Rated as one of the top tech CEOs in Nigeria according to Ventures Africa, Leonard Stanley Ekeh has earned a name for himself through his contributions to Africa’s ICT space. With his tech start-ups dating back to the 80s, Ekeh can be put in the bracket of visionaries who saw that ICT would define the world in no distant time.
This week on Nairametrics Founders Profile, the spotlight is on Leo Stan Ekeh, as he is now popularly known.
Leo Stan Ekeh was born in Imo state on February 22, 1956 to a Dietician mum and Nurse dad. He had his early education in Owerri, and upon graduation from Holy Ghost College, Owerri, he emigrated to India where he obtained BSc. Economics from Punjab University.
This step marked a turning point in his thought process, as he was exposed to the Indian economy which he described as ‘realistic’. He then shifted from his plans to own “the biggest transport company in Nigeria” and started thinking of more realistic business ideas, which would impact the Nigerian economy. He moved on to England where he bagged a Postgraduate degree in Risk Management at the Nottingham University.
His return to Nigeria saw him spearhead the creation of several tech companies.
Task System Limited
This was Ekeh’s first start-up in Nigeria. The ICT solutions company commenced operations in 1989 to focus on desktop publishing and computer graphics. Over the last three decades, the company extended operations from Lagos to Port Harcourt and Abuja, implementing several ICT projects across the Oil & Gas, Telecoms, Manufacturing, and Public sectors.
The company has computerized 95 percent of Print media, Publishing houses, and Advertising agencies in Nigeria; with several outstanding industry awards to its credit, including Best Partner Award for Compaq, Microsoft, Hewlett Packard (HP) etc.
Zinox Technologies Limited
ZInox Technologies is the brand which brought Ekeh to the forefront of Africa’s tech space and for which he is popular for. The company was founded in 2001 and became the first internationally certified branded computer OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) in West Africa.
In addition, Zinox is the first to receive Windows Hardware Quality Labs (WHQL) certification, and also the first computer hardware manufacturing company and ICT integration company in Nigeria to receive ISO 9001-2000.
Zinox creates business solutions that uses new technologies to streamline systems, efficiently align, integrate, and maximise productivity. Its products are renowned for their security and IT infrastructure. The company has helped to revolutionize the electoral processes in several African countries like Nigeria, The Gambia, and Guinea-Bissau.
Zinox is the only local OEM partner of Microsoft and Intel corporation in Nigeria. It was recently rated by International Data Corporation (IDC) as the No.1 brand in terms of computer sales amongst local and international brands in Nigeria.
Ekeh also launched Zinox Computers – Nigeria’s first internationally certified branded computers, which comes with a Naira sign and a power supply designed to be compatible with the country’s unstable power supply.
Buyright Africa Dotcom Limited
In 2008, Ekeh founded Buyright Africa Dotcom Limited at a time when credit card and e-payment infrastructures were still alien to Nigerians. The target of the start-up was to resolve funding issues for ICT projects and companies, through partnerships with strong international finance groups.
Within the next couple of years, Buyright Africa launched full operation to help Africans enjoy the benefits of emerging technologies and build technology strength that would allow her citizens, governments, and businesses compete favourably with other strong economies of the world.
Buyright Africa executes and funds ICT projects, equipment leasing, ownership scheme and other related ideas in Africa. It also offers ICT consultancy services and sales of ICT products, infrastructures, and digital tools to educational institutions and governments, through its partnership with international and local ICT companies.
Describing the vision, Mr. Mukoro Emomine, Managing Director of Buyright Africa said the company was out to work with manufacturers, in order to reduce the total cost of ownership of ICT equipment in Africa and also encourage usage.
Konga.com was founded in July 2012 by Sim Shagaya as a third-party online marketplace, and a first-party direct retail in various categories of consumer goods and products.
In February 2018, Zinox acquired 99% of Konga.com shares just a few months after Konga laid off over half its staff. Three months later, Konga merged with Zinox’s retail outfit – Yudala to form the biggest e-commerce company in Africa. Under the new merger, the brand name Konga was retained.
Leo Stan Ekeh also founded Technology Distribution Limited, Task Direct Limited and ITEC Solutions, using them to drive IT solutions and distribution in West Africa.
He has also been involved with ICT Brokers, and ICT Connect. News recently made the rounds that Ekeh was the man behind the Healthplus takeover, but Ekeh distanced himself from such rumours,
“Till date, I do not have a kobo share in any of their investment vehicles, including a kobo share in Healthplus. Although, everyone has a right to invest in any company of his or her choice.”
