“You can’t understand what betting does for us. It is like youth empowerment.”
This was the response of a young man whom I recently had cause to ask about why a lot of youths seemed to have taken to betting. Betting has become a fancy way to pass time and this is one reason why many will be familiar with the name, Akin Alabi. He is the founder of Nairabet, the first betting platform in Nigeria.
Alabi continues to churn out new ideas and tread new paths. This explains his diversified business interests over the years and is possibly the reason he is touted to be one of the richest internet entrepreneurs in Nigeria.
Akin Alabi was born on March 31, 1977, in Ibadan, Oyo State, Nigeria. He spent his early years there, completing his primary education at Command Children School, Ibadan before proceeding to Federal Government College, Enugu for his secondary education. When he returned to the west, it was to obtain a Higher National Diploma in Business Administration from The Polytechnic, Ibadan.
Afterwards, he proceeded to the University of Liverpool, United Kingdom, for a degree in Marketing. He obtained another degree in Intellectual Property Strategy from Harvard University, Boston, US. At this time, the strings of entrepreneurship were already pulling at him.
foray into business
Straight after school in 2003, Akin ventured into writing manuals and selling books. Although many people had various notions about his choice of business, Akin chose to describe himself as an information entrepreneur.
“I started as an information marketer; I was basically into writing and selling of books which I could say was like selling my knowledge and experience, both on online and terrestrial platforms. It pleases me to tell you that I still do that till now,” Akin once posted in a tweet.
Later on, he started a seminar and training business where he taught and consulted for startups. He also published Income, a business opportunity newspaper for small business owners. This publication was an avenue for him to again do his “information entrepreneurship” while sharing his business acumen with other small business owners.
The entrepreneur in him would not give up, and he kept trying his hands out on other business ideas. He engaged in businesses such as selling chickens, importing and exporting cash crops, and even a travel company. He also started publishing a weekly sports newspaper – World Soccer News. This publication became the gateway that allowed him to see other opportunities soccer could bring.
On a visit to the United Kingdom to see his brother, he accompanied his brother to a betting shop and came across sports betting. Knowing that Nigerians had a lot of interest in European soccer, Alabi could already see a potential business there. When he returned to Nigeria, he first wrote and created an information product explaining how one could place a sports bet online in Nigeria. The massive sales and profits the product recorded was all the encouragement Alabi needed to jump into the water with both feet.
He had already studied the sports betting business model and knew it could be highly profitable, but seeing so many people interested in learning about it, confirmed that there was indeed a market for sports betting in Nigeria.
Akin Alabi launched Nairabet in 2009, which thus became the first business to come up with a fully functional website where people could deposit money, place bets, and make withdrawals. In over a decade of operations regulated by the National Lottery Regulatory Commission, the business has grown to have over a thousand outlets across the country and is headquartered in Lagos. According to Alexa.com, a traffic ranking site, Nairabet is the most visited African sports bookmaking website.
Akin Alabi also founded Nightlife.ng, an online platform that focuses on the nightlife industry and the economy that revolves around it in Nigeria. He is the founder of Over The Top Entertainment, a record label that has signed some ace Nigerian musicians including Skuki.
Recognition and awards
He was appointed as the Mogaji of Ajiwogbo compound in Ibadan by the Olubadan of Ibadan, HRH Saliu Adetunji in December 2016. Akin Alabi is also credited with several philanthropic activities towards the youths and widows, which he carries out through the Akin Alabi Foundation.
Due to his philanthropic acts, he was also honoured with a chieftaincy title as the Otunba Atunlushe of Igbole Ekiti by the Olugbole of Igbole Ekiti, HRM Oba Emmanuel O. Ajayi Adetiloye II.
He resigned from being CEO of Nairabet in 2018, to venture into politics. He won the elections into the House of Representatives in March 2019 on the platform of the All Progressive Congress (APC). He represents the Egbeda/Ona Ara Federal Constituency in Oyo State.