Recruiting at Techpoint; Lessons learnt - You can only be brilliant, average or poor

December 16, 2016
14 min read

As soon as word got out that Techpoint was recruiting, we got an outpouring of response. Over a hundred people wanted a chance to join the Techpoint gang. However, we need just a few smart people who can think fast on their feet. So we asked some easy questions that required answers in under an hour. We were not looking for right or wrong answers, we simply wanted the clever ones.

With the first phase of the recruitment process completed, we decided to share the questions and the best answers we got.

Startup Aficionado


QuestionIn the animal kingdom, which ones would be the Venture Capitalists/ Angel Investors, founders and employee? Give reasons why.

Here, we wanted to test the creative imaginations, story-telling and their knowledge of the startup ecosystem. Most of the answers in this category featured Lions as VCs/founders and bees as employees. We felt that these answers were generic. We wanted the applicants to come up with other animals that could suit these roles. However, we have a winning answer.


Venture Capitalist - Rat

Rats had the most finely attuned early warning system, ability to predict, excellent listening abilities and excellent networks

What was interesting was that rats were the first to disappear -- they were nowhere to be seen eight days before the earthquake. Normally, rats are everywhere and in very large numbers in tropical forests. That they should completely disappear was amazing. It tallies with these ancient stories of all the rats fleeing a city before an earthquake.

Founder - Alpha Wolf


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Master Communicator- Alpha wolves are social animals known for using their howl like a sophisticated instrument to keep their pack synced. But don’t start barking orders at your team. Instead as an alpha leader, keep your pack aligned with focused, emotionally-charged communication. Research published in Harvard Business Review found that the best leaders circulate actively and have short, high-energy conversations with team members. They communicate equally with individuals in the “pack” and make sure each one has a chance to contribute.

Build The Pack To Mass- Once a wolf pack hits five or more members, even lone wolves within it start to share a collective calling. The same is true in your company. Attract enough talented people who embrace a big vision you set, are mission-oriented, align with the values you design--and your leadership will make everyone want to contribute even more.


  1. Meer Kats -  Meer Kats live in the harsh and dangerous conditions of Africa. They have adopted a very smart survival strategy, which is based on mutual trust. One member is assigned the job of guard while the mob feeds. As soon as they spot any danger, they alert the whole clan, which then has enough time to run for safety. The amount of trust the mob places on each other is massive; one slip of alerting the mob can be the difference between life and death, but they still do it with a high rate of success.
  2. Chimpanzees- Chimpanzees, who have been in conflict with each other at a previous occasion, are likely to be near each other in a conflict against another. This close proximity allows the exchange of grooming, hugs and kisses, which serves to diffuse the chances of future conflict. After fights, the chimp who comes off worse in a conflict is the one who initiates reconciliation.
  3. Killer Whales - Killer Whales are the most dangerous predators that roam the seas. They understand the power of collaboration and coordination to increase their success rate in finding preys. They hunt down whales much bigger in size than them as easily as they pick up unsuspecting seal on an iceberg. In fact, they are the only species to have perfected the art of picking up prey from the beach without getting beached.

Mentor: Elephants

Animals with experience, particularly elephants, “are considered repositories of knowledge,” Smith says. They have a lot of wisdom that they bring to decisions, and it appears that their followers are gaining some benefit by following someone who’s informed.

Social Media Junkie

Photo Credit: Anne Helmond Flickr via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: Anne Helmond Flickr via Compfight cc

Question: If Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat were African countries, what countries would they be and why?

The intention here is to reveal the applicant’s understanding of the inherent characteristics of the most popular social media platforms. While most applicants fell into the trap of relying solely on obvious metrics like population for comparison, a few others offered a bit of depth and commendable storytelling.

Below are the best 3 answers we received, in no particular order.

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‎Answer 1

Facebook would definitely be Kenya, a day filled with chasing wild animals is the only explanation why news always get there late. Even Mark's African visit started trending on Facebook a week after.

