The Grinders Table
By Uwem Uwemakpan
Each week Uwem will interview these amazing thought-leaders to uncover how they've done it and learn something new in the process. Join me on the regular to hear how they dared to defy the odds and live their own success story... or epic failure!
The Grinders TableJul 25, 2023
Unconventional Routes with Ikpeme Neto (Founder, Wella Health)
Join us in this insightful episode as we explore the journey of Ikpeme Neto, the founder and CEO of Wella Health. This episode provides an in-depth look at one of those transforming healthcare in Africa through the lens of a visionary who traded in his scrubs for the world of startups. Hear about the challenges and triumphs of building a successful team, leveraging data in healthcare tech, and maintaining a balanced family life while pioneering change.
Neto shares valuable insights from his experience, shedding light on the unique path he's carved at the intersection of medicine, technology, and entrepreneurship.
Increasing the Odds with Cindy Ai and Mark Kleyner of DreamVC
In this enlightening episode, we have an in-depth discussion with Mark Kleyner and Cindy Ai, co-founders of Dream VC, as they reveal the realities of the venture capital world. They share their journey from being entrepreneurs to becoming venture capitalists and how their shared passion has been a catalyst for their success.Mark and Cindy delve into the dynamics of the African venture capital market, discussing the importance of understanding the various aspects of the industry and the challenges they've faced. They also touch on the unique dynamics of their co-founder relationship, including how they support each other during challenging times and the principles they value. The conversation takes a turn towards diversity and ethics in the venture capital space. Mark and Cindy discuss the need for improved knowledge and standards in the African VC space, creating a culture of ethical behaviour, and promoting diversity. They also highlight the need for better support systems and resources to create a more accessible and safe space for young women to transition into venture capital. Listen in to get insights into the venture capital landscape from the perspective of Mark and Cindy, co-founders of Dream VC. Shownotes: (0:00:00) - Introduction to Mark and Cindy, co-founders of Dream VC (0:07:56) - Transition from entrepreneurs to venture capitalists (0:13:10) - The importance of a strong co-founder relationship (0:18:05) - The value of taking a break (0:27:12) - Promoting diversity and ethics in the venture capital space (0:34:27) - Managing expectations
The Balance of Passion and Practicality with Eugene Nwoke (Country Manager, Roche)
In this insightful episode, we delve into the intriguing world of healthcare and the rich career of Eugene Nwoke across FMCG, Pharma, and Biotech. Eugene shares his journey and commitment to addressing the stark inequity in healthcare. He also talks about the balance of passion and practicality in making decisions. Listen and share with a friend.
Key points discussed:
- Eugene's journey into healthcare, triggered by the stark disparities he observed in the field.
- Balancing passion and practicality in decision-making
- Understanding you can't control everything
- Learning from failure
- Learning beyond conventional education
Leading with influence: Babajide Duroshola (M-Kopa)
In this episode, we dive deep into the life and experiences of Babajide Duroshola, a seasoned operator who helps African companies scale. Babajide offers invaluable insights into leadership and team building, learned from his time with reputable firms like Andela, SafeBoda and M-Kopa. He discusses the importance of shared understanding, learning from mistakes, and the pursuit of progress before perfection. This episode is packed with life lessons, personal experiences, and inspiring stories that are sure to enrich your perspective as you build your career and run your business.
Key Discussion Points:
- Babaji's journey in striking a balance between personal and professional life (0:00:00)
- His insights on leadership and team building, learned from firms like Andela, SafeBoda, and M-Kopa (0:15:41)
- The philosophy of play and personal growth - taking a hiatus from work to reconnect with inner selves, being a life-long learner (0:28:35)
- Importance of independent thought (0:33:33)
- "We're not striving for perfection. We are striving for what works."
- "The only way you are able to pull in the same direction is by getting everybody to a point of shared understanding."
- "Progress before perfection. For me, it is like progress. It's never really perfection. Like are we moving forward? Are we moving? Are we moving in the right direction?"
- "Leadership is hard. You make decisions and you have to look at those decisions and live with it."
