By Tefo Mohapi
Young, sophisticated & upwardly mobile Africans are finding their lives getting busier by the day. They find themselves having to walk a tightrope of balancing their personal and professional lives and most times it is the personal life that suffers. This is where Bandeka.com steps in – an invite only community where well-educated Africans can meet, connect and date.
Founded in 2011 by two Harvard Business School alumni – Yaw Boateng and Tunde Kehinde – who observed that it is currently hard for well-educated Africans to connect and date outside their business or work circles.
I had a chat with Tunde to hear more about Bandeka.com.
Tefo Mohapi: Could you give me a brief history of Bandeka.com and how it came about?
Tunde Kehinde: Bandeka (a play on the Swahili word “Bandika” which means “to connect/attach”) was formed by myself and my classmate from Harvard Business School (Yaw Boateng) in October 2011 as an invite-only dating site that allows African professionals to meet, connect and date other like-minded Africans who they may be compatible with, but without a platform targeted towards them, may never meet. We got the idea after speaking with a lot of friends and classmates who were frustrated by their dating options and were looking for a better way to consistently meet new interesting, exceptional African singles.
TM: How many users have registered so far?
TK: As an invite-only community, we promise confidentiality and don’t share member details. What I can say is that Bandeka has a very diverse community of students and professionals (i.e. students at top Grad schools, successful entrepreneurs, other professionals) and have been growing at a fast pace since we launched a few weeks ago.
TM: Which countries are you seeing interest from?
TK: Primarily seeing a ton of interest from West Africa. Even though that makes sense given the regional population proportions on the continent, we are beginning to see traction from East and Southern Africa too.
TM: How do you differentiate yourself from other Social Media platforms?
TK: By being an invite only community, the assumption is that the people you invite (as a user) are of relatively the same lifestyle and sophistication as yourself.
TM: Why “Invite Only”?
TK: We are invite-only for 2 main reasons.
1. It allows us to ensure that members can feel secure in an exclusive community of exceptional Africans. As one member put it in a commendation statement to us, “I really like that I don’t have to worry about riffraff’s.” We wouldn’t put it that way, but we think that captures the spirit.
2. Invite-only means everyone on the site has at least 1 friend on the platform. This is important to ensure there’s as much on- and off-line matchmaking as appropriate. It also facilitates introductions between members who are attracted to each other by a mutual friend on the platform.
Tunde went on further to explain how their offline events have helped in growing the online community:
TK: We have held Bandeka mixers (in-person cocktail events that bring our members together to meet face to face) in London, Boston, Chicago, and New York, and have Uganda, Lagos, Accra, Johannesburg and (Washington) DC planned next.
From time to time they also conduct relationship research on relationships between African men and women covering topics such as interracial dating, infidelity, roles of a man and woman in the household, etc. by getting feedback from their members on these topics.
Tunde is originally from Lagos (Nigeria) and leads Bandeka’s product development and marketing efforts. Tunde brings significant research knowledge of the online dating industry to the Bandeka platform after leading a team of 4 Harvard Business School students working with Harvard Business School Professor, Peter Coles who teaches courses on establishing online based businesses to develop the Bandeka strategy.
Prior to Bandeka, Tunde worked in the financial services industry for five years doing investment banking for Wachovia Securities. Tunde will leverage his experience in financial services and private equity to co-lead fund raising and financial strategy for Bandeka.