When we got to the end of 2020, I was grateful simply to be alive after such a scary year that brought so much uncertainty, with knowledge of the pandemic that showed us how fragile life can be.
First off, I said to myself that I was not going to make new year resolutions for 2021, but, I would rather maximize the best of every moment I open my eyes to see a new day, with total gratitude to God for the opportunity.
I never knew how eventful 2021 would be but wow!, it was my busiest year yet, beating 2019 when I had to travel so many times because of work, and lived in my apartment only 4-months out of the entire year. 2021 came with lots to unpack and I have listed month-by-month some of the events that shaped the year for me, so let’s do this:
1) Started off the year with the amazing news of one of my startups (Treepz) getting into Techstars Toronto 2021 Summer Batch!
2) I learned about my mom’s health and it was really devastating for me and my family. But we trusted God for a miracle and that she’ll get better… see what happened later 😁
3) Learned about my biggest award yet… The African Person of the Year 2020 along with President Goodluck Jonathan, President Akufor Addo, Mo Ibrahim and the Director-General of The World Health Organization, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus amongst others.
4) At this time, I was the CEO of 3 different startups and as much as I was doing the best job possible for over 120 people across the 3 companies, it was beginning to affect our fundraising efforts for each startup.
It also started affecting my health with so much stress and I would never suggest anyone does this again— focusing on one thing per time is golden as I learned later. We were running out of cash in 2 out of the 3 startups and something had to change quickly.
1) We fully exited our fintech startup, Crowdyvest. Tope who is a co-founder of Farmcrowdy led a new group of investors to acquire a 100% stake of Crowdyvest from Farmcrowdy. It was an emotional experience for everyone leaving, but I personally was happy for a successful exit of the business to new frontiers, as the new owners of Crowdyvest had set their eyes on building a bigger digital financial institution than we imagined originally. This was my second startup exit as an entrepreneur after QwikGist in 2014 and I had to learn a lot from the process once more.
2) As a result of the exit, Farmcrowdy sold 100% of its shares in Crowdyvest and I had to step down as CEO of Crowdyvest and left the Board of Directors. This move fully ended my time with the company in March 2021 and my focus was then turned to building my other startups including Farmcrowdy and Treepz.
People have asked what Farmcrowdy was up to after the exit, some have even said Farmcrowdy is Crowdyvest, that is wrong!
Farmcrowdy has since moved on to a less glamourous business model with very little public attention, but the most profitable business model in its history — Food & Agro B2B Trading and Retail. In July 2021, Farmcrowdy broke even and became a profitable business with very little fanfare. The business has also successfully expanded its operations from Nigeria to Rwanda and later the Carribeans with a smaller team and profitable model.
3) I accepted an appointment by Rome Business School to become a visiting lecturer for their 2021/22 MBA Class teaching entrepreneurship and marketing. It was a dream moment for me.
Read more here on Legit NG
1) I had the most extensive and revealing interviews about life in general and my career as an entrepreneur with Peace Itimi. My Dad watched this and told me to write a book one day to share my stories and I promised him that I will do it, on or before my 40th birthday. But first, let me thank Peace Itimi for getting me to share so much on this episode of Founders Connect. When I read all 70+ comments, I feel blessed that my life journey motivates a few people to do more. You can watch it below and leave a comment or just do something positive with every day you have.
2) Tunde who is my Co-Founder and CEO of RentSmallSmall — a business idea both of us started working on in 2017, then launched in 2018, informed me about making a new change to the business model. He wanted to create what is now referred to as Buy2Let — a shared model for individuals to purchase apartments, to eventually lease them to tenants looking to pay monthly. It worked as soon as it went live and it started pushing the entire company of RentSmallSmall to a profitable level.
3) It was announced publicly that Treepz (then Plentywaka) had entered Techstars Toronto and we got a lot of publicity for this on CNBC, Techcrunch, Forbes and more. We also announced that we would launch Travel Treepz for inter-state Travel at the Easter Holiday while crossing the 300,000 passengers mark on our platform.
4) Treepz made its first partnership for inter-state travel with Libra Motors to take our passengers on 200 of their vehicles to 17 states.
5) At Farmcrowdy, we announced a partnership between Delta State Government, The Central Bank of Nigeria and Farmcrowdy. Earlier, before the announcement was made, I was in Delta to inspect the 2,500 acres farm along with the CBN Director focused on Maize Value Chain.
