CFA speaks with Temitope Oguntade, the CEO and CO Founder of Phinnx.com at the GITEX Technology Week in Dubai, he tells CFA how Phinnx platform would reposition the educational system in Nigeria
I am the Co-Founder and CEO of Phinnx.com. I am here in Dubai to exhibit Phinnx work and to gain more experience. The Phinnx platform will computerize teaching, learning and academic collaboration in each academic institution and interconnect all subscribing Higher Education Institutions(HEIs) for seamless inter-HEI co-operation.
How has the experience been for you as a young Nigerian?
Well, one one word to qualify the experience is that it has been challenging. It has also been exciting with new opportunities, new ways of solving problems, so I think the ecosystem is growing but the environment is not too enabling, but we are getting there.
How do you think about the role of Angel investors in Nigeria can play, do you think they have the knowledge, are they aware that something like this is happening?
Investors generally in Nigeria are elusive. They are not the most encouraging aspect of the work. For the Phinnx, I think we have benefited from an angel investor, as a matter of fact. It has been the one driving our work from 2013 and 2014, for us it I think it’s a plus, but they have to do more. In the aspect of knowledge, I don’t believe they have. The majority of them do not have the requisite knowledge to support a project like this. All they understand is the brick and mortar kind of business, not the IT business. I just hope they can know more about what we do and support us better.
How much have you raised so far?
In investment, we have raised about $110, 000. In the grants, prices in competitive and others, we have raised about N4 Million.
How much are looking forward to raising?
The business is already at the growth stage, we have had applications from 45 schools to use our platform starting from November, and that’s a big one. The minimum we are looking at is about N150 Million for the next 12 to 18 months.
In what ways has the ease of doing business affected you?
We haven’t gotten to the stage of paying tax at the moment. The business environment is not enabling or discouraging either. One has to forge one’s part. It is challenging but not discouraging. The government has been incredibly supportive in recent times. I am very grateful; we are where we are because of their support.
There are lots of Apps similar to yours, how do you go about business expansion?
What we offer is unique in our environment. As a matter of fact, I am still trying to find out a place in the world where it exists and how it exist. Think about you, not just computerizing learning in school, which every other school already have. But interconnecting amongst other connecting institutions, so that every other school in Nigeria can access resources in all other schools. This is something our users are trying to grasp.
Is your platform like a virtual library?
This is not a virtual library; it is a total connected academia. It is connected to everything, for instance, books to people, people to things, people to people.
So if I log on to your website and I want to reach the University of Maiduguri for instance, how do I go about that?
It’s just simple. There are many ways you can do that. We have a search bar on the website, a finder. Just type the name of the school, it will give you the full details and directory of everybody in that such. For instance, if you want to search for an expert in Algorithm, it will make you the complete information. You can also decide to search for all the males students studying economics in a particular school; it gives you the details you need. Another example is, if you log on the site and update your profile and claim that you offer Quantitative Analysis or any course, the system would check and suggest to you students offering that same course.
Now let’s come to GITEX, what’s been your take on this event?
I have met a lot of people here, people who want to do business with Nigerians. I think the world here is open minded and people are doing great things here. One of the most major things I have learned here is how the world is trying to integrate the existing systems into what we have been bringing up in Nigeria. For instance, I met with the Wikimedia Foundation people, and they are also looking at integrating Wikipedia too. They too are like Phinnx project. So that any lecturer or student using Phinnx can have access to Wikipedia and write inside Phinnx, that’s going top be a good for Nigerians. For instance, if a professor gives an assignment, we can suggest pages on Wikipedia where students can read to know more about the assignment.
If you raise this money for instance, does the investor gets an equity?
It depends on, funding comes in many ways. We are open to private capital investment, most kinds of opportunities. So it depends on the aspects the investment is coming
Is it when you get funds, merge it up with what you have at the moment, then you bring out your final product?
There is a final product now. For instance, the DG of NITDA suggested that we integrate the system and turn it in for a more robust and anti-plagiarism support. So, what we need to do is to find a way to secure the license and integrate. So the product is constant development, there is no stop. We keep improving and supporting.
We have what we call the community process; you know this project is for all Nigerian people in academia. We don’t want to have a final say that whatever we build they must use, so we are in constant consultation with them. To ask lecturers and students on what they want on the platform and how they want it.
What’s vision after the launch in November in the next five years?
In the short term, out goal is to connect the academic. We are starting with 45 to 50 schools, for now, we have over 400. So our major goal is to develop a software system that would interconnect them, to support these institutions with broadband that would give them the enabling environment to consume this services where ever they are, once we can do this, then they can generate content.