barriers for the unbanked (many of whom are located in rural areas) while providing job opportunities for agents (many of whom were previously unemployed).

Unemployment Word Cloud

RESULT
NETGOLD MOBILE is making progress in breaking down the following mobile money barriers:

  • Too Few Agents – By partnering with investors like Amara and Kenny, who have sophisticated professional and family networks that they can tap into, a concerted effort has been put in place to continue to attract more local agents.
  • Lack of User Awareness – The steady increase in local agents will lead to a steady increase in user awareness. In a survey last year, it was estimated that only 57% of available users knew about the service; but that number is now on the rise.
  • Agent Income and Business Model – As user awareness goes up, the earning potential for each agent goes up as well. Looking ahead…the good news is that the service continues to improve on key performance metrics and tools to help all the stakeholders involved manage the workflow.

Investment: Mobile Money Banking and “Banking On” the Unbanked in Nigeria
L = 10
I = 20
C = 10
Business Idea Metric: 40

To learn more about this service and get more information on how you can participate, please contact: Amara Udokporo | Kenny Udokporo

F.I.V.E Questions with David McMenomey, Owner of Redemit 1

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I’m excited to launch the “Find Insights Via Engaging (F.I.V.E) Questions with an Entrepreneur” series. The series will feature answers to 5 unique questions posed to an entrepreneur. Their answers will enable every reader to learn how they got started in their venture, discover how they mastered their unique set of skills, and gain from any piece of advice that has continued to deliver dividends. It will be fun, insightful, and inspiring. The goal is that you are able to take at least one actionable tip from each conversation.

My first conversation is with David McMenomey, Digital Strategist at Redemit One.

profile-photo

 

1. Briefly describe how you got started and what is the most exciting or rewarding aspect of what you do?

It was early 2012 and my very pregnant wife was at the store getting groceries for the week.  I received a phone call that no one wants to get, the kind of call that stops your heart.  “David, I am in the line to check out and none of our credit cards are working. Do you know what is going on?”  You see at this point, I had been nursing along a startup that had zero revenue for 8 months, in the heart of the Silicon Valley.  Every credit card was maxed and we had a baby on the way in a few short months.  To say I was desperate would be an understatement…

The one thing I did right while starting my first company was I focused on the digital side of the business.  I knew that growing a business online would be better than going door to door as I had done to start my career.  So I started devouring Internet marketing training for hours on end, reprogramming the way I thought about marketing and scalability.  The 2 trainers I had been listening to were Jeff Usner and Hans Johnson and you will never guess who called me just about a week after we hit rock bottom financially…Jeff Usner.  I had met him a few times at some business training / personal development events but didn’t even know he remembered me.  He offered me a job in Texas and I took it.

This was the start of my career in the Internet, but I started at the bottom making almost no money.  To me it didn’t matter, anything was better than what I was making with what I was currently doing, and I would get to learn the skill I passionately wanted to learn, Internet Marketing.

I worked with Jeff for 3½ years and created multiple online products, marketing funnels, and web properties that made millions of dollars.  I received hands on experience, and built valuable confidence and belief in my abilities to take an idea and bring it to life online.

In October of 2015 I was laid off from my work with Jeff’s company as they moved out of Texas and back east to Pennsylvania.  After a few months of consulting for companies, I decided to launch my own agency, Redemit One.  It was one consulting client who pushed me over the edge to go from floundering consultant, to full-fledged marketing agency.  This client, Manny, was a non-profit who had a vision to help kids coping with cancer feel like rockstars for a day.  Manny had some great material on coping with cancer, and wanted me to create a marketing funnel to promote it.  So I sat down with him and created a lead generation funnel that could not only help more cancer patients, but also bring in new and reliable donors to fund his charity.

This is the type of work that keeps me going.  I love taking an existing business and creating a way for them to have predictable, scalable revenue.  There is so much misinformation out there about getting rich on the Internet, and I like going in implementing simple, proven strategies that drive revenue.   That is what excites me. Creating something like this for a client, then handing them the keys to the system and letting them run with it.  I don’t want to be the company that creates a system that is dependent on Redemit One.  I want my clients to be able to walk away from me at any point and continue to grow their vision and company. As short-sighted as that may sound, my client’s businesses were never mine to start with, so why should I hold them ransom just because I help them grow revenue in a new area?

 

2. Flash back and then fast forward to the present, what has surprised you the most about mastering your unique set of skills and what advice do you have for others looking to learn a similar skill?

I think the most surprising part of looking back at my journey in this business is how simple what I do really is.  With all of the complex training and courses out there, it is easy to get bogged down and never actually do anything online.  The key to learning this skill set is something Jeff taught me, find what works and copy that.  You always want to emulate success. There are other smarter, more patient people out there who have tested and perfected a business model Online, so find out what they are doing and do your best to copy that.

 

3. What is your unfair advantage? 

My clients will tell you that my unfair advantage is that I have already been there.  I have done it. I know how it looks to start with an idea and turn it into scalable revenue, so every project I take on, I have the end in mind for the client.  I also never sell them on their own idea. Most new prospective client meetings are me telling them why their idea won’t work and how a few minor tweaks in their perspective will make all the difference. To me, if the idea doesn’t produce recurring revenue for the client, I will not take the project. It is not worth it for anyone…

 

4. Describe the results a potential client could expect when they do business with you and how do you plan to WOW them?

The result a client will see when they work with Redemit One is a revenue machine will be created.  They will get a completed mechanism that brings them new leads and converts those leads into money.  Pretty simple really.  I specialize in lead generation, and that really is the heartbeat of what makes clients happy. They are flooded with new leads who convert to cash.  That will motivate any business owner to refer Redemit One. I think what wows clients is that I am not afraid to walk away from taking their business.  If I can see at the start that the project is not going to produce results of the client, I am happy to walk away from the money upfront and point them in a different direction, or to a different company for the work.  The only thing worse than no clients, is unsuccessful ones…

 

5. What is the best advice (or quote or insight) you received that gave you the confidence to launch your business?

The best insight I was given to launch my company came from 2 different clients on the same day.  I was waffling between the idea of going back to work for a big company and continuing to hone my skills and the idea of staying on my own.  Both clients challenged me and asked, “With the skill set that you have and all that you know how to do, how could you go back to work for anyone knowing they could never pay you what you are worth?” The advice I would give any entrepreneur looking to going out on their own is this, never let your ego get in the way of your journey.  You have to be able to take an honest step back and evaluate whether you need to continue developing your skill by working for someone, or if you really have all the right pieces to be your own boss.

 

“Never let your ego get in the way of your journey.” – David McMenomey

 

Connect with David on LinkedIn.