April — May 2021
1) Techstars Toronto class started for Treepz (then Plentywaka) and one of the first questions we were asked was “What is the meaning of Waka?” Someone had gone on Google to check and it was not a good meaning that popped up first 😂. But we explained to them that it means movement in pidgin English, still, someone was not convinced…
Joining Techstars a second time was an amazing feeling for me, but the workload this time around was intense, with many days drilling from 7 AM — 11:30 PM for 90 days except Sundays! This was because of the time difference and coordinating our work in Nigeria and Canada at the same time. I had to think through this properly.
2) Had a couple of meetings with NITDA, The World Bank, Ogun State Government, Delta State Government, The Edo Governor, Lagos State Government, The Ministry of Transportation in Nigeria, IFAD, AWAN, Bloomberg, MIT, Harvard and more.
3) First discussion with Isidore of Stabus Ghana about the possibility of Treepz Ghana. We had known for more than a year, but this was the first time we discussed the possibility of working together and my first answer as always was, “Yes, let’s do it!”.
4) Started conversations with my shareholders at Farmcrowdy about stepping down as CEO of Farmcrowdy to focus exclusively on Treepz. This was another key moment in my career navigating boardroom politics and I learned so much from this process.
5) Spent time out with my family and had not done this in 6 months. I needed the break from work-work-work to head to the beach.
1) Stepped down as CEO of Farmcrowdy after 5 years to hand over to my co-founder Akindele Phillips. This was the best move we could make at the time to allow me to focus on building Treepz while my co-founders in Farmcrowdy (Akindele, Christopher and Ifeanyi), continue to build the business of Farmcrowdy. By this time, Farmcrowdy was also cash-flow positive and we were all happy about accomplishing this together.
2) We had a mid-year conference with the brilliant Lanre Olusola who made us dream new dreams. We saw first hand why he is called the Catalyst! Lanre was truly exceptional and I look forward to working with him closely in 2022.
3) I fell really sick at the end of the mid-year conference. It was not Covid after all 3-tests showed negative results, but the doctors said it was resistant malaria. Apparently, I later learned that a lot of people fell sick with the same ailment around this period in Nigeria and I was just gutted to go down healthwise for a couple of weeks. I was in and out of the sickbed for a whole month but still did my best to smile when I had to turn up for the team.
1) Fully recovered after 4-weeks and my siblings came around to celebrate with me. I felt so much love from them and my team members cause everyone was really worried about how bad it got when at some point, I couldn’t walk again.
2) Got off the sickbed to deliver my pitch for Demo Day at Techstars Toronto and I gave it the best shot possible to draw investors’ attention to what we are building with Treepz across Africa. You can watch the pitch here with lots of credit to my team members including Tobi, Uzo, Obiora, Aaron and Johnny who all contributed to its success.
Watch the Demo Day Pitch here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U43eUx8nvdQ
1) Closed out our first seed round for Treepz then completed the acquisition of Stabus Ghana to prepare our expansion into Ghana. I was excited to welcome Isidore as our Country Manager for Treepz Ghana.
2) Treepz partnered with Autochek and I was very happy to work together with my friend Etop Ikpe who has been a great buddy since our days of being VPs in Konga 9 years ago.
3) We started our state expansion for Treepz into Delta, Edo, Rivers, Enugu, Abuja in Nigeria and had great success with the teams launching Travel Treepz for our bus partners. These partners include Libra Motors, GUO, ABC Transport, EFEX with more than 1,200 combined vehicles going to 20 states in Nigeria.
1) Plentywaka was officially rebranded to Treepz in the most amazing re-branding exercise I have ever seen. It took our in-house team less than a week to come up with a new name from over 120 names, a new logo, a new brand identity on all our vehicles, changed the entire office branding, the team swag across Nigeria and Ghana, communicating in the media, communicating with stakeholders, and effecting the changes on all channels (web, mobile and social media). All in 7-days! This was pure magic and one of my proudest moments leading the Treepz team. We were all thrilled about what we had accomplished!
Why the name change? We were planning to expand beyond Nigeria and as much as the word ‘Waka’ meant movement in pidgin English in Nigeria, we had a tough and expensive time explaining this in other African countries. So, we felt it was the right time to change the name to something everyone can relate to across the continent before executing our expansion plans. We were happy to change our name to something we do daily — Trips = Treepz
2) We launched Treepz Ghana and got the support of the Government along with the Ministry of Transportation where the Minister cut our ribbons.
