18 May From Student Entrepreneurship Week Ghana to Facebook F8
The sages say that every generation has a newcomer – that person or group that seemingly emerged from nowhere and shakes things up. These are people like Picasso, Steve Jobs, Zuck, Silas Adekunle of Reach Robotics and so on. While it might be too early to make comparisons, Baffour Adu Boampong and his Co-founder, Roberta Akoto, are two young Ghanaians you need to keep an eye on. These young entrepreneurs were second runners up in the Young Money Business Pitch session at Student Entrepreneurship Week Ghana.
They just returned from Silicon Valley last weekend, having been invited by Facebook to participate in F8; an annual Facebook Developer Conference held in San Jose – the only team from Ghana with such invitation!
We caught up with them to have some chit-chats. And they’re generous with their insights, enjoy!
Tell us about yourselves and what made you choose entrepreneurship?
Baffour Adu Boampong (BAB): I’m a software engineer and co-founder of Epay. A major part of being a software engineer is critical thinking and problem solving before programming. This opened my eyes to see a lot of challenges we face in Ghana hence the decision to dive into entrepreneurship.
Roberta Akoto (RA): I would say I was somewhat dragged into entrepreneurship by my co-founder, Baffour. I’ve always loved challenges and I’d say that I chose entrepreneurship after Baffour and I brainstormed through the challenges of fixing a payment system for a client. We saw a broader view of the challenge and were motivated to solve it.
Tell us about your experiences before starting your business?
BAB: After my first year of learning how to code on my own, I became a freelancer – building and designing corporate websites for startup companies and family friends. And all these happened in my first year of University. These experiences gave me the courage for the work we’re doing today.
RA: For me, it was all about school work, and learning programming on my own. Then my friends and I started working on projects to solve some of the problems we saw around us. Our first project was called AppGharage, a platform that will help recruiters find tech talents. This was the idea we pitched at Student Entrepreneurship Week Ghana. We had a client’s project and integrating payments on the platform required a long process. We thought that if this client had the challenge, chances are others might be facing a similar challenge as well. This led to building Epay – in 5 days – and I’m proud to say that Epay is your secure, global online payment suite for everyday needs.
How did participating in Student Entrepreneurship Week Ghana help your business?
BAB: My co-founder and I have technical backgrounds and I can say with confidence that the Student Entrepreneurship week opened up our eyes to see more opportunities. We also got to understand that although the technical abilities help you build the product, you need to be able to sell it in order to keep it running and make it a business.
RA: Participating in Student Entrepreneurship week I would say was a great beginning for our business. We had an idea which we thought was the biggest business space to get in. We came second in the pitch competition and part of our prize was a hands-on training with Workshed. The feedback, business guidance and all opportunities given to us by SFAN and Workshed helped us a lot to rethink and shape our business to what it is now and how it’s going to be in the future.
What is your ambition?
BAB: I want to be an inspiration to other developers especially to the upcoming ones. I want to be the reason many young people will believe in their dreams. Also, I want to build a company that’d groom young developers, especially women, into successful developers. A lot of companies are looking to hire extremely talented software engineers. They only invest in senior developers. I think it’s important that we see many female software engineers in our ecosystem – like my co-founder, Roberta.
RA: I’ve always wanted to be a role model for other young ladies. In our part of the world, some ladies often have a limited view of life. They don’t aspire for great things beyond entertainment, either because of a limited understanding or their environment. This is one thing I’m glad I’ve been able to work on and has brought me this far. I think, choosing a software engineering career has changed me a lot.
You were both in Silicon Valley recently for Facebook F8, what would you say is your biggest learning?
BAB: A lot of us from this part of the world (Africa) don’t think beyond Africa or even our country’s boundaries. That mindset is really limiting. This trip to Silicon Valley made me believe that no matter who you are, where you come from or what you do, you can achieve whatever your dreams or goals are – regardless of how crazy it may be!
RA: My biggest lesson is to not be scared of trying something new. Also, I can’t emphasize enough on the importance of being a part of a community.
SFAN: What should we expect from your team in the next year?
We wish we could say all the things we have in mind but one of the things we learned from this trip is to talk less and do more. All we can say for now is to follow our story and see us build the future we envision.
Advice for young people.
BAB: It was just a dream in 2016 for me to see Mark Zuckerberg with my own eyes. Today, it’s no more a dream but a reality. Anyone’s dreams can come true. I’m not sure who said this but I live by this quote, “You’ve not failed until you stop trying”. If you want to be an entrepreneur, understand this: a lot of people will project their fears unto you. Many of your friends will leave you. You might not get support from your family. But don’t give up – learn from your mistakes and keep striving. I’ve had three failed business, but when I look back, I’m very grateful to God for the strength, opportunities, and people He brings into my life. I’m still getting started but achieving the result my team and I have achieved, within four years of university, gives me joy.
RA: I’ll say, if there’s something you’re really passionate about, don’t wait to get everything needed before you start. And, to the ladies, do your best to transcend the lady spirit and strive for something you wish to get. It’s not to compete with guys but to be who you are and focus on what you want.
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Tom-Chris Emewulu is the Founder & President of SFAN. He is an education enthusiast, entrepreneurship and career coach, a consultant at Mastercard Foundation, Seedstars Ambassador for Ghana, and an aspiring Venture Capitalist.