Bonus: Building in a Crisis
On this week's episode of The Grinders Table, I share insights from my conversations with guests on the podcast to provide you with inspiration and guidance as you navigate the world as it unfolds. If what you’ve heard today is beneficial to your journey, please hit the share button on your podcast platform and share it with a friend. Remember, tough times don't define us; they refine us. Keep grinding and stay resilient.
Thank you to Blessing Abeng, Anta Diallo, Will Senyo, Temitope Ekundayo, Hafsah Jumare, Max Cuvellier, Kanini Mutooni, Kristin Wilson, and Dayo Ademola for sharing your time with us.
Digitising the Hospitality Industry with Havar Bauck, CEO of HotelOnline
We dive into the fascinating world of hospitality with Havar Bauck, founder and co-CEO of Hotel Online, as he shares his incredible journey from a one-year international exchange program in Kenya to building a successful business in the hospitality industry. Hotel Online is the leading revenue partner for hotels in emerging markets like Africa. Founded in 2014, they help more than 6,000 hotels in 27 countries boost occupancy, and increase yield.
In this episode of the Grinders Table podcast, Havar reveals the passion that drives him, his experience working in Africa, and the unique challenges he faced along the way.
Get an inside look at the hurdles and triumphs of steering a business to profitability, including the impact of COVID-19 on travel and tourism and how Hotel Online pivoted to a domestic market. Havar and his co-founder's open and honest dialogue led them through such turbulent times, and together, we explore the potential of AI in the hospitality industry.
Join us for an engaging and informative episode that's sure to inspire and educate!
Launching in a pandemic with Mayowa Alli (Co-founder, Traction Apps)
In this inspiring episode, Mayowa Ali, co-founder of Traction Apps, shares his journey from studying engineering to launching a digital operating system for SMEs in Africa amidst a global pandemic. Mayowa's passion for technology and entrepreneurship led him and his co-founder to address the underserved SME market and pick so many invaluable lessons along the way.
Learn about the challenges of building a startup in financial services, fostering a collaborative remote environment, and the importance of understanding your motivations and staying true to yourself. Join us for a fascinating conversation with Mayowa Ali and see how embracing resilience can lead to success on your entrepreneurial journey.
Creating Change with Angie Madara (Founding Partner, Athena FundX)
In this inspiring episode, we dive into the entrepreneurial journey of Angie Madara, a passionate advocate for women in tech entrepreneurship. Angie is a Founding Partner at AthenaFundX, a fund that invests in providing women entrepreneurs with the support, resources, and visibility they need to turn their ideas into successful businesses. Angie shares her experience in business and her foray into tech which led her to create groundbreaking projects like M-Pesa, a mobile money platform widely used in Africa.
We explored Angie's lessons from the acquisition of her startup to the importance of preparing entrepreneurs for the types of questions they may face when pitching. She emphasizes the need to give value to receive value and to focus on building and improving the lives of others.
Bonus Episode: Navigating Uncertainty with Yusufa Sey
I thought to share a conversation I recorded in 2016 with Yusufa Sey, founder of Northern Industries. In this BONUS episode, our guest shares his incredible entrepreneurial journey from Gambia, the United States, London, and finally Denmark, where he co-founded Athene, a personal genetics company that unlocks the secrets of sports and diet genes. He discusses the importance of taking calculated risks and embracing uncertainty as an entrepreneur and shares his experience of moving to Denmark, overcoming challenges, and the power of perseverance in building a global business. The episode also explores the importance of risk-taking in life and business, the story of Facebook's unexpected growth, and the key to successful entrepreneurship: facing uncertainty and moving forward with courage.
Navigating Growth, Risk, and Empathy in Financial Services: Insights from Branch's Dayo Ademola
In this insightful episode, we speak with Dayo Odutale-Ademola, Managing Director for Nigeria at Branch International Financial Services, about her professional journey driven by the desire to create an impact through her work. Dayo shares her experiences, emphasizing the importance of growth, risk management, and building a sustainable business for long-term success. We also discuss the transformational experience of losing her father and how it led her to reconsider her views on mortality and legacy.
