As the number of Nigerians online increases exponentially so does their demand for goods and services online and this has led to the rise to technology entrepreneurs. This post lists the top startup founders in Nigeria, gives a little biography of them and lists their similarities.
*The names of these Nigerian startup founders are arranged in no particular order.
TUNDE KEHINDE: He is the Co-founder and Managing Director at Africa Courier Express (ACE) which is a new logistics company with great prospects. He’s also looking to hire some geniuses interested in the logistics business, you can apply at ace.ng.
Tunde is also a Co-Founder of Jumia Nigeria and was once its Managing Director. He also worked as a Business Development Manager at Diageo. Tunde is also a co-founder of Bandeka.com which is an online dating platform, it was rated by Forbes as one of the hottest tech start-ups in Africa.
He has a Bachelors degree in Business Administration from Howard University and a Master of Business Administration (M.B.A.) degree from Harvard Business School.
TAYO OVIOSU: He is the founder and Chief Executive Officer at Paga which is one of Nigeria’s top electronic and mobile payment companies. He holds a Bachelors degree in Electrical Engineering from the University of Southern California and also has an MBA from Stanford University Graduate School of Business.
Tayo worked as a Senior Consultant at Deloitte Consulting, Business Development Summer Associate at Lucent Technologies, Vice President at Travant Capital Partners, Manager; Acquisitions and Venture Investments at Cisco Systems.
SIMDUL SHAGAYA: Born April 2nd, 1976, Sim as he is fondly called is the founder and Chairman of the popular ecommerce website Konga Online Shopping Limited and is a renowned techpreneur. He holds a Bachelors degree in Electrical Engineering from The George Washington University, a Masters degree in Engineering Management from Dartmouth College and an MBA from Harvard Business School all in the United States of America. He also served for in while in the Nigerian Army after graduating from the Nigerian Military School (NMS), Zaria.
Sim has worked in quite a number of top companies worldwide and has a lot of startups to his name. He started his career as a Product Manager at MicroStrategy Inc., moved to Real Networks as a Product Manager Intern, became the Vice President, West Africa at Rand Merchant Bank and was an Africa Representative at Google Inc.
He is the Co-Founder and was a CEO of E-Motion Advertising Ltd and founder of Dealdey; Nigeria’s biggest online deals website which was recently acquired by Ringier AG for an undisclosed sum. He was named among the “10 Most Powerful Men in Africa” in 2014 by Forbes. He has won several other awards some of which are: CNBC/All Africa Business Leaders Award in West Africa Entrepreneur of the Year award in 2013 and the 2014 Leadership CEO of the Year award by The Leadership Conference/Awards.
RAPHAEL AFAEDOR: He is a co-Founder and the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Supermart.ng, he is also a Co-Founder at jumia.com.ng and was once its Managing Director. He holds a Bachelor and Masters degree in Computer Science from the Czech Technical University in Prague, he also holds a Masters degree in Marketing/Marketing Management from IUKB – Switzerland and an MBA from Harvard Business School.
He has worked with several companies which include Monster.com as Software Engineer, European Product Manager and Senior Manager, European Products. He also worked as an Investment Manager with Goldman Sachs and was a Head of Marketing & Business Development and Head of Sales (for West, Central & North Africa) at Notore Chemical Industries, He was the MD/CEO of Sestava Group in 2011.
Honors and Awards won by him include: ‘Best New Retail Launch’ awarded to Jumia Nigeria, Top 40 Under 40 by Business Day Nigeria, co-Chairman Harvard Africa Business Conference – Harvard Business School, Best Final Project – IUKB , Best Graduating Foreign Student – CTU and the West African Examinations Council Award For Academic Excellence.
OPEYEMI AWOYEMI: He is a co-founder of Jobberman.com, Nigeria’s leading jobs website and founder of WhoGoHost.com, Nigeria’s leading web hosting service. He holds a Bachelors degree in Computer Science and Engineering from Obafemi Awolowo University and has attended short courses at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School and the University of Huddersfield.
Opeyemi has worked as ED, Technology at Top30Under30 and was a Campus Facilitator at Springhill Projects. He has lectured at the School of Media and Communications, Pan African University and is a Product Director at One Africa Media. He also founded ennovateNIGERIA and is a partner at VentureKinetics. He is a Two Time “The Future Awards” Nominee and was listed among top 1000 Young Nigerian Entrepreneurs in 2007.
MARK ESSIEN: Mark Essien is the founder of Hotels.ng, the most popular online hotel booking website in Nigeria. He has a Bachelors degree in Computer Hardware Engineering and a Masters degree in Computer Science both obtained from schools in Germany.
His first job was as a night watchman guarding a paralyzed man in Germany, He worked at Snoopstar.com for two years as a software developer and has created several softwares which include Grumm, Standard MPEG which is one of the first MPEG encoders and has been bought by companies like Disney and the US Military, he is also the founder of Max Klein Apps.
Mark was listed in the Forbes 2015 Most Promising Young Entrepreneurs In Africa and in his free time volunteers at DEMECA Health an NGO which provides wheelchairs to people with mobility issues in Nigeria. He speaks English, German and Efik and is interested in Robots, Writing, Reading, Chess and riding bicycles.
JASON NJOKU : Born December 11th, 1980, he is the Founder and CEO of Iroko Partners Limited which is the largest distributor of Nollywood movies online and according to him; he’s an “Igbo-Kung Fu Samurai Warrior Geek”. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Chemistry from The University of Manchester, UK.
