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?
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
- Art : commercial arts, media, photography, art therapy
- Biological Sciences : technical writing, laboratory assistant, technician, research assistant, technologist
- Psychology : public relations, retail management, sales, market research, advertising, education
- English : education, public relations, technical writing, publishing
- Foreign Language : publishing, film industry, commerce, international business
- 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
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.