Additionally, we explore the significance of empathy and patience when dealing with others in the workplace and the power of understanding different backgrounds and perspectives. Listen this thought-provoking conversation and learn valuable lessons that will be worth revisiting.
From Passion to Profession: Diji Aderogba's Inspiring Journey
In this episode I sat down with fast-rising Filmmaker and Creative Director, Diji Aderogba, where he shared his creative journey, experiences working with big brands and achieving success despite the odds. Diji talks about his love for cultural storytelling, his background as an actor, handling criticism and the lessons he's learned from various projects that have shaped his career. This conversation provides valuable insights for aspiring creatives and entrepreneurs.
Timestamps: (0:00:01) - Creativity Through Cultural Storytelling: Discover Diji's love for the arts and his path to becoming a filmmaker, as well as how his experience as an actor has informed his work as a director. (0:13:37) - Working With Big Brands: Learn about the challenges and benefits of working with various crew members, staying up-to-date with industry trends, and partnering with big brands while balancing trust, communication, and respect. (0:22:14) - Achieving Success With Goals: Find out the importance of focusing on the work, not getting carried away by big brands or celebrities, and the value of building a portfolio and making connections in the industry. (0:32:40) - Living in Bondage: Listen to our guest reminisce about the classic film Living in Bondage and its impact on his creative journey.
Navigating Academia to Entrepreneurship with Hafsah Jumare, CEO of CoAmana
I had the pleasure of talking with Hafsa Jomari, CEO of CoAmana, an Agtech startup operating in Nigeria and Kenya. We discussed her inspiring journey from academia to entrepreneurship and how her obsession with solving the issue of market access for smallholder farmers led her to create CoAmana. In this episode, Hafsa shares invaluable advice she received during her entrepreneurial journey and how CoAmana has adapted and evolved over time. We also discuss the challenges of building and managing a team, the importance of having a co-founder, and the best and worst advice she has received in her career.
(0:00:01) - Exploring Curiosity and Leadership in Business (0:14:03) - Navigating Agriculture Markets (0:25:31) - Just Do It Key moments from the podcast: - Hafsah's journey from academia to entrepreneurship and her obsession with solving market access for smallholder farmers - The importance of curiosity and understanding the local context when solving problems - Challenges in building and managing a team, and the role of a co-founder - Valuable advice Hafsah received during her entrepreneurial journey and how CoAmana has adapted and evolved over time - The importance of overcoming analysis paralysis and taking action to learn and grow
Connecting the dots with Desigan Chinniah aka Dees
We spent time with Desigan Chinniah aka Dees or Cyberdees, a successful technology entrepreneur and investor in under-represented minority founders. In this episode, we explore his journey through the dotcom era (his time at Mozilla and deprecating Flash), taking risks, building diverse teams, the rise of AI, and much more.
This episode is full of insights into succeeding as a technology entrepreneur! From staying curious and staying focused on things that bring joy and energy to exploring new opportunities through taking risks - there is something for everyone! So why not give it a listen? We guarantee you'll learn something valuable about navigating the world!
(0:06:03) The Journey of a Technology Entrepreneur: Dees talks about his personal experience of getting into the tech industry, nurturing relationships, and his multicultural family background. (0:14:46) Empathy and Investing: The conversation focuses on topics such as Firefox OS, deprecating Flash from the web, taking risks, building diverse teams, and the rise of AI. Dees encourages listeners to take risks and be empathetic when hiring and managing teams. (0:26:33) Navigating a New World: The speaker discusses the African continent, the future workforce, and the potential for disruption, as well as the importance of time management and creating calendar entries to remind oneself of important tasks. (0:33:46) Staying Focused on What You Want: The conversation concludes with the idea of staying curious and staying focused on the things that bring joy and energy, even when it is hard to achieve.
Unlocking potential with Ashley Immanuel (Co-founder, Semicolon)
This week we had a chat with the amazing Ashley Immanuel, the Co-founder and COO of Semicolon. Semicolon's goal is to turn Africa's vibrant youth population into an army of technologists, software developers, enterprise architects and project managers.
Ashley shares her journey with us, how she followed her passion and experiences, as well as one of the coolest intros you'll ever hear!