Twitter has got to be South Africa, there's always one protest or the other happening on Twitter, everyone feels violated on Twitter.

Instagram is so Nigeria, with all the rich pictures and empty stomachs. You don't have to reach deep to see the truth.

Snapchat is what westerners mean when they say " I just got back from Africa"

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Answer 2

If Facebook were to be a country in Africa, it’s definitely going to be Nigeria. First Facebook is the most populous social network which is like Nigeria to Africa. Looking at Facebook, you will see several similarities with Nigerians like not minding their business, always trying to know what's on other people's mind and forcing their opinion on you not minding your standpoint or viewpoint.

Twitter would definitely be South Africa, always on the news with news of growth and development but no significant change in their behaviour or mode of living. I would have said Algeria due to the fact that it's the second most populous country, but Algeria and Twitter doesn't [sic] have that much in common.

Instagram no doubt will be Ghana, always trying to be alone but somehow still gets stringed up to its elder brother Facebook(Nigeria).

Snapchat no doubt will be Rwanda, comes out of the blues and breaks the internet with beautiful planned cities and currently holds a record with its Capital city Kigali as Africa's most beautiful city. Snapchat's rise to fame is attributed to its live features which Facebook tried to buy but couldn't so they try as much as they can to copy, that's how Nigeria ended up with Lagos, trying to be the most beautiful city in Africa coupling with being the most populous nation too.

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Answer 3

Facebook would be Nigeria. Besides qualifying as most active users of Facebook, Nigeria ever growing population can also be related to Facebook. Mark Zuckerberg must have seen the close resemblance that's why he chose Nigeria to be the first country in sub Sahara Africa he visited.

Twitter would be Kenya. They are both small but mighty. The maximum words that can be posted at once and the population of Kenya are complementary. Kenya is also one of the fastest growing Technology-savvy African countries. The Economist published that a popular thought was that Evan Williams, one of the co-founders of Twitter, made his first post from Kenya. The rate of Twitter Utilization as far back as early 2015 qualifies them as the most active users of Twitter then in Africa.

Instagram would be South Africa. For me Instagram sometimes is a picture of what you to see or for lack of a better a diversion from reality, really! South Africa is just the opposite of the picture people paint about Africa, they are advanced, they have a different weather from the rest and even their skin colour is different. Also cost of living is expensive as watching Instagram videos without WiFi

Snapchat would be Zimbabwe. My knowledge about this country is close to Zero except about their President. Just like snappy you can find pictures of him flying around with different weird quotes and truly from dog nose to customized weird faces of Snappy followers can be found on people's DP and timeline. And truly Snapchat for me is like a reality show of a celebrity's life.

 Consumer Junkie


Question: Describe your ideal smartphone in detail, assuming it didn’t exist.

When it comes to detailing consumer products, it is tempting, especially for techies, to go the easier route of mundane technicalities (such as specs) without considering real life implications. By asking applicants to describe their ideal, yet non-existent smartphone, we hoped to arouse their creativity to fashion something out of nothing.

We had a strong bias towards responses that managed to relegate specs to the background. While we didn't receive many satisfactory answers, below are the more interesting ones we got.

.    .    .    .

Answer 1

My ideal smartphone is sleek. Slim width, understands me and seamlessly adjusts itself to be everything I want at any point in time. I see a phone that changes colour, backgrounds and tones to fit my moods and requirements. A phone that gives me the exact song I'm thinking about even before I fully form the thought.

I love writing, I want a phone I can talk to as the words come to my head and it can put them in words as beautifully as they come so I won't have to lose my thoughts and words in transition or get tired from typing. I want a phone that I can use as a pro camera and take award winning photos. I want to watch movies on my phone and feel like I'm having a personal cinema experience, surround sound, all the effects without loss of clarity.

