Ever heard of kudi.ai, PiggyVest, Printivo, Paystack or even the popular Thrive agric?
On this week’s “Did You Know” series, I will be sharing with you about the journey of the amazing Nigerian tech founder that has built the Ventures Platform which has supported the startups mentioned above and over 20 more, the electric Kola Aina.
Kola Aina is a tech entrepreneur and family man. Kola is a leader in the African startup and investing ecosystem, a Ted speaker and volunteers his time advising founders, speaking at events and serves on the Presidential Committee for Job Creation and Youth Employment as well as the Private Sector Advisory Group to the Presidency on Creativity and Technology. Kola studied Electrical Engineering and then secured a Master in Business Administration degree with a specialization in Finance from Bowling Green State University, Ohio. He has received further education from Berkley University, Harvard University and the Lagos Business School.
Prior to focusing on full time entrepreneurship, Kola worked in corporate finance, administration, corporate turn-around and strategy. He led strategy and finance for one of the largest publishing companies in Nigeria up till 2009. Before that he worked in corporate finance proving financial analysis at Fifth Third Bank in the USA.
Kola first relocated back to Nigeria to run a business that his family had an interest in. At the time, he was still stuck in that trying to do what other people felt was best for him. He spent about a year and a half working on that business. Before long, he moved back to the US to pursue a PhD. He saw it as an opportunity to relax and get a job in academia, but that entrepreneurial bug never left. Just as he secured his admission to do his PhD, a really good opportunity to move back to Nigeria came. He dropped out and a few years later, he and his partner in the US started Emerging Platforms.
Kola had always been interested in tech but has always been the kind of person who never does things “just because”. There has to be a problem that needs solving. At that time, there was a lot of buzz around the lead up to the 2011 elections. Kola’s passion for building “customised and home-bred tech solutions to African problems” led him to found Emerging Platforms in 2010. The conversation had started in 2009 but formalized in 2010, that was when he decided to move back and start the business. One of the first projects they worked on was the security project which was a whistle-blowing platform that enabled people report incidences in a confidential way. He and his partner thought it would be great to build a mobile app for elections.
Coming from a traditional Nigerian family was a bit tough as he was expected to secure his future through his engineering degree or join in the family business but his interest in tech, frustration with engineering and a stubborn spirt led him to pursue his dreams. The beginning was rough and slow but they forged on without funds for as long as 6 months to learning to adapt to the Nigerian way of doing things to growing the company solely on internally generated revenue and later equity investment.
Inspiration for Ventures Platform
Take a simple idea, and take it seriously–Charlie Munger
Ventures Platform was inspired by a simple idea of providing support and mentorship to the next wave of innovations in Africa. By 2015, Emerging Platforms as an organization decided to formalize Ventures Platform to do this and then the company was birth. Today, Ventures Platform has grown to a large company that has supported over 2000 companies and funded 28 startups.
Although Kola Aina stepped down from the Executive Director position of Ventures Platform, he still continues to influence the tech space by providing leadership as a board member of the company while leading the company’s investment effort alongside Kayode Oyewole at Ventures Platform Fund.
Featured Image Source: Medium