Oluwasoga Oni was the first runner up in the 2020 Africa’s Business Heroes Awards. The CEO and co-founder of Mdaas Global, in this interview by BIOLUWATIFE AKINYEMI, speaks on what the competition means to his business, his plans for the grant he won, among others.
How do you feel, getting identified as the first runner up in this competition, especially as the only Nigerian who made it to the first three?
It is quite exhilarating to be one of the top finalists, particularly given how competitive it was. We are grateful for this opportunity that the prize has provided to young entrepreneurs and businesses like ours. Believe me or not, every contestant from the 54 countries of Africa had strong chances of winning as each one’s business stood out and is vital especially in the development of Africa. As in any competition, I never compared myself to any one as we all had unique qualities that enabled some of us standout to the very last phase of the competition. I can say that we are all winners as we are all impacting on our communities and that is what Africa needs – people who can provide solutions to societal problems.
How was the competition and what does it mean to your business?
The competition was amazing, and I am very excited and honoured to be one of the winners. This was a very competitive and challenging competition. Over 22,000 contestants applied across the continent and we went through multiple assignments plus interviews with different judges over the course of eight months. Taking part in this competition provided a great opportunity for me and my team to take a step back and view our business from different perspectives. It has also given us funds to accelerate the work that we do. I have learnt a lot of things I probably would have spent a lifetime to get to know.
The Africa’s Business Heroes (ABH) prize has also taught me and all the other competitors how to tell our business story to the world, which is a very important thing for every entrepreneur.
The major thing on top of this competition was to be able to identify the deep impact our business has/and is making on the community, combining it with the organizational objectives.
Overall, the competition has been such an amazing journey and worth every step. It was like planting a seed and watching it grow every single day and the results are so rewarding.
It was reported that you and nine other top outstanding finalists were given chances to pitch your business ideas and entrepreneurial visions to a panel of distinguished judges. What are the things you did differently that made you win the hearts of the judges?
I think that the ABH judges understood what we are doing, which is to improve the health infrastructure of the continent. They also saw the deep impact we are making in the communities we operate in. Throughout the competition, we made sure to tell a very concise narrative and show our impact. I couldn’t have pitched successfully without a passionate, committed, and hard-working team. Teamwork was a centre point throughout the entire competition. My team stood by me all way through and we combined efforts at all stages, which in the end enabled us to stand the test of time and indeed no man is an Island. Entrepreneurship goes hand in hand with having the right team to help you achieve targeted objectives. I could not have done this alone.
You just got a whopping cash prize of $250,000 grant for being the 1st runner up. Can you tell us your plans for the grant, especially in your business and your community?
We plan to use the funds to accelerate our growth as a company, building diagnostic facilities in more cities across Nigeria and further developing our technology infrastructure. At most, we plan to build at least three or four high quality diagnostic Centres using the award money. Our big vision at MDaaS is to shift African healthcare from sick care to more personalised, continuous and preventative healthcare for Africa’s next billion.
We want to continue impacting more communities as much as we can, and we are so grateful that the prize has enabled us to get to this amazing stage where we can do more for the good of Nigeria’s populace. A healthy nation is a wealthy nation – the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) has taught us a big lesson. We must do all we can to improve the country’s health sector, and in that way, a remarkable milestone will be added Nigeria’s economic development.
Can you share with us some lessons you learnt in the course of the competition?
One of the key lessons we learnt as part of this competition is to always be adaptable as things may challenge, particularly when we don’t have control over them.
This competition coming in the middle of a pandemic, taking eight months long amidst various engagements and challenges, all called for resilience and employing the art of adaptability which is a key trait every entrepreneur who wants to succeed should have. I have learnt that as an entrepreneur it is very important to focus on what works even if it is not what you planned initially. Entrepreneurship is not an easy road just like the competition taught us but being creative and going an extra mile will help one achieve results even where least expected. On a daily basis, we are living in a competitive world on a daily basis and the pandemic has taught us that we have to be a step ahead of the game if we want to remain in the race. ABH has taught me and my team so many ways of staying on top and going an extra mile no matter the hardships. Courage and determination matter will take anyone far in life.
What can you say about the contribution of your team towards your achievement in this competition?
Winning this competition was entirely a team effort. My team helped me in preparing for each interview and supported me every step of the way. It is crystal clear that for a business, project, institution to thrive, it must have a diverse team of people who can contribute individual support and ideas as well as creatively handle organizational tasks together to reach set goals. A creative team will help any business grow fast. I feel so lucky to have such a dedicated and hardworking team and to have walked this amazing journey of the competition with them.
What can you say about the Jack Ma’s Africa Netpreneur Prize Initiative (ANPI), the sponsors of the 2020 Africa Business Heroes competition?
I really appreciate the work that the ABH team has done to pull this continent-wide competition off in the middle of this current pandemic and I feel privileged to be a part of this amazing community of budding African entrepreneurs. We all have so much to share with and learn from each other. As you may or may not know, the ABH competition is still ongoing for the next 8 years, spotlighting and supporting talented entrepreneurs across Africa, to build inclusive business models that can create jobs and economic opportunities for the continent. For those people who are dreaming about entrepreneurship or building their businesses, I would really encourage you to apply for this prize in the coming years and to not miss your opportunity.
What advice do you have for young entrepreneurs like you out there?
My advice to young entrepreneurs is to learn how to tell their story. This is quite important to convincing customers, partners, investors and even employees that they have the right vision and that they are on the right mission.
Put yourself out there. There are many opportunities around us, we just have to figure out what and where they are and when to grab them. They say that luck is what happens when opportunity meets preparedness, we can create our own luck by a very big percentage is we are well placed for it. If you fear to go an extra mile you may hardly make it in entrepreneurship as it involves a lot of sacrifice and dedication.
Nigeria has its complexities when it comes to doing business but as an entrepreneur, try to figure out providing solutions to existing societal problem no matter big or small it may seem. With good planning, determination, and persistence, you will enjoy the amazing journey of entrepreneurship.
Finally, you should never lose sight of the fact that entrepreneurship should be enjoyable. Most start-ups in life begin as passion projects. If you are 100% invested in making something work; if you are willing to put all your energies into it – then you have half a chance. Never give up.
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