(0:00:00) - Unlocking Potential to Change the World: Ashley shares her personal and professional journey, highlighting the importance of being inquisitive and open-minded when starting out in a career. (0:16:34) - The Journey of Co-Founding Semicolon: Ashley talks about the challenges and benefits of running a startup with her husband, and how their complementary skills contribute to the success of the business. (0:25:07) - Building Talent Pipeline: Ashley discusses the talent pipeline problem in Africa and how Semicolon is working to bridge the gap between unemployed or underemployed individuals and businesses in need of tech talent. She also shares advice for founders on being values-driven and committed to their vision.
The road less travelled with Oyinkansola Fawehinmi (Foza)
This week I had a chat with Oyinkansola Fawehinmi, a 'fast rising' entertainment business leader and lawyer from Nigeria, also known as FozaDoza. She has years of experience in entertainment and media law, a path not many female lawyers tend to tow in Nigeria. She has brokered deals worth over $10,000,000 working with top talents across various nationalities, as well as advising several governments in the sub-Saharan African region on IP matters. Foza shared quite a lot of gems with us so listen, subscribe, and share with a friend.
Ps. you can get the full gist of her journey in her memoir - So Far, So Foza.
Taking ownership with Caleb Maru, GP at Proximity Ventures
Nurturing Tech Talent with Snehar Shah, CEO of Moringa School
This week we had the pleasure of chatting with Snehar Shah, the CEO of Moringa school. Snehar is passionate about spearheading the development of Africa's young people through learning tech skills and this is evidenced in his leadership at Moringa school. Snehar has over 25 years of diverse experience in building and running businesses in multiple industries and geographies (UK, Europe and Africa).
Navigating Career with Mouna Akefli
This week we had Mouna Akefli, Marketing Manager CU West Africa & Morocco at Ericsson. Muna discusses her journey of finding purpose in life and her deep-rooted love for Africa. She talks about purpose-led marketing and impacting initiatives through her work, and why young professionals should focus on growing their talents, taking risks, and experimenting.
Championing Inclusivity with Solape Akinpelu, CEO of Hervest
Last weekend we spent time on the Grinders Table with Solape Akinpelu, CEO of Hervest. Hervest is pioneering inclusive finance for the African woman! Solape took time to share her experience and wisdom about fundraising, why businesses and the world are not as inclusive to women, what holds them back, and how the behaviour of finance needs to be part of the conversation in order to change.
Scaling impact with Will Senyo, CEO, Impact Hub Accra
Transformation using digital skills with Martin Ndlovu
Martin is a technologist and PanAfricanist who believes in technology's ability to put Africa on the map as the most significant workforce in the world. He has been working on delivering programs and aggregating relevant programs to empower Africans with 21st-century skills and bringing remote workers from around the world to Africa to realise the continent's beauty.
Martin talks about his motivations, as well as shares some really good advice you don't want to miss.
Tackling emergency healthcare challenges with Folake Owodunni, Founder of Emergency Response Africa
Folake Owodunni is the Co-founder and CEO of Emergency Response Africa (ERA), a health-tech company dedicated to saving lives one emergency at a time. Folake shares her inspiration for building the company, lessons she learned along the way and tips for aspiring founders.
Building in uncertainty with Damilare Ogunleye
I had the pleasure of speaking with Damilare Ogunleye, the co-founder at FoodLama. FoodLama is a personalized genie that helps you find the best food for you, based on your preferences and your lifestyle choices. Damilare shared how being an entrepreneur requires work-life balance, communication, and discipline.
He talked about building distribution into your products and having a clear vision and roadmap for the next ten years. He touched on relationships and how being a father impacted his life.
Enduring tough times with Thrive Agric's Uka Eje
This week I caught up with the founder of Nigeria Agritech, ThriveAgric, while playing football. ThriveAgric provides access to finance, technology-based advice, extension services, and global and local markets to smallholder farmers in Africa. They noticed that smaller farmers faced a lot of problems, and they wanted to provide them with solutions so that they could increase their yield and also assess a larger market.
