Amazing interview with TOLU AJAYI. StartUP Africa had a an interesting discussion with a young Entrepreneur and investor . Tolu Ajayi is the Co-Founder/Managing Partner, at Trequity Capital is an asset management, investment and holding company based in Ikoyi, Lagos with a subsidiary annex in New York City.
For those who don’t know you, tell us in few words about yourself and your business.
About myself, Nigerian by birth, so first half of my life was spent growing up in Lagos. One of the most dynamic, effervescent cities in the world. I got the opportunity to form my core network of friends and business partners that I still rely on till today actually, the 2nd half of my life and college experiences were formed in the states however. Let’s just say an exposure to being in New York City (the World’s financial epicentre of the world), really gave me a sense grit, character, as well as an idea of what the opportunities within the world of finance were, especially for an immigrant kid from Nigeria. Of all the opportunities presented, a career in finance made sense to me, as I needed something that was both challenging and rewarding enough to keep my attention
Trequity Capital came about as a natural extension of what I had always done and excelled at, looking for or investing in undervalued assets/ opportunities/ ideas/ people, basically look in ideas where no one was looking either because they were out of favour or just mispriced through some sort of event. Pooled resources together and continued that practice of either investing in some of our passion projects or making strategic partnerships with other start-ups or businesses were there could be true value created by creating synergies and efficiencies.
What problem are you solving in Africa, in your country or your community?
A few. Having spent half of my life in Lagos and the other half in the States, I guess I could be considered part of the diaspora demographic. I’ve been fortunate enough to spend a lot of time in the states (NYC) around things that “work” and my hope is to leverage some of those insights and introduce those ideas, while maybe not in the same vein, but almost leap-frogging some of the areas of growth pains in the states and introducing or helping create or implement ideas that work into Lagos, Nigeria. A prime example is Agrolink www.myagrolink.com , a fully digital marketplace where farmers can trade with buyers/ aggregators using Artificial Intelligence and algorithms to geolocate the best price within proximity, super proud of this initiative.
Do you think this is the right time for your start-up to solve the problem?
Absolutely, no doubt in my mind. I think the technology; the people and the opportunities are there to facilitate and solve most of the problem we currently have. Now issues still exist, I will be the first to admit that there are some clear issues that still need to be contended with but the opportunities and areas for improvement far outweigh the challenges in my opinion.
Does your solution fit in the market? (Do people want it)?
I believe so. For as long as I’ve known, Nigerian GDP has been sometimes referred to as a “one trick pony” so to speak, we have been reliant on Oil to sustain our GDP for a very long time, well guess what? We got a good reminder of why that could be an issue during the pullback of Oil prices in 2014. The country is so resource rich
Tell us more about your team, why are you the best to solve this problem?
The company direction is by set by myself and my Managing Partner – Basheer Tosin Ashafa, an entrepreneur with more than a decade of expertise and experience in the Real Estate Sector which includes sub-sectors such as Facility Management, Property Leasing, Sales, Marketing, Project Management, amongst others. Our agribusiness lead, Femi Awoyemi, is an experienced agribusiness professional with competencies in commodity sourcing, exportation and agribusiness consulting. His success in the commodity sourcing and transportation business is built upon in-depth knowledge of the agribusiness sector and cultivating strategic partnerships. With the combination of skills and industry know-how between us (cutting across different fields), we have a team poised to solve the problem of financial inclusion through agriculture.
What makes you different in the market?
I think it’s a combination of local, tribal knowledge “so to speak” and the general awareness of how technology through mobility and data analytics can help solve some of the most basic rudimentary issues that still exist
How do you measure your success?
Quantity and efficiency. Quantity through the means of how many lives have been impacted for the better through the agrobusiness side of things for example and through efficiency. How quicker has the application made an everyday process? Specifically, though time spent. What took an hour to do before, should be taking no more than 15 mins
How innovative is your start-up?
One of the ways I can think of is using the idea of “big data” and introducing that into the Agribusiness world, specifically through the means of pricing and sourcing raw commodities and obviously having a deep source of those local, rural contacts now available, that kind of intelligence has not been available in the past
What advice do you have for budding entrepreneurs and new start-ups?
Find your passion early and dedicate your life towards it on a daily basis, if you cannot find a passion, find a problem and dedicate your life to continuously trying to solve it.
What is your top 3 inspiring entrepreneurs in your country?
Aliko Dangote, Adebayo Ogunlesi and Tony Elumelu