Welcome to our Hacks: Decoded Interview series!
Once a month, Mozilla Foundation’s Xavier Harding speaks with people in the tech industry about where they’re from, the work they do and what drives them to keep going forward. Make sure you follow Mozilla’s Hacks blog to find more articles in this series and make sure to visit the Mozilla Foundation site to see more of our org’s work.
Meet Adetona Adewale Akeem!
Adetona Adewale Akeem, more popularly known as iSlimfit, is a Nigeria-born revered digital technologist and marketing expert. He is the co-founder of Menopays, a fintech startup offering another Buy Now Pay Later (BNPL) option across Africa.
So, I’ve got to ask — where does the name iSlimfit come from?
“Slimfit” is a nickname from my University days. But when I wanted to join social media, Twitter, in particular, I figured out the username Slimfit was already taken. All efforts to reach and plead with the user — who even up until now has never posted anything on the account — to release the username for me proved abortive. Then I came up with another username by adding “i” (which signifies referring to myself) to the front of Slimfit.
How did you get started in the tech industry, iSlimfit?
My journey into tech started as far back as 2014, when I made the switch from working at a Media & Advertising Agency in Lagos Nigeria to working as a Digital Marketing Executive in a Fintech Company called SystemSpecs in Nigeria. Being someone that loved combining data with tech, I have always had a knack for growth marketing. So the opportunity to work in a fintech company in that capacity wasn’t something I could let slide.
Where are you based currently? And where are you from originally? How does where you’re from affect how you move through the tech industry?
I am currently based in Leeds, United Kingdom after recently getting a Tech Nation Global Talent endorsement by the UK government. I am from Ogun State, Nigeria.
There is actually no negative impact from my background or where I am from as regards my work in tech. The Nigerian tech space is huge and the opportunities are enormous. Strategic positioning and working with a goal in mind has helped me in navigating my career in tech so far.
What brought about the idea of your new vlog Tech Chat with iSlimfit?
My desire to make an impact and contribute to the growth of upcoming tech professionals birthed the vlog. Also, I wanted to replicate what I do offline with Lagos Digital Summit, in an online manner. The vlog is basically a series of YouTube chat series where I bring various people in tech — growth marketers, UI/UX designers, product managers, startup founders, mobile app developers, etc. — to share their career journey, background, transitioning, their career journey, learnings, and general questions about their day-to-day job so that Tech enthusiasts can learn from their expertise.
I have to bring up the fact that in 2021, you were endorsed by Tech Nation as an Exceptional agent in Digital Tech. What’s it feel like to achieve something like that?
The Tech Nation endorsement by the UK government is one of my biggest achievements. It made me realize how important my impact on the Nigerian tech industry over the years has been. The endorsement was granted based on my significant contribution to the Nigerian Digital Tech sector, my mentorship & leadership capabilities, and also the potential contribution my talent & expertise would add to the UK digital economy. I am particularly grateful for the opportunity to positively make an impact to the digital economy of the United Kingdom.
What’s something folks may not immediately realize about the tech sector in Nigeria if they’re not from there?
Easy: the fact that the tech sector in Nigeria is the biggest in Africa, and the impact of tech solutions developed in Nigeria is felt all over Africa. Also, as we can see from a recent report, Nigerian startups lead the list of African Startups that received funding in 2021.
What digital policy or policies do you think Nigeria (your home country) should pursue in order to accelerate digital development in the country?
The Nigerian government need to come to terms with the fact that digital technology is the bedrock for the development of the Nation. They need to develop policies that will shape the Nation’s digital economy and design a roadmap for grassroots digital Tech empowerment of Nigeria’s agile population.
We also need more people to champion and improve on our quest for digital entrepreneurship development through various platforms.
You helped co-found a company called Menopays. What were some of the hurdles when it comes to getting a tech company off the ground over there? What about the opposite? What are the ways those in tech benefit from founding and working in Nigeria?
Some hurdles in starting a tech company is putting together the right team for the job. This cuts across legal, product, marketing, and the tech itself. The idea could be great but without the right team, execution is challenging.
A great benefit is that the continent of Africa is gaining in popularity and the world is watching, so a genuine team founding a business will get the benefits of foreign investments which is great in terms of dollar value.
Some take issue with Buy Now Pay Later apps and services like Menopays in how they may profit off of buyers who may have less. How is Menopays different? How does the company make money? What measures are in place to make sure you aren’t taking advantage of people?
Menopays is different because our focus goes beyond the profitability of the industry. We tailored a minimum spendable amount with a decent repayment period for the minimum wage in Nigeria. Our vision stands in the middle of every decision we make both business-wise and/or product development-wise.
