“Running a Business in Nigeria is a Roller Coaster”-Bunmi Akinyemiju, CEO, Venture Garden Group
On this week’s episode of ‘CNN Marketplace Africa’, Bunmi Akinyemiju, the CEO of Venture Garden Group outlines why he returned to the continent and found his company in Nigeria.
Speaking as part of Profit Point, a new segment within the show where African entrepreneurs outline how their businesses achieved profitability and found success, Akinyemiju explains what the company does and the fields it operates in.
Akinyemiju explains: “Venture Garden Group is a company that’s using payments and data to build efficiencies in different sectors on the African continent like aviation, power, education. By doing it, we help them in basically converting cash into digital forms of payments, and then we collect transactional fees for every payment that we process.”
Despite having Nigerian parents, CNN hears how Akinyemiju was born and raised in the United States, having attended Michigan State University for his education. Having studied computer science and with experience working for software start-ups, Akinyemiju decided to return to Africa to help the transformation of the continent in 2011.
Reflecting on the difference in running a business between the United States and across Africa and how they changed their approach, Akinyemiju tells the programme: “Running a business in Africa is like a roller coaster. There are no certainties that this is going to work especially I was leaving a comfortable life in Michigan… We decided January 2011 to do a bit of a roadshow. See if we can get some customers interested in what we’re doing.”
Having found success by providing digital solutions to academic institutions such as Obafemi Awolowo University, Akinyemiju and his business partner sought to raise more funds for the company.
CNN hears how the turning point for Akinyemiju came through a family connection: “My brother in law worked at Exxon Mobil. So, we went to visit him, he introduced me to the CFO at the time, and when we described what we were trying to do, he said ‘I like what you guys are doing, here’s a $100,000 check to get you started’, and so we were so lucky.”
By 2015, Akinyemiju was looking to expand further and raise more capital. CNN hears how they partnered with South African firm Convergence Partners after several months of negotiation which eventually led to a $20 million investment in Venture Garden Group.
Looking back on this moment, Akinyemiju tells the programme: “On the basis of the investment, the company will be worth almost $60 million. For us, that was exciting that we could essentially from nothing build an almost $60 million valued company at that time. From the time of the investment, which was toward the end of 2015 and now, we’ve been able to grow to about 250 employees, and our clients across the three sectors have grown to about 25.”
Looking to the future of Venture Garden Group and its potential contribution to taking Nigeria out of recession, Akinyemiju says: “We believe some of these heavy infrastructure industries like aviation and power are foundational economic drivers for every economy. We believe that on the back of a lot of the work we’ve done, there’s an opportunity to expand and use our payment processes, our data systems to attract capital to help those industries grow… What I’ve learned is never to give up, just stay at it, you stay at it long enough, and it will crack.”