To mark the start of our Tech-Success interview series, an interview segment with Entrepreneurs who have damned all odds and dared to succeed. Which we intend to bring to you periodically, we are joined by Saheed Adepoju, who is reputed to be Africa’s tablet computer pioneer.
Saheed is a Co-founder of the Encipher Group; a Technology Company based in Nigeria that produced Nigeria’s first tablet computer called ‘Inye‘.
The ‘Inye’ received global attention for being the first tablet invention to come out of Africa, at some point Saheed was called Africa’s Steve jobs for his innovation.
Both Saheed and the ‘Inye’ became news and everyone simply wanted to meet this young Nigerian who had dared tell the world that Africa had potentials and could invent things.
Forbes, CNN, BBC, the Sunday Times, Punch and a host of the global and local media power houses queued up to hear Saheed’s story. He has given speeches at Google day, E-Nigeria, the Economist conference and a host of others.
We are happy that Saheed found the time to join us for the maiden edition of our Tech-Success series, and very glad to learn from someone who clearly used online marketing hacks to attract global attention to a made in Nigeria product.
We wanted him to share his experiences so that we can learn from it and also inspire young Nigerians and Africans who want to start up their businesses or already running their start-up companies.
Saheed Adepoju: My idea and concept for business came from watching late Steve Jobs launch the Apple IPAD. I realized that such a product within the Nigerian market would be an instant hit because the Nigerian internet space is saturated with mobile internet.
So I decided to launch a local product which aimed to provide internet access via a mobile internet device (aka tablet)
Saheed Adepoju: My mission was to actually give the opportunity to IT companies in Nigeria to test out their mobile apps on actual tablets rather than emulators. In doing so, I realized that end consumers had interest as well so we pushed into the consumer section.
Saheed Adepoju: INYE translates to number 1 in Igala language. My co-founder is Igala and we looked for a name which will show the efforts of two people. I am Yoruba and the originator of the idea so I felt it unwise to go ahead and use a Yoruba word to name the project.
For inclusion purposes we decided to use the igala word for Number ‘1’. This was to signify that we were truly first in Nigeria and Africa to launch a localized android tablet PC.
Saheed Adepoju: Well we did two things. First, we signed an MOU with TechLoy, a growing technology blog at the time which was widely read worldwide. Secondly, we made sure we used social media as the main entry point into our company.
So we had a good website, Facebook page, Twitter handle. The very first one was WIRED UK; we had just used Techloy to announce that Google had acquired Encipher for $1m or so. It created a frenzy and people called from across the world.
This was April 1st. So we employed the Google strategy of using April 1st to create ‘fake’ news in order to gain traction.
It worked. We didn’t need to pay for any advertising. The moment WIRED covered our story, the rest of the media people came calling. Social media was the powerhouse to get attention. We had zero advertising budgets, no office and no staff.
Saheed Adepoju: Social media was the powerhouse to get attention. We had zero advertising budgets, no office and no staff.
Saheed Adepoju: As a person, INYE became a household name for the first tablet PC. I realized as an individual that one can build a brand from absolutely nothing to international and worldwide stardom.
As a person, I am grateful to have followed the course of my dream and achieved the goal of building a consumer brand.
Saheed Adepoju: The biggest issue was funding. Funding was important because it enables us to bring in the precise volume in order to justify a low price. We exited the market in order to avoid huge debts. The tablet market also became saturated 2-3years after we had started and led to a false start.
Saheed Adepoju: I may have gone the route of pre-ordering devices. Customers would pay and then get their tablets after a pre-defined period. This may have helped with cash flows.
Saheed Adepoju: The government did not support the INYE. They were keen to use our success of the brand internationally for their own brand management but that was it. However, I had the privilege of being part of the committee that finalized the ICT policy document and this was the biggest highlight from a government perspective.
Saheed Adepoju: I have since decided to concentrate on building specialized hardware products with the aim of solving local problems. At the moment, there is a specialized device for vehicle traffic counting.
Saheed Adepoju: The experience of branding INYE is helping me create strategies to build other brands including my current start-up. For now, nothing has eclipsed the attention the INYE got.
Saheed Adepoju: Day starts at 9-10am for me. Typically will do research and catch up on new things within the space I work with.
If there are clients to see, I drive up to them. By 4pm, I pick up my wife from the bank. I work within the kitchen section of the bank right up to 8pm when the traffic is clear. I get home at about 10pm.
Saheed Adepoju: Only give up on your dream if the person discouraging you and saying it is impossible can predict the future.
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