Ulrich Sossou started his first internet business out of a cyber café in 2006. At the time, he didn’t own a computer because couldn’t afford one. Today, Ulrich has co-founded more than three successful startups, contributed to major software projects and created millions of dollars in value for his clients.
On this week’s How I Work, Ulrich shares his inspiring career journey and how he maintains his productivity.
Current role: Co-founder & CEO at Happierco
Location: Cotonou, Benin.
Current computer: MacBook Pro 13”
Current mobile device: iPhone XS Max
Describe how you work in one word: Journey
Tell us briefly about how you started out and how you got where you are today
It started during the summer of 2005 after I got my high school diploma. I was going to the cyber cafe daily to look for a university in North America or Europe. My curious young mind became addicted to the amazing resources I found online on various subjects. But at more than $10/day, the cyber cafe was very expensive so I started looking for ways to earn money online.
I worked first as a copywriter and English-to-French translator, and within one year I learned computer programming. I worked remotely with companies from across the world as a software developer, built Bootstrap Tour, the most popular open-source project from an African developer, and wrote a technical book. Then one day, I had an idea, built the software, and sold it to the company I was working with. They earned several million dollars in revenue from that software alone within six months. It was great to see something I built could take off so quickly and be useful, but I wasn’t capturing much of the value.
I quit consulting in 2013 and started some SaaS products, most of which failed. I recorded success in 2016 when we sold FlyerCo to an American company after building it up to more than 10,000 users. I co-founded TEKXL, a startup studio, in Cotonou and joined EtriLabs (etrilabs.com) to develop the tech ecosystem in Francophone Africa.
We started Happierco in 2017 to help growing companies solve employee engagement and performance issues, and build their ideal company culture. I’ve been the CEO since late 2018.
Walk us through a recent workday
I’m a very early bird; I work from home from 4 or 5 a.m. (sometimes even from 2 or 3 a.m.) till 10 or 11 a.m. I focus on my personal tasks, coding, fixing bugs, working on UX/UI, cold-emailing potential customers, replying to actual customers.
I go to the office after a quick breakfast. At the office, I work mostly with team members, peer-programming, reviewing tasks, brainstorming, having 1-on-1 meetings, discussing marketing strategy, etc.
I try to leave the office early — between 4 and 5 p.m. — so that I can sleep early, but sometimes working with team members is just too exciting, or we would play table tennis and have fun, so I’ll stay there late till 8 or 9 p.m.
What apps, gadgets, or tools can’t you live without?
Happierco for tracking my work and performance. Jira for tasks management. Pages/Google Docs for writing. Excel for finances. Visual Studio Code/SourceTree for programming. Calm for meditation. Notes for various things
What’s your favourite shortcut or hack?
Sleep. I try to always be well-rested and avoid coffee and other stimulants.
What tasks do you dislike yet have to do?
Non-productive meetings. Though I avoid them as much as possible, I still have several of them every month.
How do you keep track of what you have to do?
I use Happierco for the big picture at work and Notes for personal tasks.
How do you recharge or take a break?
I love spending alone time just contemplating life. Sometimes I would read books or watch a few movies, alone. It helps me recharge when I feel down or overwhelmed.
What do you enjoy or spend time doing besides work?
Meditating, watching movies, dancing, travelling, and spending time with friends. I’m not sure if I should mention reading because I read a lot but mostly business books.
What are you currently reading, watching or listening to, or what do you recommend?
Listening to: No.6 Collaborations Project by Ed Sheeran, The Lion King by Beyonce, and Layers by Kungs. Watching: Money Heist (Yeah, I know I’m late). Strongly recommended books: Obviously Awesome by April Dunford, Measure What Matters by John Doerr, and User Story Mapping by Jeff Patton.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
Be excellent in everything you do — at work, personal relations, everything. Try to be the best you can be. Also, don’t be too hard on yourself. This advice came from various people at different stages of my life and has been very valuable.
What’s a problem you’re still trying to solve?
Keeping people happy doing what they love because passion drives people to unlock their full potential and do great things. The broad theme of my life has been to help others pursue their passions and be successful; my company Happierco solves this problem in the workspace.
Who else would you like to see answer these questions?
Iyinoluwa Aboyeji, Victor Asemota, Mark Essien, Edem Kumodzi.
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