Fredrick Falana, 28, is the Managing Director of Headworld Technology, an Information Technology firm, and co-founder of Jafaplus and the Head of Information Technology at Risk Control Services Nigeria Ltd. He speaks with WILLIAMS BABALOLA on how he built his business
What inspired you to start your business?
I studied Computer Science Education at Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba-Akoko, Ondo State. Helping people to solve tasks programmatically – automation of processes – has always been my passion. I started developing basic software before gaining admission into the tertiary institution.
Also, I love researching; going deeply to know how things work really motivate and help my research business and data presentation.
Looking back, one of the persons who helped me to understand my main passion was Dr Olumuyiwa Temitope of Languages and Linguistics Department, Faculty of Art, Adekunle Ajasin University in Ondo State. I was privileged to work with him for close to a year before gaining admission and he interviewed me on what career path I wanted to go for. In my response, I said I wanted to be a surgeon, but he helped me to understand my purpose.
How much capital did you have when you started?
I started with zero capital. I started the IT firm when I was in 200 level in the university. I started by helping other students to develop their project papers, even to the point of execution. The name Headworld Technology was coined from the nickname given to me by friends.
As an entrepreneur, between mentoring and capital, which would you say is more important to the success of a startup?
This is a critical question and here is my position on this: the truth is entrepreneurs who want to be successful need mentors – someone he or she can interface with, ask questions, and learn from.
What mentorship does is very crucial; it prevents one from making the same mistakes that the mentor has made and learnt from. It is not always about funding or capital; without proper pragmatic knowledge of what you want to delve into, crashing is inevitable. Mentorship might not involve physical contact; if one has an opportunity to interface with mentors, it will help your business.
Capital is a key factor but not as important as having mentors. I have a lot of them and each of my mentors has helped me in one way or the other in terms of challenging my curiosity. They ask me a lot of philosophical questions and explain things from experiences. This saved me cost, energy and time. When you have mentors, your move fast. It simply means mentorship speed up business success.
If you could go back to when you started, what would you do differently?
If I were to start afresh, I will embrace more knowledge, ranging from ubiquitous and pervasive environment modelling, deep learning and algorithm formation instead of sticking to the curriculum that doesn’t reveal the core area of solving tasks.
What are your present challenges?
The truth and reality is that one of my present challenges is the issue of funds. Imagine having an idea of creating a world-class research centre in Africa with its headquarters in Nigeria. Without fund, this idea can’t be executed. Even if it has to be executed, it won’t go far. Accessing fund is highly expensive in Nigeria.
Secondly, another challenge is that majority of small-scale business owners, traders, entrepreneurs (such as barbers, soap makers, tailors/fashion designers and bricklayers) see some of the software and bespoke applications that can help them and promote their businesses to the world as things meant for big businesses.
Another challenge is getting a big workspace. The cost of renting a space in Lagos is outrageous. Although 70 per cent of tech task can be achieved remotely but to carry out effective research, handle meetings, proper collaboration, separations of concern, etc, there is a need for a workspace.
How are you tackling the challenges?
My research work has travelled to 45 countries, 186 cities, reviewed by 47 universities and presently covered more than 406 fields. The name Fredrick Taye Falana has been mentioned in 34 different research papers. Although this is not the primary goal, but I can’t sit idle because of funds and I hope to set up the world-class research centre. I need to be proactive.
One of the research papers was ranked by Google as the highest cited paper on E-learning. Solving the issues of acceptability and making small-scale businesses visible to the whole world with my skills and professionalism, I created a platform where all small-scale business owners can own their bespoke web applications.
The applications include the setup needed for their digital businesses, online store or/and online presence. I have been able to create a hub where I have meetings or interact with clients and individuals so as to serve my customer better.
What expansion plans do you have for your business?
By God’s grace, we plan to expand this business by owning a world-class research institute in Africa by 2030. The institute will focus on solving some climatic issues, agricultural challenges, health challenges, and green power, as well as the extension of the frontier of educational knowledge.
I see this brand growing from this stage to a bigger one. I envision us encouraging entrepreneurs and setting a standard for the world.
What should intending entrepreneurs know before starting a business?
My advice to intending entrepreneurs is that they should never lie to themselves and know that it’s passion that makes one go far in business.
Also, they shouldn’t do things just because they want to make money or because they see others doing it. There are ugly and bad days in business but with God all things are possible.
Aside from this business, what other areas of interest do you have?
I help young people discover themselves and to be useful to themselves, their communities and the society at large. I love contributing to solving research problems, reaching out to people and training them. I love teaching.
Do you think young entrepreneurs in Nigeria are getting enough support from the government?
I do not believe that they are getting enough support compared to other countries, and this is so sad. There is a lot that can be done to support entrepreneurs and I believe government is aware of this.
It is really sad that entrepreneurs are not getting the means to even have the proper aid and get those necessary basic things that can make them to do more.