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Interview: How Hanu Fejiro Abodje built Africa-centric Digital Payment Platfrom ‘Patricia’ From Scratch

CEO Hanu Fejiro Agbodje says he tried and failed at thirteen businesses, in an interview with Techpoint Africa, all of which, in his words, “ended in premium tears” before he founded Patricia.

The businesses ranged from a commercial bike business — in which his employee carted away with the bike — to a thriving fast-food joint with 3 in-campus locations that got him arrested and almost expelled from the University of Port Harcourt.

Today, his barely 4-year-old alternative payment solutions platform, Patricia employs over 300 people around the world and current Net worth of $8.9m. But Agbodje is never quick to forget his humble entrepreneurial beginnings.

“My failed businesses gave me so much first-hand experience that in the first two years of running Patricia, there was barely any challenge that was new to me,” he said.

Q: What was the inspiration for building Patricia?

HFA: I have a journal where I write all my ideas in, no matter how stupid or dumb they seem. Patricia happened to be number 37 on that idea book. I just wanted to make extra ₦30,000 (~$84 in 2017) a month. That was the plan; I wasn’t looking to build anything elaborate. I was only trying to survive.

Q: Why the name “Patricia” though?

HFA: When I had the idea for Patricia is 2015, I was in my grandad’s house. My grandad and my mum had something of a love hate relationship. My mum’s name was Patience but for some reason, my grandad always insisted on calling her Patricia, which would often lead to an argument. It was on one of such days that I had my random business ideas and I was like, “Okay. Number 37 — Patricia”. I didn’t think much about it.

Q:But what gave you the conviction that Patricia was the right idea to build on?

HFA: I didn’t give it that much thought. I was only trying to avoid running out of money while staying with my brother in Lagos. I had about ₦1m (~$2800 in 2017) in my bank account and everyday the money kept reducing. By the time it got to about ₦800,000 ( ~$2240 in 2017), I knew I had to act fast or we’d be flat broke in another 1 to 2 months.So I picked up my idea book and of all the ideas, Patricia seemed like the only viable thing that would be low cost but guarantee me returns of at least ₦30,000 (~$84 in 2017) monthly.

Q: What are the future plans for Patricia over the next 3 to 10 years?

HFA: Our plan is to make crypto easier for the entire world.

Q: Can you give a few practical tips on how you grew the company without raising institutional funding?

HFA: So, like I said earlier, I started the company with ₦800,000 (~$2240 in 2017) in personal savings. I rented a boy’s quarters for ₦500,000 (~$1400 in 2017), furnished it with about ₦100,000 ($280), bought a couple of second-hand laptops and ₦30,000 ($84) each. I had about ₦120,000 ($336) left which I planned to use to pay initial salaries. I called for interviews and hired two people whom I was to pay 30k each.But one month into starting the company, we had made zero naira which was quite frustrating but did not relent. Growing up, I saw the power of influencers. I remember back in school (University of Port Harcourt) when Olamide dyed his hair brown. In less than one week, half of my school had dyed their hair brown. Now, imagine if Olamide said “use Patricia”? I was pretty sure some people would because Olamide said so.I couldn’t afford Olamide of course. But I could afford Mr. Jollof. We had a mutual friend through whom I negotiated with him to make an ad for ₦80,000 (~$224 in 2017). He made the ad, sent it to me, I hated it. He was just on his seat, relaxed and very casual.But then he put out the ad early in the morning of the next day, without informing us. Before you know it, enquiries and transactions started trickling in. By the end of the day, we had completed about 40 to 50 transactions, excluding enquiries. I checked and saw that we had made ₦180,000 (~$504 in 2017) in one day. I took all of that money, paid him again and paid somebody else. And that was how things kicked off.

Q: Advice for budding entrepreneurs? Especially those still in school

HFA: Have a journal where you write your ideas down. If I never wrote Patricia down, I’d never have had something to look back to.Read a lot of books, not just your school books. Read far and wide, whatever your interests are.Then try a lot of things. You have all the time to fail. You know, most people don’t even try because they are afraid of failing.

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