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When accelerator, 440.ng released the list of nine startups that they had selected to invest in, the Nigeria tech scene was in an ‘e-uproar’. The accelerator received a backlash in form of negative commentary, overriding opinion being that the 9 startups were not innovative, that they were copycat startups. I don’t see why you can’t copy if you can improve upon the existing tech, but maybe that’s just me.
Whether the backlash was deserved or undeserved is a matter of opinion but 440.ng released a statement on the company blog. The summary of the blog post would be, “We do not invest in innovative startups”. l know that that sounds almost crazy but there is indeed a method to their selection.
Now, Techpoint.ng is on a mission to find out what makes 440.ng’s “non-innovative” startups so peculiar. Perhaps the most interesting startup on that list to me [feel free to drop your comments in the comments section, we are here to listen] is Obiwezy. The newly funded startup, which is named after its owner, has operated from a base at computer village, for over three years; that certainly gives it a more relatable outlook.
Here’s our interview with Obafemi Onanuga, the founder of Obiwezy. I hope we asked the questions you would have:
TP: Tell us about your startup.
OO: Obiwezy provides customers the opportunity to procure quality used smartphones with warranty, ( via obiwezy.com) we also provide customers with the opportunity to get New device models by trading in their old/currently in-use smartphones thereby saving up to 40% on new device purchase (via obiwezyswap.com)
TP: We understand that you had been selling out computer village for a while, why did you decide to seek for funding?
OO: Having noticed that our business was majorly online as against offline, noting that our offline structure was purely for order fulfilment and we had leveraged purely on Facebook, we highlighted the need for further expansion to operate fully online and scale the business. This of course required funding.
TP: Tell us why you think your startup is a solution to Nigerian needs.
OO: The need to communicate has now merged with social status, where mobile phone usage now portrays social class. Nigerians, being the most aspirational people in the world, always require the best and the latest trends in everything especially in mobile phone usage, however, cost is a limiting factor, Obiwezy provides a solution by offering top quality refreshed devices and discounts on new device purchase via obiwezyswap. It is even beyond mere cost as most businesses in Nigeria including major e-commerce businesses are characterized by mistrust and zero aftersales services. Obiwezy intends to be with the customer at pre and post purchase.
TP: What should we expect from you in 2015?
OO: In 2015 we intend to build capacity both human and structural, so as to provide excellent customer services and maximum efficiency. We are also working on some major strategic partnership with major stakeholders within our ecosystem which would be announced in the coming weeks.
TP: What’s the impact of 440ng on your startup; and any plans for scaling?
OO: 440ng has been more of a training program, and it is this learning opportunity that attracted us to 440 as against other offers we had prior to joining the program. 440ng has been influential towards business model restructuring and business scaling.
TP: What is your team strength right now?
OO: We are now at a staff strength of 14, which includes our I.T department, Marketing and sales, Engineering, logistics, accounting and business development segments.
TP: Logistics and delivery is the prevalent problem of most e-commerce companies, how do you intend to solve this?
OO: We have set-up 3 swap centres around Lagos, and we are looking to increase this by ten. These swap centres would also serve as fulfilment-Pick up centres, and we plan to encourage customers via incentives to plug into pick-up as against direct doorstep delivery, this including our internal SMART logistics system should ensure consistent efficient delivery.
TP: The gadgets you sell, are they new or used? If they are used, how do you intend to maintain a warranty offering?
OO: We sell trusted used gadgets with warranty, unless during swaps where we partner with New device sellers in upgrading customer phone models. Thus on new devices, warranty is as standard manufacturer’s warranty, and on OBIWEZY REFRESHED devices, warranty is internal, and redeemable at our service centres. Don’t forget that after used phones are procured by obiwezy, they go through an internal refreshing-makeover process where we ensure quality and then provide warranty.
440.ng is looking for startups, whose founders have the doggedness and skills necessary to deliver value, for whatever their business idea may be. I don’t doubt that Obiwezy, given the background, can achieve the heights that they have set their sights on. Having personally experienced their services, I have a lot of confidence in Obafemi and the team. You should patronize him and see for yourself, I know I did.
Will 440’s approach work? Time will tell. But to the detractors of this crop of 440.ng funded startups, I say every startup deserves a fighting chance.