|Pictured Left to Right: Maxwell Ogufunyi, Abolade Lawal, and Abayomi Johnson|
CurlyNikki.com recently interviewed a group of entrepreneurs from Nigeria about their start-up, ScholarX. ScholarX is an app designed to help Nigerian students both home and abroad access available scholarships because of the high cost of education. The app was designed with a specific goal in mind, one that combats the idea of what we traditionally see in the media everyday. These brothers are doing great things for the Motherland and it's important that we tell stories like these. Read our interview with co-founder, Abolade Lawal below.
MO: If you had to briefly describe Scholar X, how would you define it to the average person?
AL:ScholarX is a platform that helps people of African decent access quality education anywhere in the world through scholarships.
MO: Can you tell us about the moment you first realized there was a need for Scholar X?
AL:That moment came when Maxwell realized how hard it was for him to acess available opportunities in Nigeria and he sought to compile local based scholarships, with an intent to eventually convert into a mobile application.
MO: How did the idea for the project come about?
AL: As mentioned earlier, the initial idea came from Maxwell, and after he had compiled local scholarships, he sought out partners to help bring the project to life. Myself, Maxwell and Abayomi got together and after some brainstorming and analysis, we decided to move forward with creating a platform that curates locate and foreign based scholarships and Nigeria was selected as the pilot for the local scholarships.
MO: What process do you currently use to find resources for scholarships?
AL: We scan through the internet and other avenues to gather and screen scholarships that suits our target base. Its a very manual process, however we stay committed to ensure that our users get access as many available opportunities as possible.
MO: Why do you think there is a specific need for Nigerian college students to fund education?
AL: The numbers. Nigeria has close to 200M people and over 50% are at least 18 years old. Yearly university intake (capacity) is less than 10% of this demographic. Simply, youth population is growing exponentially, while opportunities remain static. Opportunities in terms of quality education and employment. The need to for quality education is thus obvious, but the issue now is how to fund it individually? Scholarships! There are so many opportunities out there especially abroad. Countries like Korea, Saudi Arabia etc offer amazing opportunities for individuals from developing nations to come study in their country tuition-free, including paying for air travel. So our duty is to be the opportunity bridge, that brings undeserved youths closer to their goal of creating a better future for themselves.
MO: Since launching ScholarX, what are some of the biggest challenges you've faced?
AL: Our target an emerging market and so, there are bound to be issues we have to face head-on and adjust when/where necessary. Poor Infrastructure is a big one. So things like power supply, internet connectivity and so on.
MO: Your business partners are located in Nigeria. How do you balance the day-to-day of managing the app?
AL: This is actually an advantage we believe. As we are able to take advantage of lots of.
MO: You recently received funding from LDI Africa. Can you tell us about your plans and what you hope to do with this funding?
AL: Marketing! User acqusition remains one of our key focus areas presently, so we need to shore up our distribution channels on ground, as well as take advantage of the little success we've made on social media by increasing our capacity.
MO: What type of background did you come from before launching Scholar X?
AL: I have a busineness background, specifically in the Oil and Gas industry. I graduated with an accounting degree from the university of Houston and i've worked for some of the largest comapnies within the industry and in consulting.
MO: A few weeks ago, you attended Diaspora Demo Day. Describe the feeling of being around so many African/African American entrepreneurs.
AL: It was unbelieveable! Being around a diverse group of talented entreprenuer sharing the common goal of working hard to realise their dreams and change the world while doing so was something i'll cherish forever. Part of the learning process in this "startup grind" is to learn from peers who share similar goals.
MO: What was the biggest takeaway from you would say you left with?
AL: There are so many opportuities out there, you just have to seek them out and position yourself to be in the right place at the right time.
MO: With so many apps on the market (even with yours being free) how have you established your niche? What ways are you working to spread the word?
AL: Or market is unique and thats our major differentiator. Africa is a unique place to be as an emerging market. We've comitted ourselves to get our hands dirty, dig deep into the trenches. So we've made a product people want, we're maketing what people want, and whats left is to be able to scale in a meaningful way. Our most effective way of preading the word is our creative use of social media. In just over 4 months of launch, with a non-existent marketing budget, we've gotten over 50k combined social media following.
Next for us now is to ramp up our ground game, to include scholarship workshops, training, campus tours/events, and ads.
MO: What's one skill set you would say is necessary for being a successful entrepreneur?
MO: How can we support Scholar X, either as a beneficiary or as a resource?
AL: Other than access to funding like grants, we need help in creating more scholarships for our target customerbase. Students are really underserved and we want to help change that. Also it will be helpful to get more media influencers on ourside not just to publish articles about what we're doinng, but to be our advocate, while will help in boosting our profile/credibility.
You can find out more information and download the app here.