Startup snapshot: Successful Nigerian tech company bootstrapped from a garage

From L-R: Sean Obienu (founder), Nnanna Okorie (CEO), Andrew Olowude (founder), Samson Mshelia (founder)

Nigeria-based 3 Wise Pixels is a tech company that develops dynamic, long-term digital solutions that can keep up with the needs of growing businesses as well as withstand the challenges of operating in a developing economy. 3 Wise Pixels’ co-founder, Sean Obienu, answers our questions.

1. Give us your elevator pitch in 100 words or less.

3 Wise Pixels (3WP) is a creative technology company dedicated to reimagining Nigeria’s digital landscape through curated technology and bespoke design. Based in Lagos, the company mirrors the ever-evolving landscape of the continent’s largest city – rapid growth, innovation, targeted problem-solving and distinct overtones of a rich cultural identity. 3WP champions innovation and authenticity at its core, resulting in a creative yet highly functional hybrid approach that cuts through the noise and congestion of the modern world.

2. How did you finance your startup?

We didn’t. All we had was our laptops, our minds, and our networks. It all started in Andrew’s garage which we converted into a workspace.

3. If you were given US$1m to invest in your company now, where would it go?

Expansion, expansion, expansion. We would hire more staff, purchase more equipment and set up our ‘Summer BootCamp’ for aspiring developers. We would fund our expansion into Abidjan, where we already have contacts in the industry and begin to explore setting up in other countries like Zambia and Kenya. We would also set up a think tank to advise policy decision-makers on how African governments should be interacting with rapidly-evolving technologies for the betterment of their citizens.

4. What risks does your business face?

Most of the risks we face come from the unstable political landscape in Nigeria. A lack of proper basic utilities like clean water, steady electricity, and waste management (to name a few) all contribute to a very tough living situation, which affects the physical and mental health of employer and employee alike. Not to mention the lacklustre education system, poor public transport solutions and even poorer roads, and the corruptible government agencies that oversee these things.

5. So far, what has proven to be the most successful form of marketing?

A lot of our clients come from referrals, but this is the age of social media and undeniably a lot of businesses thrive on social media/digital marketing. The advantage of referrals, however, is that those clients usually have a better idea of our modus operandi which leads to a more cohesive working relationship.

6. Describe your most exciting entrepreneurial moment.

Getting listed on the London Stock Exchange Group’s list of Companies to Inspire Africa was quite a big deal for us. We’re proud of the team we’ve built and the work we do here at 3WP, so that recognition was well-timed validation of our efforts. Convincing Nnanna Okorie to join us as the CEO was also a coup for us, as he’s definitely one of the most technically gifted people in the industry worldwide.

7. Tell us about your biggest mistake, and what have you’ve learnt from it?

Besides not investing in Ethereum when it was US$4 per coin (it has since gone to $1,000 and back down to $200), nothing really jumps out. Don’t get me wrong, we’ve made a lot of mistakes, but the advantage of having four heads is that decisions are processed through four points of view, which tends to mitigate the severity of those mistakes. Distributed data processing is all the rage right now.

8. In addition to your own industry, name one untapped business opportunity in Africa.

It may not necessarily be “untapped” per se, but agriculture is really where we should focus our entrepreneurial spirit. Food and water are essential to life and there will always be room for innovation in the industry, especially here in Africa but also all over the world. Of course there’s money to be made, but the impact on humanity is really the reward. Whether the focus is on farming methods, plant and livestock cultivation methods, or even storage and transportation, the sky’s the limit in agribusiness, just like it is in tech.