Started December of last year, PrayerBox already has well over 40,000 users. It has been referred to as the ‘Twitter for religion’ and offers users a platform to post prayer points, testimonies and share prayers with each other privately. It also offers a means to connect users with their churches via one of its features, Church Pages.
Heading up this project is Nigerian computer software programmer, Oyelaja Oyekan. He is fluent in over 13 programming languages and is the CEO of Cybernator Solutions, PrayerBox’s parent company. Founded in 2008, Cybernator Solutions develops websites, software applications, and designs ranging from graphics to logos.
Oyekan says the inspiration for starting PrayerBox came from observing the trend of shared prayer points on social media websites in Nigeria. He answers How we made it in Africa’s questions, detailing his start-up and entrepreneurial journey.
Give us a brief background of Cybernator Solutions. What other projects has it worked on in the past?
Cybernator Solutions started in 2008 as a web and mobile software development company while I was in my second year at Babcock University. I ran the company out of my dorm room and had gotten 10 clients within my first month of operation. Over the course of our existence we have worked on projects such as the now defunct Waaazap (a social networking website), Passjamb (an exam preparatory platform) and a host of web, mobile and software projects for individuals and companies. Most recently we developed the website for the governor elect for Lagos state [Akinwunmi Ambode].
What was the inspiration behind starting Cybernator Solutions and ultimately the platform PrayerBox?
I started Cybernator Solutions out of my passion for writing computer code. I learnt to code for the fun of building things and never made any money from it until I built a one page website for an educational consultancy. This led to more freelance jobs and eventually the urge to start my own company.
The inspiration for PrayerBox came from understanding Nigeria as a very religious country and seeing the increasing trend of people sharing prayer points on social media sites. This made me realise the potential of building an online platform dedicated to religion and giving churches a more personalised way of connecting with their audiences and congregation.
I had also missed church due to late night programming, and this also made me vow to build something that will keep me closer to my religious community irrespective of my location.
How does PrayerBox produce revenue?
PrayerBox currently generates revenue from custom targeted advertising. We are currently working on newer revenue models, and once they are well tested we will announce them to the general public.
How did you advertise your product?
PrayerBox has not advertised its service since launch. The impressive growth has come from word-of-mouth referrals, media mentions and recommendations by churches to their congregations.
If you were given US$1m to invest into your company right now, what would be the first thing you did?
My first line of action would be to expand the team by hiring more developers and strategic people to grow the product rapidly. Establishing key presences in more countries and gaining more solid partnerships would also be a must for the company. Most importantly I would focus on getting more churches on board, and also expanding our infrastructure to accommodate our growth.
As an entrepreneur have you had any business failures, and what have you have learnt from them?
Failing is fun because learning is fun and you learn from failing. Failure has taught me to always study how differently I could do things. Waaazap was more of a failure than success and this was due to it having nothing unique to offer and never really solving any problems for its users. This has helped during the course of starting PrayerBox. You have to identify and validate the need for your product before you start building, or else you will be failing before even starting.
What is the one thing you wish you knew about entrepreneurship before you got started?
I wish I knew it was harder than just programming. I wish I knew this was harder than a game of chess against Kasparov [a world champion]. Entrepreneurship is harder than building products. It’s about building a company, managing people, generating revenue and learning to stay motivated when things get hard.
Where do you see your company in five years? Any expansion plans?
In five years I see PrayerBox having over five million active users and, definitely, we have huge expansion plans. By the end of the year we are targeting over a million active users and signing up over 500 churches on the platform. Partnerships with key players are also a major focus for us right now, and judging from our statistics so far this has been the fastest way for us to grow.