Watch it here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oWuoO1kVTbM
3)The Canadian High Commissioner to Nigeria visited Treepz to learn more about how our business had grown over the years. With our affiliation with the Canadian Government, it was welcoming to get their continued support.
4) Farmcrowdy went through a major restructuring process that saw some of the team members including early ones, leave the company. It was a difficult time for Akindele and the management team. He once said to me at this time that it was the most emotionally draining process for him in his entire career. For me, it was also a crazy experience, but I have had to deal with this kind of process twice in my business career and this time, I read two books to help me through the process. They were:
- The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz
- Trillion Dollar Coach by Bill Campbell
I strongly recommend these books before going through this kind of process in your organization and ‘yes’, I have learned that as your business matures, you may have to deal with these kinds of issues too. Luckily for Farmcrowdy, it went smoothly and the business continues to grow.
Notwithstanding this moment in the business, I will always remain grateful to everyone who joined us at different times in the last 5 years to build Farmcrowdy while I was leading the company as CEO or now that Akindele is leading the business. Whether they left at good times or bad times, everyone contributed their best while they were with Farmcrowdy and personally, I will always remain grateful for their efforts. Thank you Farmcrowdites reading this.
October — November 2021
1) Celebrated my 37th birthday with the team and sang my first song in a studio after many years of not singing. When I tell friends that I have a voice for singing, everyone that has not seen me do it will laugh… so I decided to get into the studio to show them that I still have some singing in me. Don’t laugh 😂… it may be rusty yeah… but it is still something to thank God for blessing me irrespective of my many challenges.
Listen here on Youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zWqARHD76ls
2) Announced the close of our seed round with further interest from the August 2021 update. We were excited to use this to enter East Africa and acquired UgaBus in Uganda to launch Treepz Uganda.
UgaBus had already aggregated 70% of all bus operators in Uganda over the last 5 years of operations. So, this was another exciting moment for Treepz to welcome Hakiza as our Country Manager for Treepz Uganda.
3) I dared to explore the @kakumpark (Kakum National Park) in Ghana and took the 350 meters canopy walkway connected to seven treetops at 130 ft above the ground. I can not remember ever being as scared as I was when I got to the middle of the walkway. Never again! I am not putting myself through this kind of scary experience again. 🏃🏾♂️
4) RentSmallSmall got into Techstars Toronto and just hit $2.3m USD in ARR with turning a 6-figure net profit. They reached 12,000 rented rooms on its platform and I was so happy for the lean team led by its co-founders Tunde, Naomi and Pidah.
5) Back on the football pitch playing football as a striker (Number 9). Scored 1 goal and created an assist but couldn’t help my team at winning on this occasion. It was an honour to be selected to play with the UFC crew again and we’ve been at it for 11 years.
1) Treepz announced its biggest deal to date — the exclusive partnership with CMS T&M (a 53-year-old Public Transportation company in Lagos, Nigeria) to provide technology to move 1.6 million of their passengers annually! Huuugggeee win for us!!!
You can watch this interview on CNBC Africa about the partnership:
2) Ended the year with 5x our numbers of November 2021 on daily passengers using Treepz. In the last 8 days of 2021, we made more revenue on Treepz than the entire January 2021 and this is just the beginning of the amazing things we look forward to in 2022.
Concluding 2021 with Treepz…
2021 was a great year to learn, build and re-learn. It came with its challenges and wins and I’m grateful we are all alive to relive the moments and do them better.
I am now 100% focused on Treepz and looking forward to an amazing time of creating more success in 2022 along with the teams in Nigeria, Ghana and Uganda.
The credit for everything that happened in 2021 with Treepz goes to all 70 of my teammates along with my co-founders Johnny, Afolabi and Atums. At the time of writing this, we have reached 626,000 bookings completed on Treepz and we are looking at hitting 1 million bookings in a few months. But beyond that, we want to build a strong mobility-as-a-service company for Africans to be proud of.
In 2022, I want to love more, pray more, have fun more, laugh more, keep memories and continue to be grateful for those I surround myself with to do magic at work. To the best of my ability, I want to do my business with fairness and equity, treating each day with the respect it deserves to go again and be our best. I say these things to you as I say them to me, so irrespective of what anyone says about you, make sure you can always look back and say you did your best each day. I wish you luck!
PS: Oh yes, my mum is 100% back healthwise and we are all so happy for her!!!!