CSR initiatives and recognitions
In line with his interest and devotion to the growth of IT in Nigeria, Ekeh launched the Computerize Nigeria Project in August 2000, to encourage development and sensitize Nigerians in the use of computers. He also launched the CANi Scheme, providing laptops to young Nigerians at a reduced price, with a repayment plan spread across 24 months.
Through his charity organisation, Leo Stan Ekeh Foundation, he has carried out other commendable humanitarian and philanthropic donations across the country.
He was bestowed with the ICON of Hope award by former President Olusegun Obasanjo on October 1, 2002; Nigerian Science & Technology Achiever of the Year 2003; and Officer of the Order of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (OFR) in 2004. Ekeh is also a member of the Nigerian Economic Summit Group, and holds Life Membership, Nigeria Institute of International Affairs.
He holds Honorary Doctorate in Business Administration from Imo State University, Owerri; Federal University of Agriculture, Makurdi; and Federal University of Technology, Owerri and University of Jos. He is a Fellow of the Lagos State Polytechnic, Lagos; Federal Polytechnic, Idah; and Federal Polytechnic, Nekede, Imo State.
Only 64 years old, Leo Stan Ekeh is still going strong and there is no telling what sector he might venture into next. He recently called for the declaration of a Tech Independence Day, and confidently said it is only a matter of time before Nigeria starts raising tech billionaires that would rival the likes of Jeff Bezos and Jack Ma.
Ekeh was worth $1 billion as of June, 2018 according to Business Insider by Pulse.ng.
Apple’s CEO’s package has totaled over $963.5 million since 2011
Tim Cook’s package has risen to close to a billion dollar in close to a decade.
Since 2011, when Tim Cook became CEO of Apple, his package has totaled over $963.5 million, according to an estimate from Equilar, an executive compensation firm.
Apple’s CEO collected his largest stock grant since 2011, which will reward him with large stacks of stocks through 2025, according to an SEC filing released yesterday.
Apple’s CEO will collect 333,987 units of restricted stock, that will vest as to one-third of the units, on an annual basis starting on April 1, 2023.
In a separate package, Cook will also vest 333,987 units of stock in 2023, which could double, if he meets targets related to Apple’s performance on the stock market.
If Apple continues to impress as it is presently, Cook will collect 1,001,961 shares of Apple by 2025, similar to the grant of 1 million shares he received shortly after he became CEO in 2011.
Why Apple is doing well?
- Recall, about two months ago, Nairametrics gave vital insights on why global investors and stock traders are placing more bets in growth stocks like Apple, thereby resulting in their astronomical rise in valuations, in spite of COVID-19.
- These companies also have good macros in their businesses, partly due to low debts, high-profit margins, and the fact that more people are isolated and mostly working remotely on their iPhones and Macbooks.
- Cook, 59, disclosed five years ago, that he plans to give most of his fortunes away. Already, he has gifted millions of dollars’ worth of Apple shares. His wealth could be lower, assuming he has made other undisclosed charitable gifts.
Although if the world’s most valuable tech company underperforms, it’s also possible that the CEO will get none of such rewards.
At Tuesday’s closing price of $114.09, the maximum number of shares Cook could receive are worth $114 million. That amount will rise or fall with Apple’s stock price.
“Tim has brought unparalleled innovation and focus to his role as CEO, and demonstrated what it means to lead with values and integrity,” Apple’s Board of Directors said in a statement.
”For the first time in nearly a decade, we are awarding Tim a new stock grant, that will vest over time, in recognition of his outstanding leadership, and with great optimism for Apple’s future as he carries these efforts forward,” it stated.
The stock grant suggests that Cook’s performance over the past decade is viewed highly by Apple’s board, which wants to make sure that he will be paid competitively through 2025, if he continues to be the CEO of Apple.
Scaling in Nigeria’s fashion industry is tough work – Ugo Monye
Ugo Monye takes us through his journey to becoming one of the most popular fashion brands in Nigeria.
With the large number of business names being registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) on a monthly basis, it is easy to assume that starting and scaling a business in Nigeria is a piece of cake. In reality, however, it is a completely different story.
Even after surviving the first few years, scaling for expansion can be a hard nut to crack, particularly in an industry that is still unstructured.
