OkadaBooks is that delightful award winning app for both readers and authors. Okadabooks has firmly circumvented poor distribution and high printing costs in the Nigerian book publishing industry by making it easy to publish books with minimal hassles. With the app, anyone with a story to tell can be an author.
The books on the app are cheap to buy and the app is so user-friendly. According to the CEO, Ofili Okechukwu “it’s almost as easy as riding an Okada”. Ofili Okechukwu, author, blogger, artist, motivational speaker and entrepreneur, created OkadaBooks in 2013 with his partner, Jude Nwoko to not only ease book distribution but also ensure authors get paid and on time.
Ofili is a man of many parts, he shares a bit of himself with CPAfrica.
Before April, you were full time designer, part time artist, part time author, part time motivational speaker. What takes your full time now since you left your paid employment?
OkadaBooks is full time now for me. Creativity through writing, speaking and drawing will always be a key part of my part-time life. It’s what gives me a break from the madness of running a company in Nigeria.
Okadabooks has come a long way from 2013. And your app is very easy to wade through. Are you personally involved in the software development, the backend coding et al?
The last time I wrote anything resembling code was MatCad in Senior Year Mechanical Engineering. And I only did it because I needed it to graduate. So …no, I run away from coding. My partner and CTO, Jude Nwoko has 10+ years experience with Microsoft so he handles all those aspect of coding. I am more involved in the general design of the app and website, but no coding.
Oh I see. The website, there’s a fundraising attempt on kickstarter. What’s the big change you have in mind ?
Great question, they are 4 areas of focus the site is trying to solve:
- Reading: Getting more people to read on the site.
- Writing: To ensure/improve the story creation process so more stories can be told.
- Discovery: Ensuring that stories are easily found on the website, and that authors can share their stories faster and to more people.
- Engagement: We want to make OkadaBooks social. We want authors talking to readers and vice-versa. We want to recognize the top selling authors, and allow users find trending books. All in all, we want to move away from our 2014 website and utilize all our leanings over the years to create a powerful book creation platform, that allows authors publish books in less than 15 minutes and earn some income at the same time!
How has funding been like before now? Any angel investments, grants so far?
Funding has just been my partner and I using our personal funds, time and sweat to build the first app, website and manage users. In 2015/16 the company was able to take care of itself without our money, but we were growing at a slow 2X rate year on year. So it was agreed that I would quit full time work to focus on OkadaBooks in 2017, to see if we could get investors.
And here was I thinking that with over 1 Million downloads, OkadaBooks would probably be a million dollar company
We are. At least that’s what we are currently being valued at. We are about to wrap-up $45,000 in investments to allow us scale this year.
Another thing with the numbers, does it justify the perceived shift from traditional hardprints to e-books?
It does. We are seeing a lot of publishers opt to place their books on our platform versus the traditional path. Primarily because of the low cost, but prints are still king in Nigeria.
Do you see this change soon? Is it a global thing or peculiar to Nigeria/Africa?
The change will come soon. I mean money talks mostly. If it is cheaper to sell ebooks than physical books and the margins are the same then it becomes a no-brainer. But it’s really a cultural versus logical battle. Cultural is winning right now, but the more authors see the traction and money they can make on platforms like OkadaBooks the more they will adapt.
What do we have more willing eBook readers or more authors willing to share their works digitally?
Readers are more willing than authors. Authors/Publishers are the slowest to convert. We have been chasing for example a major publisher for 3 years, till we were able to finally convince them that OkadaBooks was a valid and safe way to share books to their consumers. If publishers believe and trust e-technology then we would see more books. But most of them are slow to adapt, creating a false perception that physical books are still king. But we keep have to improving our services.
How many authors do you have on the app now? And how many books?
14,000+ books and about 1000 authors.
Cool. Let’s talk tech. The tech ecosystem has grown around here. Do you think this baby can run now?
Where do I start? If Africa was the world and no other world existed, then the baby is doing pull-ups with one hand. But sadly Africa is not isolated, so our tech is still a baby that is crawling, it maybe crawling fast, but not fast enough to get there. People are putting lots of money to get the baby to crawl faster, but are not solving the fundamental tech issues causing the baby to crawl. Our tech will not move until we fix our educational system. But babies aside…: we have tried. It has evolved pretty quick.
I see stuff like Ogavenue and Jobberman and get excited. But other things like OkadaBooks, Talent Base, Irokotv, Hotels.ng are really Nigerians from the Diaspora making magic happen, Until we start getting core local talent like Jobberman guys creating stuff at a larger faster rate, until our Universities start teaching up to date coding language, until our government provides stable power, our baby will be crawling.
But how has it been for you doing tech business in this environment?
I answer it with this cartoon I drew last week. It’s been tough, from NEPA to bureaucracy to infrastructure. It’s tough. But if it was easy, everybody will be doing it.
If there’s an advice for a fresh tech entrepreneur, what would it be?
For a fresh tech entrepreneur, Nigeria is different. What works outside cannot be cookie cut and baked in Nigeria. Nigeria rewards entrepreneurs that cut across the grain, like really across the grain. You have to think outside the box to create your idea, but have to also think outside the box to ensure your idea survives an inadequate system. If you can do this you will survive. But the most important thing, is avoid the vanity. It’s easy to get on the newspaper in Nigeria, on radio and television compared to abroad. So you may believe your idea is great not realizing it is not. So don’t judge yourself by vanity metrics. Judge by quality and impact metrics, like traction, revenue and growth.
Do you think there is a business lesson you have learnt so far that you didn’t see coming till it hit you?
The one business lesson I have learned is this, Investors don’t care for the product as much as they care for you. It’s crazy! I spent a lot of time on the pitch deck, putting figures and all, but once the investors mentally feel you are in an acceptable threshold, they start grueling you, the founder. They want to know where you grew up, how you think, if you are a hard worker, It’s not just the idea they are betting on, they are betting on you. That lesson was one that hit me, not because I am a bad person , But because I was focusing on the wrong things, until I realized that investors were also interested in me and my C.T.O.
That’s an eye opener. Philanthropy and Okechukwu; What birthed that?
Nothing, I just don’t like seeing people suffer when I can help them out. Majority of problems people face in our coutnry have frustratingly simple solutions. And I try to encourage people to go into their communities and find these solutions. I don’t think of it as philanthropy, I don’t have a charity organization. I just go in a place and say how can I help. No excuses, no noise, just help people.
Let me ask you about publishing: Does it catch your fancy?
Publishing is tough in its current form, it is too bureaucratic and over-processed. So, no; Publishing does not catch my fancy.
So what book are you reading now?
Ultimate Leadership, by John Maxwell