I want a phone that’s mine and unstealable, it simply won’t respond to no one else, it will rather die-off. I am quite curious, i want a phone that will answer all my questions immediately I ask them, to the fullest extent possible and help me retain my smart girl status. I need a phone that makes reading as enjoyable as with my favorite paper back in all its page turning goodness.

But most of all, I want a phone with zero carbon footprints. That at the end of its life, it leaves the earth quietly and without harming the earth or my health in any way. I want a phone that I'll bury and plant flowers on it, and they'll grow to a garden.

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Answer 2

My phone has become my closest companion ever, and as phones get smarter the bond gets stronger. However I still await the smartphone of my dreams, that smartphone carefully constructed to help me live smarter by allowing me do all the things I enjoy in smarter ways.

As much as I enjoying playing games and seeing movies on large phone screens, I hate the stress of having to carry large phones around, so my dream smartphone will possess a flexible screen that I can manipulate to suit my current mood. It is small when I need to stash it in my pocket and big when I need to stare at the screen

I love writing, and sometimes typing can feel like so much work. I would love my closest companion to be able to listen and return words to me efficiently. This should go beyond the normal unreliable voice transcription apps available. It will also be great if my smartphone can talk back and engage me in conversations; give me recommendations and corrections on my write up or anything at all.  It will be so cool if my closest companion can become an editor or my debate opponent.

Sometimes I don’t feel like sharing my sounds and at the same time wearing earplugs and headsets seem really uncomfortable. It will be simply amazing if my smart phone can stream sounds to my ear without any hardware.

I will love these extra features together with other cool features like exceptional screen resolution and display (3D screen), a one- week battery life, exceptional processing power and a phone that comes up with wonderful accessories and gadgets (maybe one that can cook) .

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Answer 3

It's almost 2017. If you don't have a smartphone yet you're definitely in the wrong era.

For the nerds, a smartphone is an advanced mobile operating system which combines features of a personal computer with other features useful for mobile use. They are usually pocket-sized, have features of mobile phones and can access the internet. For the laymen, it's a device that somehow has the ability to make and receive phone calls, access the internet, play music and videos and take awesome pictures too.

My ideal smartphone like anybody's will have above features and a little something extra to make it special and also make me a proud owner of such device. My ideal phone should have the following features:

Fingerprint scanner: I don't particularly like using passwords and unlock patterns but I can't leave my phone unlocked and accessible to all. I like the easy way and fingerprint scanner couldn't have been any easier. Finger print scanners should be present for my privacy and security concerns.

Fast charging: Nobody enjoys waiting endlessly for his device to get charged. Even using it while it is plugged is still uncomfortable. I definitely would like to plug my phone blink and see a full battery.

Lightweight: As much as I like the idea of keeping fit and exercising regularly, I don't think I should have a mobile phone that fits into the weight lifting section of a gym with me. Oh yes, I could get those arms I so much want to get but let's leave the weightlifting for the gym and get me a lightweight phone.

Water resistant: It's not like I know how to swim but I hate getting worried about my phone each time it's raining or when I am washing. A water resistant phone assures you that your mobile device is hydro-indestructible (I made that up).

Dual camera: The name says it all. Dual means two and it is common knowledge that two heads are better than one. Dual cameras make it possible for stereo photography that is taking pictures in 3D. I definitely like that.

Thin: No I don't mean razor sharp but I don't want to be carrying a cuboid around either, I'm not a mathematics teacher! By thin I mean well...thin.

Long battery life: My being a Nigerian resident makes me want this particular feature. Carrying power banks about is not exactly enjoyable. I and most Nigerians except for grannies (who just text and make calls with their phones} would like phones with at least 4000 mAh.

Large screen: Yes, large screen. I happen to like gaming a lot and a small screen is just unacceptable. 5.5" is just perfect.

Android OS: Because why choose iOS when you can get almost everything for free  with Android.

Retina display: This is the shit! The human is unable to identify the individual pixels making the image super sharp and brilliant. Yes I want this.

Smooth seductive body and tough screen: Because I still want it to look pretty after my klutzy instincts kick in.