Njoku started a Spark.ng – a venture capital company in Nigeria with a 2 million dollar capital base which invests in promising startups. The company has invested in startups including Hotels.ng, Drinks.ng and ToLet.com.ng. He is married to Nollywood star Mary Remmy Njoku.
He was listed among the ‘Ten Young African Millionaires to Watch’ by Forbes in 2012 and was also awarded the CNBC All Africa Business Awards ‘Young Leader of the Year for West Africa’ in 2013, he is listed in Fast Company’s ‘Top 1000 Most Creative People in Business’.
GBOLAHAN FAGBURE – He is the Co-Founder & CEO Supermart.ng which is the largest online supermarket in Nigeria, he is also the co-Founder of Jumia.com. He has a Bachelor’s degree in Industrial Economics from the University of Warwick, another Bachelor’s degree in Management Studies from the University of Leicester and an M.sc in International Management and Consulting from the University of Reading.
He began his career as a University Brand Manager for Global Career Company, moved to Credit Suisse to become an Analyst, worked as an Analyst with Goldman Sachs and became a Senior Associate at KPMG, He is a Director at Road Repair Company, Founder/Director at Vartis Strategic Partners, former Director, Operations at Jumia Nigeria, Founder/Host of Speaker Series Africa, Director at Africa Speaker Agency.
Gbolahan has been nominated for and won many awards, among them are Entrepreneur of the Year at the 2016 British Council Alumni Awards, Associate Fellow at the Nigeria Leadership Initiative (NLI), Best New Retail Launch (Jumia) at the 2013 World Retail Awards, Finalist in the ‘Enterprise Support’ category at The Future Awards Africa and Best Graduating Student in the Business School and Faculty of Social Sciences at the University of Leicester in 2006.
CHIKA NWOBI: He is the founder of Level 5 Lab (L5 Lab) and a Co-Founder of Cheki.com.ng, one of the biggest websites for selling cars in Nigeria. He has a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science and Economics from the East Tennessee State University, he has also done some short courses at Tsinghua University and INSEAD.
He has worked as a Solution Consultant with Airtuit Inc., was the Group Managing Director/CEO (co-founder) of MTech Communications Plc, Chairman (Founder) – CNMedia, Co-Founder/ Director at 440.NG, Non-Executive Director at Jobberman.com,
He has been nominated for Entrepreneur of the Year at The Future Awards 2007, nominated for Person of the Year at The Future Awards 2007 and nominated as member of Nigeria 2025 Scenarios Team.
AYODEJI ADEWUNMI – Is a Co-Founder at Jobberman.com which is the leading job search engine in West Africa. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Medicine and Surgery from Obafemi Awolowo University, Nigeria and has done short courses at the University of Oxford’s Said Business School and Harvard Business School.
He started working as an Advisory Intern with Goldman Sachs and then went on to start an online real estate company called RealEstateweb where he served as President, Strategy & Business Operations. He is presently the Curator of Top30Under30. He is a recipient of many Honors and Awards some of which are: University Student of the Year, Inaugural Malaria Awards (2006), TEDGlobal 2007 fellow, Winner, Olukoye Ransome Kuti Essay Competition in 2008.
ABIOLA OLANIRAN: He is the Founder and CEO of Gamsole which is one of the largest mobile game production companies in Africa. He holds a Bachelors degree in Computer Science from Obafemi Awolowo University. His company has made very popular mobile games such as Gidi Run.
He was a Google Student Ambassador and worked as a Developer Intern at M-Tech Mobile. He won the 2010 Microsoft Nigeria Imagine Cup Software competition and represented Nigeria at the world final of Microsoft Imagine Cup software competition at Warsaw, Poland. He was the winner of Samsung Nigeria Developer Challenge for the Games and Entertainment category in 2010.
SIMILARITIES OF THE TOP STARTUP FOUNDERS IN NIGERIA LISTED ABOVE
- Did you notice that they are all males? It seems like Nigerian ladies are not venturing into technology at all, that needs to change.
- They are all young people.
- All of them have Bachelor Degrees.
- Six out of eleven of them have Master’s degrees (MBA inclusive).
- Four of them have MBA’s.
- All of them have worked at firms at one point in time.
- Most of them are Co-Founders which means they teamed up with other likeminded people to achieve their goal.
- Majority of them have been educated (Bachelor’s degree, Master’s degree, Certificate Courses) in developed countries – USA, UK, Germany.
- Many of them – Jason, Tunde, Ayodeji and Gbolahan did not read technology related courses.
- All of them are Southerners – Does it mean Northerners are not technologically inclined?
From the similarities above, I infer that:
- Getting a bachelor’s degree gives you an edge when it comes to getting innovative ideas and implementing them.
- Females in Nigeria need to be encouraged to lean towards technology and also establish great startups.
- You are not too young to start anything.
- Getting your Master’s degree especially a Masters in Business Administration (MBA) is an added advantage (It helps you manage your business properly).
- Getting work experience is great for managing your own company.
- Team work yields excellent results when you team up with the right person(s).
- Visiting and staying in developed countries is helpful for getting ideas which you can implement locally.
- Your course of study and even level of education cannot deter you from achieving anything – Ayodeji Adewunmi studied Medicine and Surgery but is one of the top IT guys in Nigeria.