Uka shared his story of building his business, and he advised founders to take their time to relax, have friends within their startup, and embrace uncertainty. He shares that the key to solving a problem is to take one step at a time and to have the right mentors who can help you along the way.
Taking Risks with Yvonne Bajela (Local Globe)
Yvonne Bajela spent time with us on the Grinders Table sharing her experience building a career, following her intuition, taking risks and pivoting throughout her career.
Yvonne invests in startups across the UK & Africa. She is a founding member at Impact X a UK-based venture capital fund founded to invest in companies led by underrepresented entrepreneurs. Over the last five years, Yvonne has invested over £200 million in various startups across Europe, the Middle East and Africa including Wise (formerly TransferWise), Flutterwave and Marshmallow.
Building Teams with Sam Sturm (Founders Factory Africa)
This week's episode features a conversation with Sam Sturm, Chief Venture Architect at Founders Factory Africa (FFA). FFA is the go-to innovation partner for startups, investors, governments, and corporates — throughout Africa and beyond. Sam shares insights on the value of relationships, his journey into the venture space, his thoughts on the Venture ecosystem, the myth of talent scarcity and his favourite productivity hacks.
Zouheir Lakhdissi, The Accidental Entrepreneur
This week I had the opportunity of having a chat with Zouheir Lakhdissi, a Moroccan entrepreneur and founder with more than 22 years of experience in the digital industry and more than 15 years in C-Level positions. Zouheir shares his journey, how he has built his career and why he thinks AI is the future of human existence.
Conversations with Kristin Wilson
It's officially season 2 of The Grinders Table and to kick off this 'summer' episode is Kristin Wilson. Kristin designs solutions at the confluence of business, culture, and politics in emerging markets. Kriston talks about veering from her medical career to her foray into Princeton, Oxford and Stanford. We deep dive into what success means and her company - Spurt!
Conversations with Joseph Agunbiade
I spoke with Joseph Agunbiade, Co-founder of BudgIT and founder of Univelcity. Joseph explains his love for physics and how it has influenced his life. He also shared key insights on how he has built a successful career (even if he doesn't regard himself as successful). Finally, Joseph capped our conversation with some amazing book recommendations that you should definitely take a look at.
Conversations with Prasanth Kumar
On the Grinders Table was Prasanth Kumar. Prasanth has held leadership roles in India, Dubai, Morocco to Ghana with a career spanning over 20 years. He shares his lessons learned, failures and key insights from his journey.
Conversations with Kanini Mutooni
Today we had Kanini Mutooni on the Grinders Table and I was awed. Kanini has held leadership and board level positions in East Africa, Europe and the US. She shares with us her 'behind the scene' story as well as lessons she learned along the way. Grab a cup of coffee, tea or whatever you like, plug in your headphones and join the conversation.
Conversations with Olawale Adegoke
Today I had the pleasure of chatting with Olawale Adegoke, a serial entrepreneur, who runs two interesting businesses - an outdoor advertising agency and a fantasy sports platform. Olawale shares his journey from construction to real estate and now advertising and sports.
Conversations with Bola Lawal
This week we had Bola Lawal on the Grinders Table. Bola Lawal, an impact Entrepreneur focused on emerging markets, founded ScholarX (LearnAm), an Education Finance platform that helps students access funding to get an education. Bola shares insights and learnings from his journey in 'startuping'.
Finding Clarity with Tomilola Majekodunmi (Bankly)
This week I had the pleasure of having Tomilola Majekodunmi, CEO of Bankly, on the Grinders Table. Bankly, a Nigerian fintech startup digitizing cash for the unbanked, recently announced a $2 million seed round. Tomi shared insights on her journey and lessons she learned along the way.
Who would you like to have on the Grinders Table?
Conversation with Temitope Ekundayo
This is the longest and most interesting episode yet!!! This week I spent some time chatting with Temitope Ekundayo, co-CEO of Printivo and Co-founder of GetEquity. I have to apologize for butchering his name too!
Temitope shared insights on building a great company, lessons from his journey and how he manages a million and one things at a time.