Ugochukwu Monye, Founder and Creative Director, Ugo Monye Fashion Company was a guest on the Nairametrics Business Half Hour, and shared some challenges of scaling in Nigeria’s fashion industry.
He observed that one challenge entrepreneurs have to face in the industry while trying to upscale is the shortage of manpower.
“No one wants to work for anybody. People don’t want to be part of another person’s success story, because everyone feels they can as well float whatever it is you are doing. This is part of the reasons the industry lacks structure, and still not fully developed,” he noted.
Even when one employs a staff, they only work a short while before they start contemplating how to leave and replicate your business. In my line of business, the result is many small fashion businesses with few (if any) outstanding brands.
There is much room for specialization across the value chain, but people cannot specialize, “because of the absence of a structure,” Ugo added.
Discovering Ugo Monye
Ugo grew up with a mother who owned a fashion business, so he picked interest in fashion early enough. However, he did not wish to pursue this line, as the realities at the time did not present the fashion industry as a mouth-watering alternative to other well-known professional lines.
“At that time, there was no glory in being a tailor or a fine artist,” he explained.
His parents wanted him to read Fine and Applied Art in the UK, and hone his skills in Fine Arts, but he refused, opting instead for a course in Business Administration so that he could go into importation business upon graduation. Exposure and knowledge soon showed him that often, a person’s passion and calling had to cross paths.
He started coming up with creative designs and clothing ideas, drawing inspiration from the things around him in the university.
One holiday, Ugo went home and decided it was time to bring the ideas to reality. He linked up with a couple of tailors that worked with his mother, and using some of the old machines still available in the house, they brought the first Ugo Monye clothing designs to life.
At that time, the business operated with the name CIUCI (a word which he derived from the initial letters of his five siblings), later changing to Ugo Modern Design, before he decided to just stick with his name, Ugo Monye.
He continued with his designs through his university days, till the end of his one-year mandatory service – NYSC, after which he got a job with a Strategic Consulting company. It only took a short while before Ugo realized that, as much as he was earning more than some of his peers at the time, there was no sense of fulfillment in what he did. He turned in his resignation and decided to go all-in on fashion designing. He attended a fashion school to hone his skills further.
All hands on deck
The fashion industry is not an easy place to start, and anyone starting out in the space must be ready to play all the required roles. In this industry, Ugo became a designer, tailor, marketer, brand promoter, and every possible role as he strove to get things rolling.
“It is not just easy to get people to do these things, because the industry has not attained a structural level, where a person will decide right from school, that he wants to work as a designer with this company, as we see in other sectors,”
There is also the tendency for people to feel that they don’t have a serious job because they are tailors, and sometimes feel ashamed to identify as one. Things are gradually changing as people are beginning to identify with the industry, and this brings hope for more growth in the sector.
Monetizing a fashion company takes different forms, designing, clothes making, selling, and even consulting.
Ugo says that as a brand, the Ugo Monye brand is more about details, “There has to be that touch of finesse in the finishing, and in fact, we pay more attention to the parts of the clothes that people do not see. This is what stands you out from others.”
A dream still in the process
Though Ugo Monye has become a brand to be reckoned with among celebrities and notable personalities in the last decade, Ugo says that his dreams for the brand are still yet to be actualised. He sees his brand becoming a force to be reckoned with in the coming years, a brand that every fashion enthusiast would want to be identified with as the industry takes shape.
“I am not yet wowed by anything I have experienced so far. There are quite a lot of achievements I have made with the brand, but it is still not up to what I dreamed of. There’s no short cut to anywhere that is worth going to,” Ugo concluded.
We started PiggyVest to digitize ‘wooden box’ saving method – Odunayo Eweniyi, Co-Founder
Inspired by the local wooden box piggy bank, the idea for PiggyVest was birthed.
The Financial Service sector has rapidly evolved in the last decade; with several viable startups springing up with innovations, most people never thought was possible. One of the notable startups, currently redefining the FinTech industry is PiggyVest.
PiggyVest is the first online ‘savings and investment’ app in West Africa, with one mission to give everyone the power to better manage and grow their own finance.
For a company started by six young graduates, their success story is truly inspirational
Today, Nairametrics profiles one of the brains behind this ethical startup company – Odunayo Eweniyi
Born in Oyo state, the 27-year-old Odunayo spent her early years invested in reading books. She excelled with ease in all subjects at her primary and secondary schools. A feat not surprising, as she is daughter to two professor parents.
