In less than five years, Nigerian-born Abasiama Idaresit turned $250 in startup funds into more than $6 million, and he may be on his way to becoming the continent’s first tech billionaire.
The 36-year-old’s company, Wild Fusion, is one of Africa’s leading digital marketing agencies. He founded it in 2010 and by 2015 it was worth $6 million. Wild Fusion offers Internet marketing and digital strategy for such clients as Visa, Vodafone, Pepsi, Samsung, and Unilever. The company has offices Accra, Ghana; Lagos, Nigeria; and Nairobi, Kenya.
Wild Fusion was Google’s first AdWords-certified partner in West Africa. The online advertising service enables advertisers to compete to display advertising copy to web users based, in part, on keywords.
Idaresit spoke to AFKInsider about how he overcame business challenges and what’s next for Wild Fusion.
AFKInsider: What was your path back to Nigeria in 2010 to start your own business?
Abasiama Idaresit: My first degree was in information systems and management and afterwards I enrolled in an MBA from Manchester Business School. I grew up in Nigeria and it was just natural to set up here after school.
AFKInsider: What made you decide to return back to Nigeria?
Idaresit: I was born and raised in Nigeria. I was born in a beautiful and very clean city called Calabar in Southeast Nigeria and had my primary and secondary education here. I have always been passionate about my country, Nigeria, and the continent Africa. Starting a business here was something I had always wanted to do and a natural course.
AFKInsider: Why did you open Wild Fusion, a digital marketing company?
Idaresit: At the time of launching Wild fusion, technology adoption in marketing was in its infancy or early stage in Nigeria. I was convinced advertisers and marketers will succeed using technology and I decided to facilitate this success by setting up in Africa’s biggest economy, Nigeria. Wild Fusion enables advertisers and brands achieve their marketing objectives using technology. This isn’t limited to mobile, email or social networks but includes data, search engines, analytics, voice, SMS and USSD (unstructured supplementary service data).
AFKInsider: How did you fund the venture?
Idaresit: (It was) 100 percent self funded by reinvesting retained earnings.
AFKInsider: Is Nigeria helpful to new business?
Idaresit: Nigeria is a huge market with tremendous opportunities. It is literally littered with opportunities. There are challenges in carrying out business activities and the government is very committed to ensuring a business friendly economy. If you look at the current 2016 budget, there is a significant portion allocated for capital investment, or expenditure — the highest in recent times. With more investment in infrastructure (both human and physical), we will begin to experience a much more business friendly and helpful environment.
AFKInsider: What is the Nigerian business environment like currently?
Idaresit: It is challenging right now especially with the current oil price, (forex) regulations, and infrastructure. This has affected lots of businesses as you will see in how our stock exchange has performed recently in 2016. I am certain we will weather the storm and certainly those who are patient and persistent will definitely reap the reward.
AFKInsider: What are some of the best things about doing business in Nigeria?
Idaresit: The size of the market, the culture and people. Nigerians are very open to new products and services making it an attractive market with a very young demographic.
AFKInsider: What are some things you’d like to see changed in the Nigerian tech industry?
Idaresit: I will like to see more exportable Nigerian technology and services that can compete globally or regionally. I definitely want to see the tech industry attract talents and capital, creating exportable global products.
I have recently been involved in the venture capital space, identifying and investing in some companies, empowering and enabling them to scale their models while keeping the focus on the international market. By this year’s end, I will alongside some partners commit significant amount of resources in enabling other African businesses succeed and scale. We are just starting.
AFKInsider: Your reach is also to Ghana and Kenya. Why did you expand to other countries?
Idaresit: First of all we believe strongly we have solutions that shouldn’t be confined to this market but enable other regions — especially in Africa — to succeed. Second of all, as Africans we must invest in our local markets and encourage trade within the continent as this naturally attract foreign investors or capital.
AFKInsider: What have been some business challenges?
Idaresit: Having to deal with inadequate infrastructure (both human and physical) and also doing business outside the home country has proven challenging. Access to finance for expansion especially when in a growth a growth phase can equally be challenging.
AFKInsider: What are your goals for 2016?
Idaresit: Other than Wild Fusion business goals, we are looking to invest in building or developing local technologies and business models — not only tech.
We will do this by investing as a business and also as a venture fund while enabling our clients to succeed in these difficult times. With currency crises in Nigeria today, lots of businesses are looking inwards on how to reduce foreign exchange liabilities and produce locally. The same applies to us. We must build local technology alternatives while integrating these alternatives with global systems. Basically we are looking to localize some elements in the value chain — backward integration if you may. This is our goal and focus in 2016.
AFKInsider: What is your biggest business goal?
Idaresit: My biggest business goal will be to build a social business model that is commercially viable while transforming local communities.
Source: AFK Insider