Conversation with Tomi Solanke
This week I had the pleasure of speaking with Tomi Solanke, Founder of Trove. Trove is one of the pioneer apps in Africa that gives access to American and Chinese stocks, bonds and ETFs for a fractional sum of money, think of it as the Robinhood for Africa. Tomi shares his journey into entrepreneurship, the lessons he learned and his mistakes.
Conversation with Max Cuvellier
This week I'm sharing my conversation with Max Cuvellier, Head of Mobile for Development at GSMA and one of the publishers of one of my favourite newsletters - The Big Deal. Max shares how he grew career-wise, the mistakes he made and his insights on leadership.
Is there anyone you'd like to be on The Grinders Table? Send me a message.
Conversations with Eman Wahby
This week I had the opportunity of speaking with Eman Wahby, GP of Egypt-based fund Grow in Africa Fund and worked for 13 years in international development with the World Bank. She has experience in working with governments, civil society, youth groups, the private sector, donors and multilateral organizations.
Eman brings fresh perspectives on making career decisions, investing in women and mistakes she made in her illustrious career.
Conversations with Clive Butkow
This week, we have Clive Butkow on the Grinders Table. Clive is the CEO of Kalon Venture Partners, a disruptive digital technology Venture Capital Fund located in Johannesburg. He was the COO of Accenture South Africa and has a 28-year illustrious management consulting experience. There's so much to unpack in the episode, so grab a seat and join us at the table.
Conversation with Pamela Wagner
This week I had the pleasure of speaking with Pamela Wagner, founder of Ajala Digital, a certified Google Partner that specializes in mobile, search, video, and display ads. She has helped over 2000+ advertisers from all over the world to achieve 6- & 7-figure results. She shared so many nuggets on building a viable business, the mistakes she made and insights that you will surely find useful in your journey to fulfilment.
Conversations with Blessing Abeng
This week we had a sit-down with Blessing Abeng, Brand and Comms expert who has worked with major brands across industries like Seedstars, Facebook, Taeillo, Diageo, Heritage Bank, Dark and Lovely, Bolt, Lemi Ghariokwu, QuickCheck and more. She is currently the co-founder of Ingressive for Good, where she supports the nonprofit’s mission to increase the earning power of one million African youths through tech training and resources. She spoke about her journey into branding and comms, her dream of becoming a doctor and the sale of a tech startup she cofounded to an African unicorn.
She ended our conversation with three insights:
- In navigating friendships, remember that sometimes it's not about you, it's about the other person. But it's up to you to leave when it doesn't suit you.
- Value your days and just understand that there is so much you can do in a day. In one year time, that day might become relevant again, it can change your life forever.
- You have limited time on Earth, ensure that you spend your time with the consciousness that this could be my last. This will inspire you to truly live.
Conversations with Maxime Bayen
This week's conversation is with Maxime Bayen, a Senior Venture Builder for Catalyst Fund at BFA Global, aka The Data King (my nickname for him). He leads the venture building support to Catalyst Fund early-stage startups as well as supports the portfolio startups when it comes to investment readiness.
Maxime shares insights on growing in his career, building teams and getting the best out of work.
He ended this episode with 3 insights:
- Work can be fun, can be enjoyable, it doesn't have to be tough
- Go for people always, build a good team.
- Be curious, try new things.
Making Impact: work-life, health and Balance with Anta Diallo (BPIFrance)
Today's conversation is with Anta Diallo, VC Scout, Start-up Advisor and Ecosystem Connector who helps African innovation players connect their ecosystems with the European and international tech hubs. She shares her journey, lowest points and insights on how to grow a more balanced business/career.
She left us with three insights:
- What do you really want? You have to know what drives you.
- Be conscious of your value and your strength.
- Be confident, and if you're not, pretend you are confident.
Is there anyone you'd like us to have a conversation with?
Conversations with Oliver Blantern
Grab a seat and join the conversation as I chat with Oliver Blantern, Founder & CEO, Impact Rooms. Impact Rooms offers well-rounded solutions for startup problems, from ensuring that they are investor-ready and are matched with the right investors, to raising capital
Oliver shares his experience and insights from building his career and business. He talks about his favourite podcasts, his 'aha' moment, lessons from his first company and much more.