Femi Onakanren – Founder of a Real Time Service Experience Sharing Mobile App in Nigeria
tagChief is a location based and real-time service experience sharing application. It enables users to discover and/or tag locations of interest and share their real-time experiences. When at those locations, users can share their experience with the tagChief community anywhere in the world thus improving overall customer experiences and getting value for every service of interest.
1. Tell us about yourself and your business
I’m Femi Onakanren, MD/CEO of Eigenvalue Nigeria Limited. I am a graduate of Metallurgical and Materials Engineering from the University of Lagos. Eigenvalue Nigeria Limited is a business solution provider focused on delivering innovative, technology driven products and services for effective value realization between stakeholders.
Our flagship product is the tagChief Mobile Application (available on Google Playstore) and Enterprise Solution platform, a social accountability platform disrupting customer experience management across different industries and regulator processes.
We firmly believe that Nigeria, and by extension Africa, will get better once we can recreate a sense of ownership and accountability to help harness the huge potentials of its people. Our plan and contribution is to provide a platform for inclusion and accountability and we have deployed the platform.
2. How much did you need to start your business and how were you able to raise that capital?
We believe firmly in building scalable products/solutions and leveraging on the insights acquired form the process. We started the business on pittance and believed more in using what skills and experiences we have especially in the product validation period. Subsequently, we made sure we only raised what was critically needed to meet specific needs as described in our scalable products/solutions policy.
We started with less than N100,000 equivalent to $280 and have since built a company and product valued at over $10,000,000. Our initial investments were from personal savings and investment from family and friends.
3. What are some of the challenges you face in your business and how do you overcome those challenges?
Because we are primarily an intellectual property driven business with little brick and mortar inclinations, a big challenge was getting the buy-in of traditional institutions and the people to accept our products and methods of approaching business development, both strategically and organically. However, we were able to overcome these with strong results.
At a point in building and deploying our flagship product, we focused on a top-down approach but soon realized that funding is not the most critical thing in achieving success. We reworked the system, through an arduous process and period but learned valuable lessons on the journey. We understood the need for a cultural fit and the learning curve of the average African and adjusted our product and services towards these. We realized early that the normal issues often raised like infrastructure, capital etc. are not the critical challenges entrepreneurs face in this climes, it’s about delivering a product that matches the cultural profile and sensibilities of the people and the active demography. Once this is done, the other issues are easily resolved.
4. Where do you see your business in 5 years from now and what steps are you taking today to reach that objective?
5 years from now… Hmm. We hope to have transformed the face of customer experience management in Nigeria and Africa.
We hope to have created a platform for better services and innovation for the benefit of customers, to be part of a society that is committed to growth, innovation and prosperity.
Our approach towards achieving this is through inclusion. We believe that empowering the mind, especially through non-academic inclusion, would engender a sense of ownership. We have a ‘fan base’ of acolytes committed to having a better country so I guess our job is really easy. We will keep the platform functional which will allow us to achieve our objectives as a company and as a society.
5. What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs looking to start a business or invest in Africa?
Africa is a beautiful landscape brimming with opportunities and potentials. However, most of the message is about the challenges and inadequacies. My advice would be to focus, do your homework, and fully commit.
There will be challenges but the rewards far outweigh the challenges. Remember, without those challenges, the rich opportunities would be nonexistent.
Above all, whichever endeavor or investment you seek, always look for the cultural fit. Western projections and assumptions rarely work in this space and it is wise to understand and appreciate the nuances of the industry and sector you are pursuing, especially in the African context.
Get good advisers and partners who understand the terrain and can help you avoid some of the less obvious pitfalls.
6. How is your business participating to the development of Africa?
We are committed to social accountability and transparency in the corporate world and in governance. We built the tagChief platform specifically to empower the average, often unheard, often maligned African; man, woman, child, disabled etc. who feels disenfranchised and disconnected to the African project, many of whom have lost faith and identity.
Our objective is to marry our African values (hard work, respect, integrity, responsibility, honor, duty and family) with the opportunities provided by technology and the evolving world.
Currently, as a result of our platform and efforts, service providers are on their toes and this sense of having a say, a voice, in a non-frivolous sense would awaken the sleeping giant and marshal our potentials across board, in governance, corporate services etc.