Adewale Yusuf – The Techpoint Story

 

“People meet me and think I am one ajebota. I am not. My father had a block industry while growing up and I was always at hand to help me. My mother was a trader and so growing up was just the regular life. We lived within our means, no extravagance, no luxurious lifestyle. Just the normal quiet, regular life. From my parents

After graduating from Loyola College in 2004, I couldn’t advance my education to the tertiary level at the time because there was no financial resources to do so at the time. I was introduced to computers in Ibadan. My father had a friend who had these mainframe computers and I also did a training on how to repair phones in Bodija. However, my interest in computer kept growing. At the time, I got a job offer to work as an attendant in a filling station – the filling station was going to pay me N15,000 which was a lot of money for a young man who needed money to go to school.

On the day that I was supposed to resume at the filling station, I met a woman had just opened a cybercafé and she just randomly told me that she needed an administrator for the cybercafé and she was offering a pay of N2,500. Because of my love for computers, I decided to resume at the cybercafé instead of the filling station. I just wanted to be close to computers, nothing else mattered. Everyone around me thought I was crazy. They kept scolding me for choosing a N2,500 job over a N15,000 job.

It didn’t even faze me.

It was while on the job as an admin at the cybercafé that I trained myself about computers. I would surf the internet and read everything I could find on the internet about computers. At the time, internet penetration was low. That would eventually lay the foundation for my first major job. I eventually left the cybercafé and I moved to Lagos. I moved to Lagos because I wanted more – I wanted more challenging stuff and Ibadan just didn’t have that ‘more’ I was looking for.

I moved to Lagos – not knowing anyone in Lagos. My first job in Lagos was as a security man in an organization in Lekki. I would wear uniform like the private security men you see around. I would open gate when people drive in etc. While I was at that, I lived in Lekki but you know, if you’re in Lekki, you are either rich or poor – no middle ground. I was living in the poor part of Lekki. I was going to take another security job but I had a little problem with the manager and so they were not going to give me the job.

While waiting to be attended to, I had overheard the head of HR say something about needing someone who could run computers. So, when I had to walk up to her to make my case in order to get the security job, I sharply just added that I was good with computers too. That was how I got employed at the company. It was a fleet management company. I was led me into the computer room and I saw computers all over the room. It was just me in the middle of computers. I settled down and began to train myself to use the computers and run the various software. It was me alone and the manual and I would read and read. Eventually when they recruited people to the computer room, I became the trainer, training the recruits.

That year, 2012, I gained admission into LASU and I was meant to pay my school fees on Friday but one thing or the other happened and I couldn’t pay so I decided to pay on Monday. However, something happened on Sunday.

 


On the Sunday before the Monday when I was supposed to pay my school fees, I overheard someone talking to a group of young guys like me. He was a research scientist and he was telling them about opportunities in technology and all that. I jumped into the conversation and quickly asked if I could be a part of the beneficiaries of the opportunities in tech. The man said ‘yes’ and gave me his email address. ‘Just send me an email’ he said and that was it. I did. I realized it was an opportunity for me to delve into tech. However, I didn’t have a laptop to work so I used my school fees to buy my first laptop.

That was when everyone concluded that I was mad. Going to LASU looked like a well paved road while join the tech wagon looked like a jungle to everyone who knew what I had done. I had taken a leap into the jungle. So that was it – I began to learn how to code. Day and night, I was with my laptop writing codes. At the time, I was still with the fleet company. I would do my work during the day and stay the whole night writing codes. It was so intense that in the end, I developed chronic insomnia – I couldn’t sleep again. Even when I managed to sleep, all I always saw in my sleep were codes and kernels and stuff like that. So, I was the mad man with one shirt and who had taken his school fees to buy laptop.

While all of these was happening, I left the job with the fleeting company and went volunteering. For a whole month, I didn’t have money nor food to eat. I had a friend whose lunch meal I always shared and that would be the only meal I had for the day – the shared lunch. That year was the most challenging. I had no place to stay, I had no money. All I had was a dream. I remember one evening, I had no place anymore to live. I had met up with a friend with whom I had wanted to run a startup at the time. This friend gave me N1000 and he dropped me under the Ojuelegba bridge.

