How This Nigerian Entrepreneur Built Two Online Businesses Each Worth Over $100 Million Dollars Before The Age Of 30
Most successful entrepreneurs first start from spotting a need or problem in the market, building a product or service that can solve the problem, and then making the market understand why they chose to solve the problem and how their solution is best suited to improve the lives and businesses of the consumers.
Their ability to find an innovative way to build successful businesses that prioritize the satisfaction of prospects several times over consistently forms the framework that goes on to guarantee their success.
This is the success story of an inspiring Nigerian tech entrepreneur who has undoubtedly contributed to a drastic change in the technology scene of the African continent.
His name is Iyinoluwa Samuel Aboyeji, the founder and CEO of Flutterwave, a digital payments infrastructure platform helping to connect Africa to the global economy by assisting banks and businesses with making secure payments, and former co-founder of Andela.
Here’s how he did it:
The Early Life And Education Of Iyinoluwa Samuel Aboyeji
Iyinoluwa Samuel Aboyeji (popularly known as “E”) was born on March 28th, 1991, to parents from Warri, Delta state. He was raised in Nigeria, living in Lagos, Abuja and Warri at different points in his life.
He graduated from the Loyola Jesuit College, Abuja, in 2007, and subsequently studied at Columbia International College and earned degrees in International Development, Legal Studies, and Economics, before furthering his education at the University of Waterloo, where he earned a B.A in Legal Studies.
Journey Into Entrepreneurship
As a teenager, Iyinoluwa Samuel Aboyeji worked within several local and international organizations; as an intern with the World Youth Alliance (in the United Nations Headquarters), and also as Leader of the Board at Imprint Publications (one of Canada’s largest student-owned publishing houses). He also worked at Harambe Africa and Empowerment Squared.
Despite gaining a law degree, Iyinoluwa was always a techie who had mostly been obsessed with and focused on new innovations in education technology and pedagogy.
At the age of 18, he co-founded Bookneto, a social e-learning platform for University professors to independently teach online courses by combining easy access to academic material and resources with the power of social networking to help students interact and study effectively. During that time, Iyinolowa had co-founded and worked with few companies in the field like Zanbato and Fora, a distance learning platform for African universities. When Fora didn’t really live up to expectation, Aboyeji and others then moved on to other projects.
The Journey To Andela
In 2014, Iyinoluwa Samuel Aboyeji teamed up with his old white friend, Jeremy Johnson, to form Andela, a talent accelerator that recruits and trains software developers, pays them as they learn, and connects them with employers.
It grew to become one of Nigeria’s best-known startups and became a huge success that it has been dubbed a company “harder to get into than Harvard” by CNN. The company is also backed by both Google and a later first $24 million investment from Facebook founder Zuckerberg.
Soon, Iyinoluwa Samuel Aboyeji helped build it to over $100 million market cap in two years.
The Switch To Flutterwave
In 2016, Iyinoluwa Samuel Aboyeji left Andela to start Flutterwave, a technology and infrastructure solutions provider for digital payments across Africa.
Flutterwave was founded in 2016 in San Francisco, California to primarily provide technology, infrastructure and services to enable global merchants, payment service providers and Pan African banks to carry out customised financial solutions on a much more sophisticated scale.
It helps businesses in Africa go global by providing a smooth exchange of funds in more than 150 currencies. And beyond this, the app has an API for developers to use in creating several more financial apps themselves.
In 2018 alone, Flutterwave announced that it processed over $1 billion (N365 billion) worth of transactions. And by the end of 2019, Flutterwave was already worth over $100 million.
On speaking about the trials of his entrepreneurial journey, Iyinoluwa Samuel Aboyeji said in an interview on OpenTraction:
“The most impactful event in my life was on December 10, 2005. A few of my friends passed away in a plane crash despite crash-landing at an airport because the airport had no emergency fire trucks with water. These my friends, were some of the most intelligent people I knew — and I would have been one of them but for the fact that I opted for a separate travel arrangement.
The incident made me realize that personal success cannot insulate you from the failures of your society. It also shaped how I handled business to this day. I don’t see entrepreneurship as a way to personally enrich myself but as a tool for social change. It must be done not just for profit or personal interest but most importantly as a service in the public interest.
Find great co-founders and work together on an important problem. These two things are indispensable.
Lots of people waste their time working on problems that don’t move the needle for people, products that don’t save them time or lives or give people much-needed opportunities. Stuff that doesn’t change their life. If you aren’t building something that’s ensuring prosperity and progress is within everyone’s reach, you may be successful but it won’t mean much in the grand scheme of things.
If you want to do important work you must have the courage to be disliked.
In Nigeria, there is no shortage of good people minding their business and trying to be at peace with all men. But these ‘good people’ are also the reason why our country has so many obvious problems.
I used to be one of these people so I know. These days I try really hard to make sure that I’m not just doing things to be liked. I say and do what I believe to be true at the time — regardless of who is offended or how unpopular it may be. I really couldn’t care less.
Firstly, I wish I understood the importance and uniqueness of African business modelling much earlier in my entrepreneurial career. I made a lot of mistakes tinkering around with impossible unit economics in tiny markets. I see a lot of well-funded giants still make some of the mistakes I made earlier in my career. But understanding the intricate relationships between value creation and value capture has been so important for me.”
Iyinoluwa Samuel Aboyeji’s Impact On Society
Iyinoluwa Aboyeji has received several awards and honours including:
- The John C. Holland Award for Youth Leadership, awarded by JC Holland Foundation in 2010.
- Nigeria’s top 20 under 20, awarded by Ynaija! in 2011.
- World Economic Forum Global Shaper in 2012
- Forbes 30 under 30 Most Promising Young Entrepreneurs in Africa in 2015.
- The Future Awards Africa Nigeria Prize nomination for Young Person of the Year 2017
The success story of Iyinoluwa Samuel Aboyeji is a clear example of how there is no age limit to when you can start your entrepreneurial journey.
With hard work and resilience, you can accomplish anything no matter how old or young you are.
Despite his young age, Iyinoluwa devoted himself to work and held on to his drive to make a difference.
From Andela to Flutterwave, he grew businesses that fulfilled that dream.
What drives you to chase your entrepreneurial dream?
As of the time of publishing this article in January 2020, Iyinoluwa is still 28 years old.