Today, our personality of the week is Oluwafemi Taiwo, CEO & Co-Founder of Nigeria’s leading online real estate marketplace privateproperty.com.ng. In an interview with him Femi gave us an insight into how the business grew from nothing to something which every aspiring entrepreneur can hitherto learn from.
I hope you read and get inspired from this real life experience.
* Can we meet you?
My name is Oluwafemi Taiwo. I am the CEO and Co-Founder of PrivateProperty.com.ng. Private Property is an online Real Estate marketplace where property Buyers, Tenants, Estate Agents and Landlords connect. We make it possible for people looking for properties for sale or to rent in Nigeria to find information on available listings being advertised by Estate Agents or private individuals.
*Can you let us know a little bit about your educational and professional background?
I have a Bachelors degree in Economics and about to complete my Masters in Business Administration but I developed a passion for Technology entrepreneurship which birthed the most visited online real estate website in Nigeria.
*What led you into the property business as there are different niche in the tech ecosystem?
I developed a passion for technology since the age of 5; i never really set out to do what I’m doing, but as I began using the internet to seek information, i saw the opportunity in using technology to solve the problems of property search, i.e. creating a platform where buyers, sellers, landlords and tenants can meet online and transact offline.
*How did you come up with the privateproperty.com.ng idea?
My family wanted to buy a house, and we went through a hard time. We were taken to houses we didn’t like, simply because there wasn’t a single place we could access information of properties, for example, seeing pictures before driving around town would have helped us greatly in shortlisting the number of properties we wanted to see at the time, we were taken to properties that did not meet our expectation
*How did you grow the business to the stage it is right now in terms of financing and management?
First of all, I would say I’ve been lucky to have a team of passionate people who are enthusiastic about the business and its services as much as I am and are working tirelessly to keep up with the market, plan ahead, manage a good cash flow and handle every perpetual crisis with a positive attitude.
Secondly, we’ve not been complacent. Complacency can be a major threat to a growing business. Assuming that you will continue to be successful simply because you have been in the past is very unwise. Growing a business in Nigeria comes with a range of challenges. As a business grows, it encounters different problems and opportunities and they demand different solutions – it doesn’t matter even if you are at the top or not, what worked a year ago might not be the best approach now.
*You seem like the quiet type, what is your personality like and how does it come to play in the business?
*smiles* Sometimes I might be, but I’m more of an extrovert and I value other people’s qualities and contributions. My employees would tell you that I am an approachable manager who listens when they have something to say.
*What differentiates Private Property from every other online real estate business in Nigeria?
We are in a technology business where real estate agents can easily monitor the return they get once they subscribe on any property listing platform. Our selling point is the guaranteed value they get whenever they list a property on PrivateProperty.com.ng and on the property seekers, they can rest assured that we will always find them their dream property.
*Can you give us a brief insight into the tech ecosystem in Nigeria from your experience since you are also a major player in the industry?
The tech ecosystem is a goldmine that is yet to be fully tapped by Nigerians. I.T. is the fastest growing industry in the world, according to leading global research firms. Many of the world’s start-ups are I.T. based and a great number of them are run by under-30 CEOs. It is a highly skilled sector that can and should harvest a lot of Nigeria’s unemployed youths; it is flexible and highly profitable. Government should consider working with the industry to provide a regulatory environment that encourages investment and innovation.
* How would you assess your progress in creating a successful real estate business amidst stiff competition in the online real estate niche?
Value. When your focus is on providing value first, money will come after. You will find out that your competition will continue to copy what you do. Competition is very healthy; it keeps you on your toes and makes you innovate more.
*Would you say the strategic partnership between One Africa Media OAM your main investor and Ringier Africa is a step in the right direction? Or was it because OAM couldn’t stand alone again?
It’s definitely a step in the right direction. Ringier Africa has an extensive marketing & distribution capabilities with an unparalleled knowledge of horizontal classifieds in some of the continent’s biggest economies and OAM is known has the pioneer of vertical classifieds market in Africa. So, I am confident that the strategic partnership will enhance our vision to operate and grow Sub-Saharan Africa’s most innovative, expansive & profitable classified platforms.
*Do you have plans to pitch the business to other investors in the nearest future?
For now, I don’t. But as the business expands across the continent, who knows the need may arise in the future.
* What will you say are the biggest challenges to running an online real estate website in Nigeria?
Less tech-savvy agents or client’s willing to embrace and maximize the opportunities the online ecosystem provides.
*What has been your guiding principle in life?
Ecclesiastes 9:10 – “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might…”
* Where did you see Private Property in the next 5 years?
In the next 5 years, Private Property would have successfully widened its leadership position gap in Nigeria and consistently improved the consumer experience in real estate while expanding more into other parts of Sub-Saharan Africa and building a sustainable Nigerian company held to global standards.
* What will be your advice to young entrepreneurs who are aspiring to venture into tech business?
If you are thinking of launching a business, think big, start small and start soon. Thinking small and waiting means you’ll never start, and even when you do, you won’t do much. It is important to have patience and persevere. As a new entrepreneur, one should be persistent, try out new strategies if something does not work out, and also believe in themselves.