Technology is said to be conquering the whole world, with a lot of innovations and applications on ground to make life easier for mankind. Mark Afolabi, a Technology Entrepreneur (Techpreneur), who doubles as the CEO of Whitespaces; a technology and Eco-diversified company, bares his mind to Niyi Oyedeji, as he talks about the future of Technology in Nigeria.
Techpreneur looks like the next in-thing, what exactly is it about?
To me, a techpreneur is an entrepreneur that applies and leverages on technological solutions to solve daily individual and business needs.
Do you consider yourself as one?
While I normally don’t call myself a techpreneur, I find myself in the category of entrepreneurs exploring technology to solve daily needs of people thereby making a business out of it. You can call me one (smile)
What inspired you to venture it?
From a very tender age, I’ve always been curious about computers, I wanted to know how they really work. I’ll spend hours at my school computer lab just marvelling at the beauty of commanding a machine and getting responses. Then when I clocked 10, my dad got me a personal Desktop computer, which changed the whole story for me.
I got close and personal with it, I could remember dismantling the whole system looking for what works inside of it (smiles).
Gradually I started reading about computers, the technology behind them, their uses beyond playing games and using Microsoft office, it totally blew my mind.
Coupled with my daily experiences I knew venturing into technology will define my path.
Did you study something related to it?
I studied Food Science and Technology (FST), well I can say my course has a twist of technology application in its entirety. But as regards what I do currently, my course is not related
How is the journey so far?
Humbling. Running a business in Nigeria will find a way to humble you. I want to appreciate God for the process so far, it’s been a complete learning curve and I’m currently growing.
Is there any major challenge you can remember that almost discouraged you to continue?
Finance. You need money to make anything work in Nigeria, there was a time everything was practically collapsing; no funds for internet subscription, couldn’t fuel the generator, couldn’t pay salaries etc. Imagine a business that has most of its dependence on the internet and unable to subscribe to the internet?
- Apply technology to agric for economic growth ―Stakeholders
How long have you been in this business?Seven years now.
How do you see the future of Techpreneurship in Nigeria?
I believe techpreneurs hold a golden key to solving most of Nigeria’s problem, thus becoming extremely successful in the process, but the system must support people in the industry.
Like how many and which kind of jobs do you think it could offer Nigerians?
The job potentials are in millions, virtually all the youths can find a place to exist and be self-sufficient in the technology space.
Considering companies like ourselves (WhiteSpaces), PlanetNest, Andela, Prunedge with goals of bringing more people into technology. I will say much more can be achieved.
Kind of jobs includes but not limited to, software engineers, designers, project managers, customer support, technical writers, product managers, social media managers, sales and marketing etc
Which product do you currently have in the market?
Asides developing custom solutions for business in diverse sectors like education, manufacturing, finance, E-commerce, oil and gas etc.
I’ll mention 2 products we’ve developed in-house. We have Qualify.ng an online learning platform that allows people to get a professional certification which they can use to advance their business or career.
We also have Banta (Getbanta.com) a mobile app that allows people to share their thoughts, secrets and seek for help anonymously, it’s currently available on Google Play Store.
What inspired the product?
For Qualify.ng, we all know getting a university degree is no longer enough, people need to go the extra length to become more certified to gain a competitive edge, so we came up with Qualify to ease gaining that extra edge.
For Banta, depression is becoming rampant, abuse is relatively alarming, relationship issues, career-related problems and even political issues are always coming up. People want a place to express themselves or even vent without attaching their identity, Banta was developed to that effect
What is in it for people?
Qualify believes that through education, everyone has the power to change their lives, and ultimately the world, for the better.
With Qualify, you can use the new skills and knowledge you just acquire to improve how you work, to get that new job, promotion or college placement, or to even start a new business.
For Banta, you get to share those thoughts bothering you with an online community that is interested in helping you become better without judging you.
What is your future projection for your company?
We will continue to solve day to day problems using technology, but we will diversify our portfolio and pick interests in other industries.
What do you think would be the major challenge for other vibrant youths considering venturing into Techpreneurship?
Power, reliable and affordable internet and access to early adopters
Judging from the view of a Techpreneur, What is the strength of Nigeria so far? What are the programmes on ground you see hindering or encouraging Techpreneur?
Nigeria is not deeply rooted or determined to explore technology and use it for economy fixes and turn around.
While Technology companies have done more to keep youths busy, and also increase FX flow, I believe the government should subsidise the cost of internet, improve electricity conditions and create enabling hubs across the country.
Whitespaces is training youths to become tech savvy and get good jobs, PlannetNest is training thousands of engineers, Univelcity is doing same while CCHub, Venture platforms, Startpreneurs are providing incubation and acceleration facilities for tech business. This is applaudable.
In the next 10 years, how do you see our technological advancement in Nigeria?
Believe it or not, the technology ecosystem has come to stay.
In 10 years, we will have a more grounded technology industry with a lot of lessons learnt and successful breakthroughs.