You’d recall the agonising story of the promising Nigerian fintech startup that shut down operations following a dispute of shares dilution between the founder and a family-tied early-stage investor.
After discussions with the investor broke down, Abdulhamid Hassan — founder of now-defunct OyaPay — shut down his less than a one-year-old company and joined Paystack as a product manager.
But Hassan has since quit Paystack for a surprising foray back into entrepreneurship.
In an interview with Techpoint, Hassan revealed that he quit Paystack in October and now co-runs the company called Voyance.
What’s Voyance about?
The new company, which derives its name from the word clairvoyance, is a machine learning platform that democratises machine learning by turning everyone in an organisation into a data scientist.
“A lot of companies have data but don’t know what to do with it. Voyance is a machine learning platform which allows businesses to upload their data and predict what matters to them,” affirmed Hassan.
Organisations in emerging markets like Africa are increasingly looking at machine learning to help them solve business problems and drive efficiency.
Good examples are banks looking to handle a recurring task like reconciliation or retail outlets in need of proper insight into customer behaviour in a bid to gain a data edge over the competition and to make better predictions.
However, implementing a machine learning process to drive impactful decisions requires a diverse team with expertise in several skill areas. And it is no secret that there is a skills gap on the local front.
“I’ve seen companies hire scientists from abroad because they are very scarce in Nigeria, and the challenge is having to find someone that is really talented in terms of machine learning,” affirmed Hassan.
Voyance has plans to tap into the emerging pool of data analysts in startups across West Africa to solve their respective organisational data problems. In Nigeria alone, according to him, that pool has at least one million data analysts. But first, they need to be upskilled.
Hassan believes that many of these young data analysts are good with essential data analytic tools but do not have a competitive edge when it comes to predictive analytics.
He is confident in his ability to lead Voyance and bridge the knowledge gap.
But how so?
Although OyaPay’s demise had nothing to do with lack of product-market fit, the label of a failed startup founder is a heavy burden in this part of the world.
Needless to say that the short time between Hassan’s moves from being the founder of a failed startup to an employee and then back to being a founder leaves a lot of room for further doubt.
Hassan is aware that the situation he finds himself in is a rather awkward one, but insists his experience as a founder and a product manager at Paystack means he is more than up for the task with Voyance.
“OyaPay was a lesson for me. It helped me to understand what kind of investor to bring into the company. Maybe not on the entrepreneurship side of things, but in terms of people to trust and investors to bring on board. As for Paystack, working there gave me all the insights on how successful startups are built and those lessons are what I’m using to build Voyance,” Hassan explained.
He also pointed out the role of strong domain expertise with Voyance. Before OyaPay, Hassan worked as a product manager at a leading French artificial intelligence company in the area of customer support automation. His founding partner, who he refers to as “ET” is a senior machine learning engineer, who worked at Two Sigma as a senior data engineer.
“The idea is that when you have a support system, which we have now from our investor side, talented team, and domain expertise, the only problem will be the market,” Hassan emphasised.
The product is currently being tested by companies and individuals with shared excitement about data science.
Interestingly, banks in Ghana happen to be taking the lead in that regard. Even for a new company, Voyance has raised a six-figure pre-seed round and is on course to close in on a more significant investment which will launch the product and set expansion plans in motion.
At this point, all that’s left to ask is whether Voyance would attain the heights that OyaPay didn’t.
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Nigerian startups raised $55.4m in Q1 2020; over 99% of which came from foreign sources. Find out more when you download the full report.