4GB RAM: I still don't know what to do with the whole 4GB RAM so why ask for more?

128GB internal memory: It's plenty right? I don't like inserting and re-inserting memory cards. So 128GB of memory is just right.

Does not Overheat: It's a mobile phone not a laundry iron. I don't want that will give me burns holding it.

Affordable: This is actually the first thing I look for. If it's above my "pay-grade" I just keep scrolling down. So, yes I want something I can pay for without selling half of my properties.

I think I've given Samsung, Tecno, LG and the rest of them a bit of a challenge.

Policy Watcher


Question: Aliko Dangote, Mike Adenuga, Aminu Dantata and Innocent Chukwuma are vying for presidency.

  • Who would you vote for?
  • Why?
  • What are the likely policies your candidate would advocate for when he’s in power?

The most important part of the question is the 'why?' We wanted to test the candidates knowledge of these three entrepreneurs and how the policies that they would be passionate to drive when they are in power. While we got a lot of answers, most of the candidates did not display an in-depth knowledge of the entreprenueral giants and the impact of their businesses in the Nigerian economy.

Below is the the most interesting response.

.     .      .     .

I would vote for Aliko Dangote.

B. This decision is inspired by my love for Dangote's business development model. In the 21st Century emerging economies and highly developed economies have been built on a diversified growth model powered by technology. Nigerian socio-economic peculiarities demand a growth approach which is built on diversification of resources and powered by SMEs just like China.

The Dangote Group has emerged from application of technology to home grown businesses which are scalable. With his declaration of interest to build refineries and set operations in 2019 makes me admire him the more as the champion of Nigeria economic growth. Nigeria has to dominate other markets in Africa before it could successfully expand into the world market and get a fair share of the globalized capitalist economy. This approach in Dangote's business model has also inspired my choice.

C. Nigerians must do away with the luxury of foreign goods. This in essence implies an orientation campaign for 'made in Nigeria' products. The untold story of American economic success is the patriotic spirit of Americans during the isolationists policy adopted by the American freedom fighters against European mercantilism and attempted domination of the New World.

This spirit lead Americans to build within and patronize home grown products even though some products were sub standard than those made in Europe. The fact that a product is made in America labels it standard and sort-after because of love for the young nation. As a policy and culture, my presidential candidate must support this posture to earn my trust.

There is need to adopt a technology revolution approach to Nigerian economic development. Nigerian economy thrived on Agriculture from independence to 1970s when the oil boom made her leaders go crazy about economic excesses. Oil since 1970 till the present state of economic recession has sustained Nigeria and it is obviously facing out leaving enormous socio-economic challenges.

It is time for Nigeria to look up to mobile, automobile and industrial technology as a reliable hope for the nation. Nigeria rather waste resources in revamping moribund oil facilities should support tech startup hubs and restructure the obsolete class room education to reflect sincerity in technology growth model. This policy stand should be pushed in practicable and sustainable approach with a more capitalist undertone rather lip dancing in a bureaucratic circle.

An ideal candidate for a heterogeneous nation like should live above ethnic and religious sentiments. He should allow his trigger force to be controlled by economic ambition rather than ethnic fanaticism. National policies should be initiated on the ground of its policy gains not to for political or ethnic victimization. Attempts should be made to divest the 1999 Constitution of clauses that enthrone mediocrity over meritocracy just to impress a particular group.

While in power, the policy compass of ideal candidate could be summarized as thus: Diversify Nigerian economy from a raw material dependent economy to a technology driven economy powered by SMEs. This can only be achieved when the ideal candidate stands above power and ethnic politics.

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In the end, about 30% of the initial applicants were shortlisted to go through to the next phase, which is currently ongoing.

Techpoint Africa is a digital media company that amplifies the best innovations out of Africa through its mediadata, and events.
Techpoint Africa is a digital media company that amplifies the best innovations out of Africa through its mediadata, and events.
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