The measure in place is that decisions are guided by why we started Menopays, which is “to fight poverty”. We don’t charge customers exorbitant interest as it goes against what we are preaching as a brand. So our Vision is imprinted in the heart of all the team members working towards making Menopays a family brand.
You’ve mentioned Menopays is fighting poverty in Nigeria and eventually all of Africa, how so?
Thinking about one of the incidents that happened to one of our co-founders, Reuben Olawale Odumosu, about eight years back. He lost his best friend because of a substandard malaria medication. His best friend in high school died because his parents couldn’t afford NGN2,500 malaria medication at the time and point of need which led to them going for a cheaper drug that eventually led to his death. Menopays exists to prevent such situations by making basic needs like healthcare, groceries and clothing available to our customers even when they don’t have the money to pay at that moment.
So in light of this, at Menopays, we believe that if some particular things are taken care of, individuals stand a lot more chances of survival. Take for instance, someone earns NGN18,000, spends NGN5,000 on transport, NGN7,000 on food and rent and some other miscellaneous of NGN6,000; with Menopays, we take out the cost of transportation and food (by providing you access to our merchants) and we give them more time to pay over the next three months. Which means each month the customer is positive cash flow of NGN6,000. We turn a negative cash flow into a positive cash flow and savings, thereby fighting poverty.
If you didn’t help found Menopays, what would you be doing now instead?
I would probably be working on founding another tech startup doing something for the greater good of the world and helping brands achieve their desired marketing objectives.
How can the African tech diaspora help startups similar to Menopays?
One way African tech diaspora can help startups similar to Menopays is by promoting their services, sharing with potential users, and also by investing in it.
How did you come up with the idea for Lagos Digital Summit?
Lagos Digital Summit started in 2017 with just an idea in my small shared apartment back then in Lagos with my friend who is now in Canada. The goal back then was simply to facilitate a platform for the convergence of 50 to 60 digital marketing professionals and business thought leaders for the advancement of SMEs and Digital Media enthusiasts within our network.
Five years down the line, despite being faced with plenty of challenges, it’s been a big success story. We have had the privilege of empowering over 5,000 businesses and individuals with diverse digital marketing skills.
What’s it been like arranging that sort of summit in the midst of a pandemic?
Lagos Digital Summit 2020 has been the only edition that we’ve had to do full virtual because it was in the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic. Every other edition before then had been physical with fully packed attendees of an average of 1,000. For the 2021 edition, it was hybrid because Covid-19 restrictions were relaxed, where we had just 300 people attend physically and every other people watched online.
What’s something you see everywhere in tech that you wish more people would talk about?
I wish more people would talk about the struggle, the disappointments, the challenges and the numerous sacrifices that comes with building a tech startup. A lot of times, the media only portray the success stories, especially when a startup raises funds; the headlines are always very inspiring and rosy.
What’s been the most impactful thing you’ve done since working in tech? What’s been the most memorable?
That should be founding Lagos Digital Summit; the kind of sponsors, corporate organisations, high-profiled speakers, volunteers and attendees that the Summit has been able to attract has been a memorable and proud feeling.
What sort of lasting impact do you want to have on the industry and the world? What keeps you going?
Waking up every day, knowing that a lot of people would have a smile on their faces because I have chosen to impact lives and make the world a better place through relevant tech solutions and platforms is the best feeling for me. The fact that I can read through reports and data and see the number of people using Menopays as a Buy Now Pay Later (BNPL) payment option to ease their lifestyle is a big motivation for me.
What’s some advice you’d give to others hoping to enter the tech world or hoping to start up a company?
Venturing into Tech or building a Startup takes a whole lot of concerted effort and determination. Getting the right set of partner(s) would however make the journey easier for you. Just have partners or cofounders with similar vision and complementing skills.
You can keep up with Adewale’s work by following him here. Stay tuned for more Hacks Decoded Q&A’s!
About Xavier Harding
Xavier Harding is a writer on the content team here at Mozilla. Formerly, Xavier was a journalist where he covered consumer tech and the tech industry. In the past, Xavier’s written for Popular Science, BuzzFeed, Lifehacker, Mic, Newsweek, Fortune and Vox. Most recently Xavier worked at The Markup, but not before earning a Webby Award in 2019 for his story on how one cinematographer properly lights the HBO show Insecure for black faces — a story watched by millions. Now, at Mozilla, Xavier assists on advocacy projects like the Newsbeat, Breaking Bias, and the Dialogues and Debates interview series, which focuses on tech topics like misinformation, contact-tracing and the role technology plays in addressing racial injustices.