If there is one thing that women in tech love to do, it is to shake up the industry and to genuinely create things that are both entrepreneurial and innovative. Nigerian techpreneur, Ommo Clark, is one such industry game-changer, building a software house, iBez, that creates not only proprietary software products that help to solve local challenges, but also develops and showcases local tech talent.
As part of our month-long series on Africa’s leading women in tech, LoA chatted to serial techpreneur, Ommo Clark, about her entrepreneurial journey and her vision for the future, to be at the forefront of software innovation in Africa and the market leader in offering disruptive online solutions.
Tell us a little about your company, iBez
We are a software house. We provide bespoke application development services and proprietary software products to businesses, and we have a number of innovative internet based businesses offering various services to consumers. Some of our products include: Schools Network Integrated Programme (SNIP), Project Management Integrated System (PMIS), Hotel Motel Solution, Handy Jacks, Lets Share, Exchange BBPin, and so on.
"As a technology entrepreneur, I believe technology provides a solution to every business, social challenge or need"
What inspired you to start your company?
A number of reasons. I moved back to Nigeria 6 years ago after living in the UK for very many years. One of the first things that struck me in my first few months back was that there were many every day challenges Nigerians were facing that could be easily solved using technology solutions. Life didn't have to be so difficult. After doing some research I came up with internet based solutions to address some of these issues. The first of these is Handy Jacks, which is an application to find local vetted and trained tradespeople and technicians on demand. The inspiration for this app came from the fact that, like so many other Nigerians, I just couldn't find competent tradespeople for my household repair and maintenance jobs, though there were many tradespeople at the grassroots level. Then I came up with Lets-Share, a solution for professionals to securely find rooms to rent in a house or flat share because rents in Lagos are just incredibly high, but many people have spare rooms in their homes that they are willing to rent out to verified people. We also have an online dating site, a gaming application, a hotel reservation application, and a couple of e-commerce sites to come.
Six months after I came into Nigeria, I got a job with a software solutions company. But, the problem was that we didn't really build anything, we were simply resellers of foreign developed software applications. I was amazed that Nigerian businesses didn't appreciate locally developed software applications, and also that many IT professionals did not properly understand the end-to-end process of software development, or indeed how to build robust, scalable software. There seemed to be a misconception that software development is limited to ‘programming/coding’ so the vast majority of Nigerians that go into software development are focused on learning coding. Other disciplines like analysis, design, architecture and testing that are essential to building robust applications, are often neglected. The end result is that most locally built software does not adequately meet user needs. Furthermore, a lot of small businesses in Nigeria, together with some government agencies, are still operated using manual paper based systems. These are very labour intensive, costly, inefficient, and it makes them uncompetitive - ultimately, they didn't seem to understand the power of IT solutions to transform their businesses. I decided to start up a truly indigenous software company to show that local people can be good software developers, and also to showcase and promote locally developed applications.
"Would-be women entrepreneurs should never conform to gender stereotypes. They should get rid of any self limiting beliefs they hold and do what they are passionate about."
Why should anyone use your services or products?
Our products and services are fabulous! We are not just software developers, but we are also entrepreneurs and innovators. We are meticulous about what we do and build software applications that fit the way businesses operate, do exactly what they want them to do, function how they expect them to, and are relevant to the domestic market. We are also software development specialists and have the requisite business and technical knowledge, together with hands-on expertise in analysis, design, architecture, programming and testing, required to build software robust products. We never compromise on quality and value excellence. Our aim is always to build solutions that both we and our clients are proud of.
Tell us a little about your team
We are a very small team of software enthusiasts, geeks, strategists, analysts, designers, developers and project managers, all focused on building exceptional software applications. I am the Co-Founder/CEO responsible for the overall strategy and direction of our business. Mr Omon Ohiro is my partner in crime and is the Co-Founder/CFO. He is a programmer extraordinaire and lives and breathes code. We also have a Coder and a Database Specialist. We are looking to expand our team within the coming months, so if there's anyone out there that would love to join our fabulous team, call me!
"I decided to start up a truly indigenous software company to show that local people can be good software developers, and also to showcase and promote locally developed applications."
Share a little about your entrepreneurial journey. And, do you come from an entrepreneurial background?
I don't come from an entrepreneurial background. In fact I didn't think of myself as an entrepreneur until friends started calling me a serial entrepreneur. I used to think entrepreneurs were a special breed of people with a zillion brains that always came up with amazing ideas, so I never thought I was in that category. The first time I thought of starting my own business was when I worked with a software company in the UK. It dawned on me one day that I was as good as the owners of the companies that I worked in, and that if they could do it, I could too - however, I did nothing about it and just continued climbing up the career ladder until the credit crunch in 2008. After I moved back to Nigeria, there were just so many opportunities to do many things that no one seemed to be doing anything about, so I decided to do something myself.
My entrepreneurial journey has been a roller coaster, full of ups and down, highs and lows. I didn't know how to run a business when I first started out, even though I had been working in the corporate world for a while. I thought as soon as I built my systems, told people about the, and put some flyers out there in the marketplace, that people would flock to utilise my services - the reason being that because I had a great product that is badly needed but it didn't happen this way. After many months of struggling and living from hand to mouth I had to make some hard choices, either dust up my CV and go look for a job or keep pushing on. I decided to give things another go. I heard in a TV programme that there's no shame in retreating to re-group so I decided to take a few steps back to move forward. I had to learn how to plan and structure a business for growth because even though I run a technology business and can theoretically work out of my laptop from anywhere, a business is still a business and needs to be structured properly. I had to put the right processes in place, understand the financials and really put myself out there as an entrepreneur. As a technology person, its not easy for me to market and sell, but as a business owner, its expedient that I sell. Now we've turned a corner, though we are still working on getting our cashflow to where we want it to be. We have a number of clients and companies currently using our applications, and we are working on growing this user base daily.
"We are a very small team of software enthusiasts, geeks, strategists, analysts, designers, developers and project managers, all focused on building exceptional software applications."
What are your future plans and aspirations for your company?
The plan is to be at the forefront of software innovation in Africa and the market leader in offering disruptive online solutions.
What gives you the most satisfaction being an entrepreneur?
As a technology entrepreneur, I believe technology provides a solution to every business, social challenge or need. So therefore, seeing an idea and developing it into a solution that has the potential to transform the current ways in which things are done, and which makes peoples lives better, fills me with a lot of pride and joy.
What's the biggest piece of advice you can give to other women looking to start-up?
Would-be women entrepreneurs should never conform to gender stereotypes. They should get rid of any self limiting beliefs they hold and do what they are passionate about.
Don't do something just because other people are doing it and making money from it - do it because you are passionate about it and are good at it.
Before starting in business, you have to research and plan - remember, not all great ideas make good businesses.
You should surround yourself with good supportive people that will always give you the best advice, support you, and push you to be the very best you can be.
Anybody can do whatever they set their minds to do.
Contact or follow iBez
Email Address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Why LoA loves it….
Ommo Clark is another wonderful example of Africa’s tenacious women techpreneurs who are literally changing the way that business is done on the continent, through their innovative approach to problem solving through the harnessing of new technology and ideas. Ommo is genuinely a real game-changer in that she looks to make a real difference in people’s everyday lives in her country by looking at challenges and turning them into solutions and new business opportunities. Africa needs more women techpreneurs just like her to encourage a new generation of women in tech to follow in her footsteps and be the change that the continent needs. --- Melanie Hawken, Lionesses of Africa founder and editor-in-chief