Uneku Saliu Atawodi, 30, popularly referred to as “Neku Atawodi”, is a polo player who hails from Nigeria. She is known as one of the few black female polo players in the world. She holds a masters degree in International Business with Spanish degree and also a B.Sc Equine Sports Performance Degree with honors.
At the tender age of 5, she started taking tutorials on horse riding and she started playing polo as a sport at the age of 14. She participated in her first tournament after saving up to buy a horse at the age of 16. Her polo career kicked off at Epsom Polo Club in England and she has played in about 20 different countries since making her debut. She is the only female playing the sport professionally. Her desire is to change the face of polo as an all-male sport.
Position Held And Experience
Neku is General Manager for the Meltwater Entrepreneur School of Technology (MEST), a non profitable organization that invests in and also trains African Entrepreneurs with a target to create Africa’s next tech entrepreneurs and produce jobs for the continent. She has previously worked as a Technical Advisor to the ministry of (FCT) where she developed the FCT’s revolutionary File Tracking system.
She has passion for empowering African entrepreneurs through tech and was part of the founding team of Africa’s Pioneer Impact Investment Global Shapes, an associate fellow of the Royal Commonwealth Society and a Clinton Global Initiative Lead mentor. Neku is the first Nigerian hire to mount the position of General Manager at MEST. A position that will see her oversee incubator operations and strategy, startup support, stake holder engagement, business development and fund raising efforts for the organization.
Neku is the founder of Malaik, an impact focused equity crowd funding portal. The word “Malaik” is from the Hausa, Arabic and Swahili words for “Angel”, Malachi in the Bible also means Angel. The name represents angel investors pulling together to help a company grow, and it cuts across most parts of Africa. According to Neku, small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) are currently the major source of job creation in the continent.
SMEs are responsible for about 95 percent of firms and 60-70 percent of employment across the African continent. Regardless of this enormous contribution by SMEs to the continent’s economy, getting financial support for the growth of SMEs still remained a major setback in the continent.
Why Malaik Was Created
Malaik was founded to solve the problem of accessing finance by SMEs in Africa. Many promising African entrepreneurs with amazing ideas that deserves to be scaled lack funding and this is because it’s risky for banks to give out loans to startup businesses. Malaik breeches the gap by selling equity in startup businesses to interested investors.
Malaik gives entrepreneurs the opportunity to raise Fund through their platform and investor can apply to be investors. Once an investor is approved, he would see the list of companies that are eligible to be invested in and will then put in the amount he wishes to invest. Then an investment calculator will automatically calculate how much shares in the company the investor would get for his investment.
Motivation Behind Malaik
The inspiration behind Malaik came as a result of the struggles Neku encountered trying to get finance for the Beach Polo + bar project. Neku and her partner had to invest about 70 percent of their personal money and wanted to spread risk by taking an SME loan at 29percent interest rate.
This got her thinking about SMEs that either die out before getting off the ground due to high interest rates or don’t have access to loan to start off at all.
Neku was named among Africa’s 30 under 30.