ADEBAYO IBIDAPO ADEGBEMBO is the chief evangelist for Genii Games Limited, a company which is the brain behind the “ASA” brand. ASA is a brand that caters for growing collection of smart phones, tablets, and applications and into promoting and preserving African culture heritage specifically for kids. He speaks to EntrepreNEWS about his start-up story and offer counsel to others like him.
“ASA” sounds like something relating to Yoruba culture; which is a surprise that a young person like you going into this. What brought out this idea?
Firstly, the brand name was derived from the Yoruba culture, but caters for very aspect of African culture, but starting with Nigeria. So it covers things like Igbo, Hausa, Ibibio and the rest of them is a growing portfolio for us. Inspiration came from me observing my niece which is just roughly two years old now, but then you know my neighbours specifically who are at that point two, three year ago were three, four years old and seeing how even though they are Yoruba, or Igbo, they couldn’t speak their native languages , all they knew how to do was to speak English basically because that was there communication at home, or their parent find it easy to communicate with them using that language, so I saw that as a contradiction to how I was brought up, you know I spent the much of my childhood with my grandmother and for her the rule of tomb was for you to learnt how to speak the language first at home that what you used in communicating so that when you get to school you can go and start learning whether is French or Spanish, you know I felt that, that was the way to go, you know I suppose to and this parent speaking this native language to their kids for them to make sure that their spoken English is good and at the end of the day is at the expense of their native language.
Interesting; but do people agree with your perspective? How has it been?
I would say that people agree with my perspective for a good number of reasons. One is that before you even set out on this part, before we decided to plunge in, we carry out our own personal research to see what we saw as a problem. It was a mind blowing, when I eventually find out. Till date, I still come across programs on radio with central theme on how best do we protect and preserve our cultural values in light of the reality facing it? The fact is that it is fast fading. I also observe that there are been article out there written by different people professor, scholars, pointing out that this is a problem. We are talking historians, educators, and parents, who see it as a problem. So it is not just what Bayo see as a problem, it is actually a general problem and has been echoed by many.
Has that translated to support you get for the business you have created due to that?
Yes. It has taken some time, but our first initial validation came from Tech-In Ed which held at the CcHUB on Feb.12, 2012. It was amazing, and for the fact that we came first runner-up for this same idea which was where ASA was created! Later we got enough validation that other people see it as a problem and value in terms of addressing the issue. You know recognition we have gotten since then through the Future Award nomination two years running 2012 and 2013 and also the pan African Prize for Innovation. Those are for me and Genii Games and also support from the Tony Elumelu Foundation, those are enough pointer to the fact that other people see this as something of value and we have gotten enough of support in terms of what we are doing.
That great to know, so there are so many people out there that have idea and don’t know how to work it out especially young people. The question is how they should go about it?
First thing I would say is; let them keep an open mind. As much as possible, do away with those thoughts that “someone is going to steal my idea or this or that” because at the end of the day, you will want to be open to bring on board or attract people that will help you to make that idea a reality. That is the biggest experience that I have learnt. Funny enough I started out from that mind set of holding onto to my idea, having a unique idea, you know. Thankfully, the Tech-in-Ed head was my first eye opener because I had to make my idea public for people to vote it as an idea to support. We have about 60 ideas and they had to make a shortlist and the shortlist will be based on voting and you have to make your idea public. What I will say is; those people with interesting idea will benefit a lot by keeping an open mind, an open mind will help them to share their idea with people who can help to bring the idea to live. And I am talking about incubators, potential funders and also talking about technical people. Because I have benefitted a lot from these people, who have the skills set to comprehend what you have to bring those idea to lives. Openness is the tool.
Are all these resources available here in Nigeria?
Yes they are. So far everything I have gotten has been here in Nigeria. I mean the Tech-In Education by the Co-Creation Hub was $2,000, the Tony Elumelu Foundation, $5,000, while the Etisalat African Prize for Innovation was 25,000 dollars. All these have been made possible here in Nigeria. What that means is that we have people who actually see value in these things and already to support at an early stage as long we are able to communicate clearly what we are doing.
OK. So how has it been with your company, Genii games?
Honestly, I will say is a work in progress for us. Yes, we have anchor points not exactly destinations. Anchor points based on the understanding that this is a journey for us and so we have different milestones. We want to go from this market to West African market to whole of African market and things like that. So, it is work in progress, but so far so good for us been that almost two years of running. We know that we are still doing what we are doing and able to sustain ourselves. We get review the feedback. The growing list of customers those are obvious pointer too, that we are on the right course.
Going forward, where do you see your company in the next 5 years?
In the next five year, our vision is to be the one stop shop for African cultural content out of Africa. We see us in different markets outside of Nigerian market, having a strong, foot hold in Diaspora markets, that being in South Africa, America, and the U.K. In 5 years we want to be in all those different places and well known.
Finally, while do you choose to do this, and what do you tell other status?
Personally, the only thing I can relate to this is my passion, interest and love for it. I read engineering in school, but technology and entrepreneurship; the freedom that gave me offer to learn new things, to be a better person, to go from an introvert to be able to communicate publicly is self-fulfilling. For me passion is key, because passion is what that will keep you going. My advice to other people out there is to understand that, (in line with my own experience) I have been able to demystify some mysteries and I will mention them: (1) You won’t go naked; you will have cloth to wear. (2) You won’t go hungry; you will always have food to eat. 3) You wouldn’t be homeless, there would always be shelter. What that means is if you have something that you are strongly passionate about that you think is the way to go, take that plunge and those three things I guarantee you. Something will definitely give, something will work. That’s my advice to people.