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Adeleke Ojikutu- CTO, Voguepay

Adeleke Ojikutu- CTO, Voguepay

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Adeleke Ojikutu is one of the partners and the CTO of VoguePay. Speaking to The Spark team, he talked about his role in VoguePay as well as the fintech space and doing business in Nigeria

Background

The conversation on dumping certificates to pursue your passion might never end, as many parents still insist on determining what career path their children should be taking. We can’t even start a debate here on how schools abstractly think a student should be studying this instead of that. 

Mr Ojikutu was one of those students who passed through school and got a certificate he might never use. From junior school, he had already learnt how to code using an old Commodore VIC 64 Computer and was passionate about programming, but was offered Chemical Engineering at the University. 

Of course, he got the certificate but went on to learn tech from scratch.  He says, “I started from a business centre, just so I could be close to a computer.”

He is now a founder and  CTO of VoguePay and as head of the technology department, he says he is “in charge of designing the technology processes, the information security mechanisms, planning and creating the technology policies and principles the company operates on.”

Challenges

There is a sense of urgency to have more tech-enlightened youth in Nigeria when Mr Ojikutu talked about VoguePay’s initial challenges. 

“As you know, if you want A-list result, you employ A-list talent and if you are bootstrapping, it will have an effect on salaries. But even if we were willing to pay, finding capable hands was difficult,” he says. 

He adds that “most of the people we were getting were those who went to computer schools to learn Desktop Publishing and Computer Appreciation and, those who had the certificate could not deliver the result.” 

However, he says VoguePay set up an internship program, took in interns, assigned them to qualified programmers and paid them. That led to having more qualified people; with some of them who were part of the first session in 2012 still working with the company. 

The other challenge was getting a license. When VoguePay started, there were no regulations and “Banks weren’t ready to partner with us without a license and at that time in Nigeria, there was no license covering that category. We were basically pioneering a sector that was yet to be regulating but required regulation, so it was a big hurdle for us to cross.”

Then fraud. One prominent item on a list of issues bedeviling the fintech ecosystem. To solve this problem, the VoguePay team had “to come up with an algorithm that detected the fraud before or during the process.” 

Global Vision

We asked him if there was a conscious attempt at penetrating the global market, he replied in the affirmative and said, “We wanted to start out small but we never saw ourselves as a Nigerian company; we saw ourselves as a global company that originated from Nigeria. Our attempt to move out of Nigeria met with very stiff challenges because nobody wanted to deal with Nigerians in a business that involved money.”

To upturn that narrative, Mr Ojikutu said the VoguePay team registered in the UK. “We enjoyed recommendations from clients that had dealt with us and were extremely happy and proud that Nigerians could deliver that kind of service.”

Talking about the partnership

As a co-founder of one of Nigeria’s pioneer fintech companies, Mr Ojikutu says the VoguePay partnership is unique.  

He explained that, “as far as similarities go, we are all entrepreneurs. But we also have different skills because we try to make sure the team does not have duplicate skills. It is an advantage and has helped us leverage each person’s strength.”

Dealing with security threats

Naturally, as the CTO, we asked how the 2019 African Online Payment Platform of the Year deals with cyber threats and he says, “we have a dedicated team of security experts that work round the clock to ensure they are abreast of any form of security threat even if it is zero vulnerability. We believe the true test of our security system is the ability to solve a problem before it becomes an emergency.”

Fintech in Nigeria

Fintech was not in our conversations a decade ago but Mr Ojikutu affirms that the fintech industry is a dynamic, constantly-changing space and says VoguePay will be “releasing some products soon that will indicate the direction fintech is going. I think most companies that will be starting-up in that space are either going to be flying very high or closing shop quickly.”

The Five-Year Dream

“VoguePay is already looking at going beyond payment to other sectors and bringing the payment sector together into one space. Right now, payment is very fragmented and VoguePay is thinking of bringing them together. The company is looking at some other things that support payments to incorporate them so we can diversify while unifying payments,” VoguePay’s CTO says. 

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