Get real with life: Interview with Alsu Ekinadose Odemwingie, Founder of StartupSity.biz

This week we were in Johannesburg, in South Africa with Alsu Ekinadose Odemwingie, founder of StartUpSity, a virtual startup accelerator dedicated to first time entrepreneurs who are looking for experienced and connected mentors and coaches to help them face their operational and strategic challenges. “we manufacture businesses” is the Slogan of StartUpSity. 

Alsu, started her company 15 years ago, at age 18, after her family was back to Nigeria from Russia, where she held a diploma in IT.

The moment you gaze at Alsu, you instantly know you have a force of nature in front of you. She is sharp, direct, engaging and compassionate. She gives away more than she takes, and her generosity makes her the perfect partner to seek out when you need someone to listen to you and lend a helping hand.

In this interview, Alsu shared her passion for life, business, and Africa with us. We need more people like Alsu in Africa.

Silicon Africa (SA): Good Morning, Alsu! You are the founder of StartUpSity. If someone asked you to tell them about your startup in about three sentences, what would you say?

Alsu Ekinadose Odemwingie (Alsu): I’ll say:

– a practice ground for starting entrepreneurs,
– a business work practice for students,
– a virtual startup business test incubator.

StartUpSity was born out of necessity for African Students, and Starting Entrepreneurs to harness opportunities for revenue, and job creation for Africa.

Silicon Africa (SA): How did the idea come to you? and How long you have been working on it?

Alsu: I have been working on this since I was 18, i am soon turning 33, marking almost 15 years on this journey. there are a lot of factors that influenced my choice of career and its process of development.

Primarily starting from the experience my family went through, as well as all professionals experienced at the time my family was in Russia, which is similar to what we are now going through in the global economy, collapsing and leaving all dreams exposed to the unpredictable future.

From the breakup of the USSR, lot of professionals became dispensable due to the change of the Communist regime. I started understanding what systems were. I saw how the respected professionals fell through the gap of systems change. Entrepreneurial IQ suddenly became of more importance both personally, socially, and business wise to survive.

I questioned myself and the common sayings like how really important is it  to get a formal education, and I wondered why one should study a profession that prepares you not for change? Where is the transition gap? How does a doctor who has been programmed to think about pro-life, now has to think first about his own survival vs the needy patient?

I come from a family of high end professionals. My Grandma was an electric engineer. My Granddad was a communications engineer heading a huge telecoms company held by the government, all their sisters and brothers were professors of Medicine, and engineering professions, and all in one day crashed taking with them their lives savings in devaluation.

Many didn’t survive the change. I told myself I wouldn’t let any system get so into me as to not notice when the clock of change strikes. I got a basic diploma in IT and told myself “go explore”, with the support of my parents as well.

On coming to Nigeria, I realized it wasn’t just Russia but also here in Nigeria, people were vulnerable to the same issue, I couldn’t get a job in IT, because most employers had no need for computers to operate on.

Back to 1998, in Africa, very few people knew what a computer was, let alone any software development. So I decided to “get real with life” and went in the streets in pursuit of my happiness.

I started looking into business projects to start, as I went along while working for 3 main organizations in Automobile, Construction, and Software development, at 23 I decided to drop working while expecting my first child and set on my dream in creating jobs for students, employees who were thinking of getting alternative income and startups that needed R&D.

Silicon Africa (SA): Why should I use StartUpSity, instead of joining a startup incubator or accelerator? How are you different?

Alsu: We are currently collaborating with SolveArea an Irish virtual Incubator on a campaign to save Ideas dying off before they even get out of the garage, and looking into collaboration with more incubators that offer services that complement us and we them. We strongly believe in collaboration.

How are we different from other incubators?
For starters, we all have different focus areas as competitors. We focus on practical skills acquisition for students needing work experience and startups needing test grounds and roll out strategies.

We don’t reveal our trade secrets, but I would say we follow a development process. We first virtualize ideas and concepts, then test in practice before we roll out the individuals and their incubated entities.

We have specific designed process on a personal level for our clients, and on a social level for the businesses in the environment they will be operating in. Because we deal mainly in Africa, our strategy and tools have been tailored to meet Africa’s needs in employment creation as well as a gradual growth for our incubates.

We don’t do magic but we Ignite dreams. We focus on the very start on the core of a business. The individual has to be prepared for entrepreneurship before he is ready to do business. Then we design the businesses and bring all the works together. Many in Africa presume trading is business, but that isn’t so.

Silicon Africa (SA): Is there any acceptance for your concept? Can you give us some incidents to illustrate that?

Alsu: We have been rolling out systematically testing our market . Currently in Nigeria we have an information line that hosts about 50,000 hits on an average monthly via sms in collaboration with Starfish and Airtel.

Our communication channels via Facebook has produced over 250,000 hits, currently having an open mentorship for 203 individuals subscribing to mentorship via BBM (BlackBerry Messenger). We use every possible communications systems available to reach out to the market.

We are soon rolling out our virtual incubator which is currently hosted on www.startupsity.biz. We are not perfect and we do not strive for absolutes, just as we let our clients be as they are and grow steady. Africa is very vulnerable, education wise and infrastructural, to expect unreasonable returns. We grow as our market develops.

We have managed tasks for many companies in Nigeria, like Adeniyi Coker Consultants Limited, British Airways, Corporate Kids Academy, MIS-Management Information Systems, Nigerian Cleaning Service Ltd, The Roding Medical Centre Ltd, and more.

In South Africa we are also growing, we came in last year. We spent real good time exploring the opportunities and we have succeeded, we have good projects going on here and about to roll out a project hosting 2000 jobs called “Flirt and Romance” a gifts and events company.

Silicon Africa (SA): Where do you see your startup five to ten years from now?