Odunayo recalls that even though she wished to study Medicine and Surgery, she did not consider herself empathetic enough to thrive in the profession. She went on to study Computer Engineering at the prestigious Covenant University, graduating top of her class in 2013.
Finding her Co-Founders
As an undergraduate, Odunayo had already taken an interest in Coding and Artificial Intelligence and expected to take further studies in it. However, this did not happen immediately, as she started with job-hunting after graduation.
“The first thing that happened to me was that I went for a job interview, and I was asked to quote a salary and I did. When the offer would come back, the salary they offered was 80% lower than what I expected, so I rejected it,” she recalled.
Subsequently, she teamed up with a couple of friends from her university days, and they came up with the idea of PushCV. Recounting the decision to team up with them, Odunayo says,
“We all were amazing engineers in school, Somto once built a miniature airplane, so I was pretty confident that a joint venture with them would produce amazing results.”
The other team members were already working on a discount card startup called Parolz, and she joined them to work on this for some months, while simultaneously still jobhunting with Oluwafemi, and Somto was working on something called CV Flash, to help people who couldn’t write CVs properly or did so with terrible English.
Odunayo became a Co-founder at CVFlash, helping to write the CVs for clients. She was also writing for TechCabal, Zikoko, and later worked as Editor of TechPoint Africa. All of the income from these jobs kept her going, and was also being channeled into getting the startup off the ground.
Soon enough, PushCV came to the forefront of their interests, when clients started requesting that they help them ‘push’ their CVs to employers. The friends decided to collapse Parolz, and concentrate their energies on the startup raving with the most attention from users.
To differentiate PushCV from others, they started pre-screening candidates, so that only the best candidates would be sent to employers. Their activities attracted attention, and by August 2014, they got their first investment from Olumide Soyombo’s Leadpath Nigeria – an office space in Yaba, and a cheque for $25,000.
How Piggybank was conceived
By the end of December 2015, the team came across a tweet from a lady, about how she had saved N365,000 by putting N1000 in a wooden piggy bank daily. They decided then, that finding a way to digitize the concept would help salary earners save towards their financial goals.
They launched Piggybank.ng on the 7th of January 2016, as a ‘savings-only’ platform, and the fully tested version was ready for public use by April 2016. Gradually, the brand grew by user-recommendations and testimonials. These free adverts were a testament to the team, that they were helping with a real need in our society.
Three years later, in April 2019, they rebranded to PiggyVest, and started offering direct investment opportunities to users, allowing them to combine ‘discipline plus flexibility to grow their savings and investments.’
Users can now use the Quarterly savings options, save towards financial targets, or lock funds away. They can also take advantage of investment opportunities on the platform. The company currently serves 350,000 users, helping them save and invest “a combine billions of Naira every month, that they would probably be tempted to badly spend.”
Not a roller-coaster experience
About her several experiences as co-founder, Odunayo said;
“The journey was full of self-doubt, and it took a toll on my self-esteem. The first thing I learnt was that I had to be adaptable, people don’t give you money then use your own. For the first two years of running the company, I had to work a side job, with the entire proceeds invested into running the start-up.”
The team was made up of six-persons at start-up, although only three people are listed as Co-Founders – Odunayo Eweniyi, Joshua Chibueze, and Somto Ifezue. Each person on the team had their specialty and strength, so it was easy to assign responsibilities. There was no accountant in the team, so they managed their finances themselves, noting that there were months, when they could not even pay themselves.
Further education, honours, and recognitions
Odunayo got certified in Full Stack Web Development (Computer Software Engineering) in 2018, as well as an online certification from the Harvard Business School. Odunayo is also CISCO certified. The Oyo-born tech founder says that she has intentions of furthering her education. According to her LinkedIn profile, she is currently undergoing a Master degree in Finance (banking) at the SOAS University of London
“I draw inspiration from my family. They believe in me so much, that it is hard for me not to believe in myself.” she said in an interview.
In 2019, Odunayo Eweniyi was named one of Forbes Africa 30 under 30 – Technology, and one of 30 Quartz Africa Innovators. In the same year, she was named SME Entrepreneur of the Year– West Africa, by The Asian Banker’s Wealth and Society, and is listed on Forbes Africa list of 20 New Wealth Creators in Africa 2019.
She sits on boards like the Advisory board of TrainFuture in Switzerland, the Gender Lens Acceleration Best Practices Initiative – a collaborative effort of Village Capital US, and the International Finance Corporation’s, Women Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative (IFC-WeFi).