I bought N100 card to call friends to find a place to put my head. None came through. The only thing I had with me was my laptop in its bag, I had nowhere else to go – I just sat under the bridge fighting hard to hide my tears from people passing. That day under that bridge I MADE A PROMISE NOT TO GIVE UP ON MYSELF, I promised to fight hard because I knew my future would depend on the choice I made then.

 

 

That night I headed to CoCreation Hub. The guy there told me I couldn’t stay at the hub because I hadn’t registered. I fought the guy – I was a desperate young man at that point. In the end, he let me stay in the hub. That was the lowest point of my life. That was 2012.

I volunteered at a Quality Assurance job and the company was working for the Nokia brand but I got bored. That’s one thing about me – I get bored very quickly especially when there’s nothing new challenging me. I spent almost a year at this new job and the boredom hit me hard. Then, I resigned. It was when I resigned that I joined a media/blogging company to volunteer, once again. That media company also went under.

When I was a kid, I used to do a lot of drawings. Let me tell you how I got my first camera: first, I bought the lens; not the camera itself. Every day, I carry the lens and stare at it with admiration everyday till I was able to buy the camera. Let me put it in perspective for you – it is like you want to buy a car but first of all, you buy tyres. Others buy cameras first, then they buy lenses. Me, it was the lens I bought first. Then I began to work and save till finally I got a camera.

Slowly and gradually, I began to teach myself to take pictures and because my mind was already trained to think in images, I got into photography easily. My church friends, kept my spirit high. They had absolute faith in me, it was such unwavering belief in me that I could make my dreams come true. In fact, one of them, housed me at a time when I didn’t have a house. In those dark, dreary moments of my life, the faith these friends had in me kept me going. That was how OneDot began and it grew.

Remember I told you about a media company I worked at that went under? While at that media company, I had written a man’s profile so when this person heard that the media company had gone under, he suggested to me to pick up blogging. The man offered to fund it but that is another long story. I eventually decided to start a blog that will cover the tech space in Nigeria. January 1 2015, when every other person was shouting ‘happy new year’ I was behind the servers hitting the start button that shot us alive to the world. That was how Techpoint Nigeria was birthed.

Running Techpoint has not been an easy feat. It was so challenging. We had been working before we went official. We had been creating content for 2 months before January 1, 2015. Somehow, OneDot became the support system for Techpoint. There was a time I couldn’t pay salaries. I had to take a photography job that required me be shooting day and night, day and night. Salaries had to be paid, somehow.

Later in 2015, OneDot had become quite profitable and I had money to buy a car or a land at Ajah, but I didn’t. Instead, I invested the money on TechPoint.ng & Onedot photography respectively and continued to join danfo buses. I understood that it was important for me to grow my businesses first before buying land or showing off in a fanciful ride. It was a sacrifice.

Today, Techpoint is 5 years old and in that space of 5 years Techpoint has become the leading tech-media platform in the whole of Africa. Techpoint has become a company that has hosted the decision makers in the Nigerian technology space and has run a host of programs that continue to put the Nigerian and African ecosystem in the spotlight. The members of the team have begun to win major awards for the quality works they have put into articles for Techpoint. I have had the privilege to sit as a panelist at some of the biggest tech platforms locally and internationally.

Techpoint now covers stories across West Africa, Kenya, Ethiopia, Uganda and Rwanda. They also hosts two of the biggest tech events in Africa called #TechpointInspired & #TechpointBuild – bringing together technology experts, enthusiasts and layment together to engage in meaningful and robust conversations about the place of people in tech and the future of tech. The company has profiled some of the brightest young minds in (and from) Africa and who are making waves in the global space. Currently, the company runs the #TechpointStartup School too.

The company has also played host to some of the biggest game changers in the world some which include, Gary Whitehill – author, business coach, entrepreneur and researcher; Jack Jack Dorsey (the founder of Twitter), Andre (a New York Times Best Seller) and this January 2020, Techpoint Africa will be hosting Salovey Peter who is the President of Yale University.

Remember the car I denied myself of having in 2015? Techpoint has got me an official car and I’m still waiting for OneDot to do the same.

 

 

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