Alsu: We aim to develop intercontinental business sites for easy deployment of skills. Our head office will be located in South Africa. We are establishing locations in Nigeria starting with EDO state where I come from. We project to be in North Africa or the middle east, and East Africa, but for now we are establishing in Nigeria and South Africa to start with.

Our vision is to lay through Youth and Community revitalization programs and solutions, integrating 400,000 individuals and inserting 3000 business projects in areas needing jobs.

Silicon Africa (SA): What is your revenue model? Can you throw some light on how did you fund your project? Are you looking for investors?

Alsu: I have made it a principle to lay the foundation on income generated through the services we provided and provide, as well as support from family. Currently the holding is solemnly between I and my Brother Osaze Odemwingie. Our plan is to take it public in reasonable time and that would require talking to companies or individuals interested in investing in efforts and finance.

We have made a service exchange gestures between our clients and us to save the day as we don’t believe everything is based on cash.

We do currently have prospects we are talking to, and sure are inviting more. We are not discriminative as our vision is to rise Africa off its knees socially and economically. So individuals small companies with value added services are welcome.

Silicon Africa (SA): As an entrepreneur, what are your joys? What are the challenges?

Alsu: My joy is that I never give up regardless of the pressures that the business world places on me personally and progress wise. I do know I am in Africa and that means I have to endure certain setbacks but the spirit of the entrepreneur is only ignited when you see hurdles, if it was smooth sailing then I would be more afraid. If you don’t bump on individuals and issues then you are not alive.

Silicon Africa (SA): How big is your team? Give us some info on team composition. Number of people, their backgrounds. Are you looking at hiring?

Alsu: In Nigeria we are currently 2 management staff, and 10 Accounts managers, in South Africa we are 2 management and 5 accounts management staff.

5 development Mentors connected between Emirates, Congo, and Nigeria. We will be hiring individuals with the following backgrounds and this also applies to our consultants:

we will be hiring individuals with the following backgrounds and this also applies to our consultants

  1. Art : commercial arts, media, photography, art therapy
  2. Biological Sciences : technical writing, laboratory assistant, technician, research assistant, technologist
  3. Psychology : public relations, retail management, sales, market research, advertising, education
  4. English : education, public relations, technical writing, publishing
  5. Foreign Language : publishing, film industry, commerce, international business
  6. Political Science : journalism, non-profit work, business, broadcasting, law

Silicon Africa (SA): What are current major challenges? How can people reading you here could help you?

Alsu: In Africa we are under developed, and strategic minds are of utmost desire to us. We are in search for industry and specialized consultants, individuals who are online based to become our coaches and counselors.

Silicon Africa (SA): How could our readers get in contact with you?

Alsu: we are currently sorting out all our communication networks before lunching out. But best method for now is our portal www.startupsity.biz or
Head Office: 141 Lancaster Square, Roberts Avenue, Kensington 2090 Johannesburg, South Africa.

Phone: +27(011)0366535 sms Nigeria: +2348037195618
Email: www@startupsity.co.za
BBM: 28141378,
Twitter @startupsity,
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/StartUpSity.biz

Thanks Alsu

Here are some of the Best quotes from Alsu

“It’s often the last prince that gets the bride!”

“Those who keep others ignorant fall victims of it. you can’t fly higher than the sky you’ve built.”

“Money doesn’t solve management issues! More often it kills collaboration “creativity”!”

“Never be afraid to be called crazy “a man was called nuts for wanting to fly like a bird, today you are on a plane” don’t lose reality when implementing, but keep the dream that leads you to reality!”

“Courage is curbed at the early stage of development of a child! So he or she is unable to project themselves socially! When a parent in the bid to protect the kid don’t do it
properly they end up isolating the kid! Now if you multiply it by millions of kids what do u think happens economically! Where a nation of cowards and acts of cowardliness is implemented!”

“Demand loyalty when you are prepared to give it.”
“knowledge doesn’t often guarantee understanding. the depth of the oceans are not as strong as the energy flow of rivers. old things are gone the new has come. take a breath longer than the average man, and you will swim out alive.”

“Sometimes by stroke of luck we meet Diamonds for people, but our fears shadow them over as just stones! If only one wipes the dust of their eyes we would see the glittering crystal

For those who have been hurt by those who have been hurt, do not carry their hurt! Wipe off that dust and shine again in the light that u truly are!”

“Africa the cradle of life
yet believes it is a slave!
your children are spread all over the world
yet you do not feel like a mother!
be happy that your kids are better than you.
be humble not arrogant in your joy
give more, remain endless for no one can be without you!”

The road to success isn’t straight, but narrow!
Success of a business is evaluated in 5 ways, this is what investors are seeking!

1. Do you have the right combination of Staff, Supliers, Partners?
2. Are you fulfilling the Mission of your clients, and the Vision of your company parallel to each other?
3. Are you a prefered supplier of services in the market, are you creating new standards in your industry?
4. Have you established a credit/debit system that enables you to complete tasks in a needed timeframe?
5. Are you flexible enough to transition through market shifts?
6. Are you exploring new hights going to where others havnt?

Problems are indicators of opportunity! Understanding the cause of the problem and proving it can be solved is an indicator that allows you to start achieving 1 to 6!

smart businesses is what makes success draw to you.

 

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About Mawuna KOUTONIN

Mawuna Koutonin is a world peace activist who relentlessly works to empower people to express their full potential and pursue their dreams, regardless of their background. He is the Editior of SiliconAfrica.com, Founder of Goodbuzz.net, and Social activist for Africa Renaissance. Koutonin’s ultimate dream is to open a world-class human potential development school in Africa in 2017. If you are interested in learning more about this venture or Koutonin’s other projects, you can reach him directly by emailing at mk@linkcrafter.com.

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