Information Technology (IT) has opened up a lot of opportunities to young people to do amazing stuff and becoming job creators. Jacob Kwaku Gyan, the 23-year old Founder of Adroit 360, an IT company in Accra, is one of such and spoke to GB&F magazine’s Anthony Sedzro.
Ghana Business & Finance (GB&F) magazine: How did you end up in the IT industry?
Jacob Kweku Gran (JKG): Everything I do is miraculous. I still cannot believe I am working in the technology space because, growing up, my passions were no-where near computers. Never did I have a computer growing up; my parents couldn’t afford to buy me one and even when I started this IT venture, we were working from internet cafes so I never perceived myself working in this industry. I am much of a good talker so I believe maybe I would have worked as a lawyer or as a journalist, but life had other ideas.
Life was challenging growing up. I was trying different things including hawking with my parents and fending for myself along the way. After secondary school, I worked as a shoemaker for some time. All these experiences gave me street entrepreneurship knowledge. I mean, you get to know how to manage money, physical knowledge, you have to know how to deal with people which is much more essential.
As I kept hustling on the street, I was also reading to acquire knowledge and I discovered through my reading that Information Technology (IT) is the new gold. When looked at the top ten wealthiest people in the world, over 80 percent were IT people so I decided to build a career in IT sector.
In my father’s little single room in Kotobabi, Accra, I would usually invite a friend, who luckily was better in computer usage than me, over to our house and we would teach ourselves how to use the computer better. Gradually we acquired some computer skills including teaching ourselves how to develop websites, write programming languages and we got connected to people.
Two years ago, I met somebody who asked if I could design a website for him and I agreed. At that time, I was a beginner and was still learning and the person paid us GH¢600. We gladly took it and went to design the website for him. We had to share the money equally but my partner did not agree to that. He decided to part ways with me and this made things much more difficult because I had concentrated on going out to prospect for clients while he stayed in my father’s room to write computer codes.
Then it became necessary for me to learn how to develop the websites myself. I acquired the skill to start developing websites and by God’s grace it has been two years and we are still in business.
GB&F: Where did you get your break from?
JKG: That is a difficult question because every day has been miraculous, I don’t remember having an instantaneous breakthrough. For every job we got, I did it with passion and the drive for the job was to ensure that the person we were delivering the service to was 200 percent satisfied.
So, when I did my first website job, that job connected me to the then country director for Dell Ghana Limited. He gave us a contract and we delivered satisfactorily. He was amazed at what a young boy of 19 years was doing. He gave us another job and by the time I realised, I was doing my third website for a multinational company. I did that website very well so I got more and more connected.
We managed to set up our first office in MaCarthy Hill in Accra but in 2015 we were able to rent an office at Alajo. Through the networks that were developing, I met Phillip Ayesu of event organisers, Charterhouse, and he gave me a contract to execute. Later on, I happened to meet Ghanaian musician Okyeame Kwame. We developed a website for Okyeame Kwame as well.
Okyeame was then studying for his master’s degree at the University of Ghana, Legon. I normally take my clients as family and so he trusted me and gave me some papers to submit at school for him since I was going to Legon myself that day. When I went to submit the papers, I met one of the professors of the Business School at Legon who happened to be on the board of the MTN selection team of the Ghana Multimedia Incubation Centre (GMIC) Partnership. He told me Okyeame had informed him of how amazing I was and he told me that MTN and the government have a program which supports start-ups and I could be helped to acquire an office.
I applied for the program and luckily for me, we were selected tops among the start-ups so the program set up a new office for us around June 2016. It came as a welcome relief because we were struggling with the rent payments at our Alajo office.
GB&F: Who are some of your prominent clients?
JKG: They cut across many sectors and they include the National Information Technology Agency (NITA), under the Ministry of Communications; BlueSPACE Africa; Afiba Consulting; Smith & Adelaide law firm; Vitamilk Ghana; Sapphire Limited; AM & PM sports Bar; The KSM Show Okyeame Kwame; X-Men; VAD Systems; Dmatics in Dubai and so on.
GB&F: What have been your challenges?
JKG: I have not been really baffled by challenges frankly because the whole entrepreneurship process has been a turnaround and a learning experience for me. I grew up not being able to afford three square meals a day but through ‘these challenges’, I am able to afford to eat from anywhere at all. There is no big IT table in the country that I have not sat on and so it makes me fall in love with what I do that I do not see them as challenges.
However, I cannot dodge the fact that I am only 23 years old, I have competent web developers and administrators I work with and majority of whom are older than me and so the biggest challenge for me is human management. But through God’s grace and education, I am doing well at that.
Other challenges are capital. Right now we want to be able to secure enough capital to expand to take on new jobs.
GB&F: What government policies can be enacted to support startups like yours?
JKG: Many technology start-ups are not working in conjunction with the government ministry that is in charge of IT. You are looking at NITA, Ministry of Communications, Ministry of Business Development and so on. I don’t know where the disconnect lies, whether the startup community or the Ministries, I think there should be much more public-private engagements. Technology tackles all problems so we need to come together to harness the skills, set up incubators in these universities. Every year, computer science graduates come out of universities and, because of unavailable opportunities, some work outside the IT sector.
We have seen what other countries, especially the Asian Tigers, have done with technology to transform their economies. So, if we are able to produce graduates skilled in technology, there should be a partnership between these startups and the government to incubate these people, train them well so that we can harness their potential to benefit the economy.
Most companies host their databases and projects outside of Ghana whiles the government has servers within the country for those purposes. So when these partnerships come together, the companies working in Ghana can have access to these tools at a cheaper cost. The government could also expand its client base and rake in some money.
GB&F: What are Adroit 360’s plans for the future?
JKG: We are looking to expand to other regions of Ghana.
However, we have had amazing partnerships with other companies outside Ghana. We are partnering with a company in Nigeria and we are about setting up about five (5) offices in Nigeria. We have developed an application (app) which is going to be used by musicians to enable them reach more people across the world and enable them sell their music rather than have their music pirated. We are partnering with Believe Digital, one of the biggest music distribution companies in the Europe Union and we are rolling it out this year.
This year as well, we are launching a real estate app and we have partners in the United (UK) with that. The app is designed for the entire African market and so this year is going to be an amazing one for us.
GB&F: What is your advice for young entrepreneurs?
JKG: Entrepreneurship can be the most difficult thing and painful process to go through apart from death. You will have sleepless nights. I have never gone home before 12 midnight. I leave the office every day after 1am and get to the office before 6am. For the past two years, I do not sleep, I work tirelessly because I have no excuse.
If you want to do something with your life, you have to know first and foremost that it is going to be challenging but the difference between those who make it and those who do not is that we don’t stop. We keep fighting, we take the bull by its horns every day and that is how you can get to the top. Be relentless and have a vision.
“Entrepreneurship is tough, but rewarding” – Jacob Gyan of Adroit 360