Micro-course Alumni Shares the Evolution of his Startup Business Plan
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Name: Ayobami Oladejo
Country of Origin: Nigeria
Country of Current Residence: South Africa
Global Scholars Program: “Platform Management, Strategy, & Innovation.” CGE’s inaugural micro-course in April of 2016
Education: MBA, BSc Mathematics
Work Experience: Current CEO Adroyte. Past Ericsson, Vodacom, MTN, Airtel
Inspiration: Solving real African problems with technology as an enabler
Ayobami Oladejo was among the 52 participants from the “Platform Management, Strategy, & Innovation,” CGE’s inaugural micro-course in April of 2016. Since participating in the course, Ayo has resigned from his position at Ericsson, a multinational networking and telecommunications equipment and services company, to focus on his startup, http://adroyte.com. Adroyte builds innovative value added payment systems on mobile networks, utility, and financial services infrastructures and recently participated in Google’s Launchpad Start Program in South Africa. Ayobami lists CGE’s micro-course among the factors that led him to fully embrace his startup.
CGE sat down with Ayobami to discuss his new company and how he has applied lessons learned from the Global Scholars program to his new venture.
Tell us about your background and how the idea for Adroyte.com came to be.
It is a dream that went on for a long time. We started building Adroyte when I was working full time in various organizations. I always wanted to solve problems and realized that one day, I’d have to focus on running a company that solves real African problems using technology. I started my career in Software Development, mostly web applications and then moved into the Telecoms industry in 2005. I was in a field of Telecoms that was just emerging and one that was at the forefront of blurring the line between IT and Telecoms. I was headhunted for a position in Swaziland in 2008 to help modernize the only mobile operator in the country. I then worked for Vodacom South Africa and eventually joined Ericsson in 2011. Through these times, I was developing software for use in various verticals but more specifically filling gaps in Telecoms in a personal capacity.
In October 2014; while attending a program in innovation at the Florida International University as part of my MBA at the University of Stellenbosch South Africa, I met a wonderful professor who listened to my story and told me that I should be doing more and that I have a chance to build a real company that would become an African pride. I finally resigned from Ericsson at the end of 2016 to focus on Adroyte as CEO. I also lecture part-time at the University of Stellenbosch Business School.
How does Adroyte.com meet an unmet need in South Africa?
Our focus is on Africa and indeed the developing world. In fact, our utility credit platform was first deployed in a network operator in India! We learned so much in both business processes and improving the technical aspects of the platform in India. At the moment, we are focusing on Africa and gaining some traction.
We modernize the way utilities vend their products from a distribution angle. On top of that, we provide intelligent analytics capabilities for them to make better decisions very fast. We also empower their big wholesalers with technology they didn’t have in the past.
On top of that, we provide platforms that convert the activities of customers of utility companies (mobile networks, electricity companies) into credit ratings for utility loans. We also provide credit facilities to small retailers of these utility products and this is a form of financial inclusion that enables them access capital to sell more. All these are data-driven powered by our in-house algorithms making use of several data points.
What were the most important lessons learned during the “Platform Management, Strategy, & Innovation” course?
CGE’s Platform Management, Strategy and Innovation course came at the right time. My previous work experience and education had helped a lot in shaping my career. But I have a principle of life-long learning and take opportunities to learn new things very seriously. The course expanded my thought process in platform thinking. I particularly found the network effect principle amazing and am grateful for being under the tutelage of Proffesor Geoffrey Parker. I eventually bought a hardback copy of the Platform Strategy book, Platform Revolution, which serves as my reference point when thinking of any platform issues. I intend to start a PhD soon and the course has really helped in narrowing my research endeavor.
How did the course help you accelerate your career goals?
I recall the course came at the point when I was debating the right time to leave my job. At the time, we were deploying some of our platforms and building new ones. It was also a time of refining our business model. The course helped me understand the different ways of entering new markets using platform strategies. After the course, I was more confident of our ability to use proven platform strategies and not just the traditional MBA and our technical expertise.
Tell us about the evolution of your business plan as an entrepreneur.
The definition of a startup that I love so much is by Steve Blank- a startup is a “temporary organization designed to search for a repeatable and scalable business model.”
I believe that until that scalable business model is achieved, the evolution must be very agile. And even after getting the business model right and a market fit, the evolution must continue. Facebook has evolved from a social network to EVERYTHING. Amazon also started as a bookstore and now is the everything store.
I believe what companies should be using is a business model, which is part of the strategic exercise and not a business plan. We use the Lean Canvas by Ash Maurya, which can be obtained from leancanvas.com.
The lean canvas is a living document for us and we keep going back to check the metrics to see if we are on track or need to change something very fast. For example, we used the single-sided strategy to build a new product for our customers, which aided the existing product offer. We offered a credit platform to a customer but their existing platform was legacy and we could not integrate to it. We had to offer them a new system and we will now make money from the new system as well as have the ability to integrate the credit product. Without an open mind, we could have just moved on and not taken the new opportunity. We will be selling this new system to other organzations too.
This is one of the principles of lean thinking, else we keep doing the same thing and realize the market is not in need of what we have built and resources wasted.
I suggest everyone should read Lean Analytics by Alistair Croll and Benjamin Yoskovitz.
What career and life advice do you have for other entrepreneurs?
I will refer to Bud Caddell:
- What can you do well?
- What do you like doing?
- What can you be paid to do?
If you as an entrepreneur can answer the three questions and successfully have an intersection, then you are ready to build a business. It is also important to grow but not become a bureaucratic dinosaur. Yes, there must be checks and balances but it must not affect your agility and decision making abilities.
Entrepreneurship can be a lonely journey, so it is important to have business partners with the same vision to help you get to the dream. It is also good to be flexible and open to learning from others. I believe in having a life and not compromising totally on family life and personal health. A good balance is very important.