The idea of TeamApt came to me during my time working at Interswitch where I designed and built a virtual machine for point of sales.
This machine cut down POS application by an estimated 90%. Gaining knowledge with projects such as this, enabled me to chart a direction towards his personal goal of creating value to financial prosperity.
Talent Acquisition is one of the biggest challenges I faced and still face. I launched the company just at the moment when the Nigerian currency began to devalue.
This economic problem which is beyond our control made local talents become attractive to global markets because they were cheaper for their quality.
This increased emigration and remote work opportunities for quality software engineers. Of course the increased demand also increased the cost of talent acquisition which in turn can affect margins.
One of the lowest points was when we lost a key talented engineer to Microsoft. We were at the depth of an important deployment for a key customer with stiff schedules and the engineer was poached with a H1B offer. This delayed the project and the customer we not pleased at all. We almost lost the deal.
TeamApt was bootstrapped as a company from inception and began with startup capital of N15 Million (approximately $42,000). We started by doing a lot of ‘side hustles’ such as payment projects for companies around.
We were fortunately selected for some important enterprise project for some banks and payment firms. Our clients paid us upfront and this provided the bootstrapping capital.
$5.5 million Funding
Our pitch deck reached Quantum Capital and they were intrigued by the scale we had achieved with little external help. We were also at a stage that we needed strategic funding partners and they fit the profile we needed.
From Nigeria to the World
We have already started expansion in Ghana, Kenya, Liberia and South Africa are in the works at the moment. We would also expand into a Latin American country, Canada and the United States in the nearest future.
TeamApt is currently creating a cashless economy for emerging markets and is positioned to become a global player leading the frontiers of technology for finances and other industry verticals.
We will evolve to become a holding company for the different products and business concerns that tie into our overarching mission of providing financial happiness.
Raising a Formidable Team
In 2018, I wrote a medium article titled “How I bootstrapped to millions of dollar revenue when I knew nobody and how you can too”.
Step 2 of that article talked about ‘Getting your founding team’.
This is your core team. This is your mastermind.
You need at least one hacker, one hipster and a hustler. The hacker is the builder of your team. They can build whatever is thrown at them. The hustler of your team will sell ice to your eskimos. The hipster of your team is your hype man.
They don’t have to be three separate individuals but these roles must be filled. It is important to also get your team dynamics right. This can be a dynamite that will blow up to a potential unicorn, so you need to ensure everyone works well together.
You can go solo but this is quite harder and makes funding even more difficult. It is however better to go alone than to be destroyed in team brouhahas. You will get generals to join you along the road.
Another tip in that article is to ‘hire spartans’ Spartans are young, intelligent and committed multi disciplinary employees that punch much harder than their weight. They typically have higher productivity than is typical of their years of experience.
They are also usually young enough to take risks with you. You can only attract and keep a spartan by being a spartan or former spartan yourself. Spartans can see through nonsense and they will not stay if otherwise.
Your vision and passion will keep spartans curious initially, your pay, care and commitment to them will keep them in the medium term and equity stake will keep them in the longer term.
We hire and keep hiring spartans in TeamApt. Our spartans have made exploits like building a single window for digitizing banking back offices or a switch for real time processing of payment transactions.
If you are not a technical founder, you will need at least one technical co-founder to do this. You can get by initially using a very technical advisor but you will soon be loading them with too much requests so then you might need to get a co-founder.
I think everything pretty much went as planned in the early stages and the choice to bootstrap in the first three years on starting TeamApt was deliberate.
We are fundamentalists at TeamApt. The purpose of a business is to create wealth. Wealth is profits.
Sometimes young startups hype promises of profit to investors and get crazy valuations. Some, however, fail to materialize this after their funds.
Hype is not value. Profit is value. Profits with hype is, however, greater value. In the B2B industry that we play, customers are expected to pay for value.
We figured if we recycled their payments and do this quickly, we could reach the scale quick enough without external funding. This, we believed, will help us build the muscle we required for sustainable growth.
The second reason is that it takes a lot of time and effort to raise significant institutional capital. In the early stage, we did not have that time.
Rather we spent that time with our customers understanding their needs further. Our clients rewarded us with millions of dollars in revenue as a result.
Taking the Plunge
They say to get “to the top, you have to stand on the shoulders of giants”, this was exactly what I did. I needed more clarity on what I wanted to do post NYSC.
The logical step to take was to join a fast growing company where I could sharpen the skills which I did.
The first two years of working were actually blissful and I forgot about my entrepreneurship dream for a while. From the third year downward I began to get uneasy because things were becoming a blur.
By the fifth year of my career, I had made a resolve because I had ideas that could change the banking industry if explored but I couldn’t do it within the confines of a 9 to 5 job.
I figured that the worst that would happen will be that I would fail, and I could always get another job even with the startup on my resume. I, however, knew I was not going to fail. I had planned to do this all my life and I knew it was time. I was 29 years old then.
It was clearer to me that I had to take the entrepreneurship chance now or never, I couldn’t have made a better choice.
Fintech in Nigeria
The truth is fintechs in Nigeria and Banks are mutually dependent on each other in the financial industry. It doesn’t matter how great your technology processes are, if there is no demand, then it’s almost useless.
On one hand, banks have the large customer base, credibility, trust, experience on financial regulations and the right audience to sell these services or products to.
On the other hand, fintechs bring innovation, faster processes which can cut down operation costs, increase revenue for these banks and increase their customer base and turn these customers into advocates for the banks.
Bringing these qualities to the table, the relationship between FinTechs and Banks should be forged into a partnership program this would ensure that in the end, everyone wins, the banks, the FinTechs and the customers who are now better served as a result of this collaboration.
The only objective is for the customer to win. Banks need to foster FinTech collaboration by opening up APIs as well as by funding startups through accelerator programmes.
Fintechs also need to collaborate with banks by making their arguably superior products available to the banks through while labeling or source code licensing arrangements.
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in The Spark Magazine. Find the magazine here to read other articles.