Founders Connect, a YouTube show showcasing the journeys of founders and operators in Nigeria’s tech ecosystem, hosted its first in-person event, Founders Connect Live, on Saturday, July 8, 2023. The event brought founders, operators and industry professions and brought founders, operators and industry professionals to share knowledge, inspiration and insights.

Be driven by a purpose

Ms Funke at Founders connect
Image source: Twitter

During interviews and keynote addresses, the speakers shared their experiences as founders and operators at startups. Following the format of her YouTube show, Peace interviewed Funke Okpeke, the founder and CEO of MainOne. MainOne is the provider of the first privately owned, open-access 7,000-kilometer undersea high-capacity cable submarine connection in West Africa. Okpeke shared that she is driven by a desire to create a better digital outcome for Nigeria.  She believes that  “increased access to high-quality digital technology will empower young people.”

The Greiner Curve framework

Founders Connect

Mitchell Elegbe, the founder of fintech company Interswitch, offered insightful advice to fellow founders on the importance of anticipating and preparing for setbacks and failures. Drawing from his own experiences, he shared how the Greiner Curve framework can provide a valuable perspective on the challenges organizations encounter during their growth journey. According to Elegbe, “Around three years into our venture at Interswitch, we found ourselves dedicating more time to discussing the problems we faced rather than implementing solutions. It was at this point that I recognized we had entered Stage 5 of the Greiner Curve.”

Elegbe also stressed the vital role of building business resilience and employee satisfaction through appropriate compensation for staff members. These factors, he advised, are essential for sustainable growth and long-term success in the business landscape.

You don’t have to be a founder

Babajide and Bayo at Founders connect
Image source: Twitter

In a spirited discussion, General Manager at M-KOPA, Babajide Duroshola, and the Group CEO of Wakanow, Bayo Adedeji shed light on the often underappreciated value of non-founders within startups., Bayo amusingly remarked, “Salary is not what they pay you to forget your dreams. Sometimes a salary can be worth more than your dreams.” He humorously alluded to the 2021 salary of Peter Kern, the CEO of Expedia, an American online travel company similar to Wakanow, which amounted to $296 million. During their session, both Babajide and Bayo underscored the demand for and value of operators who are driven by results and deeply committed to fulfilling the vision of the founders who employ them. Babajide further advised the audience to take a step back, assess the reality of their situation, and focus on creating value.

Grow your network

Highlighting the importance of building a robust professional network, Maya Horgan-Famodu, the founder of Ingressive Capital, engaged in a brief conversation with Joyce Imiegha, a co-producer of Founder’s Connect. Maya candidly shared her personal journey, growing up in an underprivileged family and how she relentlessly pursued networking opportunities, reaching out door-to-door and sending cold direct messages to expand Ingressive Capital. However, Maya emphasized that the key to building a great professional network lies in connecting with like-minded individuals and consistently providing them with value. “Don’t approach a relationship with an ask; instead, focus on giving. Create valuable content that they will find useful and consistently share it with them,” she concluded.

Following Maya Horgan-Famodu’s talk, a networking session followed, providing the audience with an opportunity to put into practice the lessons they had learned and connect with other attendees

Tell your story and find a community 

In addition to traditional networking, there are other ways to grow your professional circle and even your businesses. Victor Fatanmi, a co-founder of Fullgap, spoke about how telling stories about oneself or other people can help one form meaningful connections with peers and customers. Fola Olatunji David, a senior business development manager of AWS in Africa, gave a keynote speech on the significance of finding the right communities and how they can accelerate growth.

The road is long 

Peace Itimi and Tayo Oviosu
Image source: Twitter

Peace had another interview with Tayo Oviosu, the founder of Paga. Their conversation titled “Playing the Long Term Game” delved into lessons Tayo has learned in his entrepreneurial journey, He encouraged professionals and founders to seek mentors, align decisions with long-term goals, and find fulfillment in their work.

As the learning sessions drew to a close, Odun Eweniyi, the founder of Piggy Bank, fielded questions from attendees about her fintech platform PiggyVest, her female-focused VC FirstCheck, and her experiences as a woman in the tech ecosystem. When asked about the best startup advice she had received, she responded simply, “Mind your business.”

To conclude the event, the attendees enjoyed a raffle draw, live musical performances, engaging games, and opportunities to interact with their peers and the sponsors of Founders Connect. 

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