The Easy Appetite Story As Told By My Co-Founder, Deji Opoola

I stumbled upon this piece on The Business Aim. It was one about my first startup – Easy Appetite – Nigeria’s first online takeaway site. Perhaps the most interesting ting about the piece is that it was a narrative of my co-founder and brain child of the idea. It is always great to see things in retrospect and hope you pick some startup tips and lessons in the piece. Enjoy.

“When Nigerians are hungry, they really want to eat, they don’t joke around”. These were the words of Deji Opoola Engineer turned entrepreneur and Co-founder of Easy Appetite a meal delivery (food on demand) startup when asked if there had ever been a time food was rejected on delivery. “Food is king and will always be, people already know what they want before contacting us; their only worry is delivery time of which we do our very best.”

In today’s world where tasks have become humongous and deadlines tight, leaving your work desk to grab grub at your favorite restaurant remains a persisting conundrum, and this is where Easy Appetite food delivery startup comes in. The startup does a great job in linking you to the best food houses, restaurants, pizza places and fast-food hubs by bringing you and your food closer and even presenting you with the opportunity to share your experience with various restaurants and recommend meals to families and friends.

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The CcHub incubated Startup founded in September 2012 was known formerly as ‘Lazy Appetite’ but got re-branded to ‘Easy Appetite’ for the need to make it more appealing to the older or matured audience in February the following year. “The ‘Lazy’ name was chosen so as to make it funky and not too serious but we decided to make the change after lots of feedback from people who felt the word ‘lazy’ was inappropriate” says Deji.

While the startup stayed with the name ‘Lazy’ it only forwarded food requests from customers to the restaurants that in turn did the delivery and then got commissions off each request. For starters things where looking up but then came the ban on motorcycles in Lagos State by its Governor Raji Fashola which was a major setback for both them and the restaurants because they were overwhelmed with requests with their main channel of delivery blocked. “We had a huge acceptance and work rate at that time, we and the restaurants didn’t find it easy delivering food since the bikes used for deliveries by the restaurants were less than 200cc which was the set standard by the Lagos State Government. And for the customers, it wasn’t really their business how you got the food to them, you just do.”

After the re-branding from ‘Lazy’ to ‘Easy’, the startup decided to make deliveries more efficient by doing some of it themselves thereby throwing three motorcycles and a car into the works, one stationed in the University of Lagos campus, one in Yaba axis and the other in Victoria Island. So far so good, the startup is one of the hottest in town, delivering food to busy folks hot and fast. With a very beautifully designed website splattered with pictures of exotic food which generates eruptions in one’s salivary glands, and links to your favorite restaurants that makes you so impatient and yet so easy for you to order your favorite meals and have it delivered to your office desktop in great time. Food mongers can locate the best food houses in their vicinity, browse through the menu selection and order directly on the site from a growing array of partner restaurants, e.g Terra Kulture, Deboanairs Pizza, Imperial Chinese, Honey Comb, Tetrazinni, Chill Zone, Café Mason Lagos, Southern Delicacies, Olivia’s Café, Say Cheese Cakes and many more. One can also pay for a friend via e-wallet, debit card or cash on delivery.

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Easy Appetite food deliveries cover select restaurants in Victoria Island, Yaba axis Lagos with huge concentration in the University of Lagos. And perhaps you are wondering why, here’s what Deji had to say, “Unilag was our first target since our office is based in Yaba”. More so he being an alumnus of the institution helped to procure the right connections to make breaking in and even look pretty. “Now Easy Appetite has exclusive rights and partnership with the major restaurants in the campus but hope to expand to other schools and areas gradually by biting what they can chew one chunk at a time” he said.

It’s being quite a ride for Deji who has a degree in Electrical Engineering from the University of Lagos and thinks he’s really smart. He believes there are so many things people can do were they to put their mind to it. Getting the idea of his food startup from a podcast of another food related startup his sister brought back from the UK, he believed it was workable.

After listening to the podcast I called up a friend Nubi Kayode who also thought it could work, then I found Sope and Kunle a designer and programmer and the team was formed. So Nubi and I handled the offline while Sope and Kunle set up and managed the online. Nubi and I went around Victoria Island looking for restaurants even though we weren’t well vested in marketing at that point in time. It was really difficult and looking back now I knew I was pretty boring to some of the restaurant managers because I kept pushing on the technology aspect and other things which are the same mistakes a lot of startups make. The value for the client or the customer should be the selling point and focus. If you have the best app but can’t market it, it’s useless, but if you have the worst app but can market it well, you make money.

“Though we were novices, a few restaurants still gave us the chance; Tetrazzini, Imperial Chinese and WangTang Fusion and we remain grateful. The idea came when it did, it really just made sense; it didn’t look like it was going to be hard. I was a little bit naive; I thought most of it was going to be easy because I had never really done business before, now I know better.” Deji says.

Deji stressed that he always tries to prove he can ‘do’ and owes his steadfastness and drive to his dad who likes to shoot him in the foot first as motivation. “Once my dad told me he got a scholarship, and that I had to get mine before i could converse with him, and believe you me I did get mine” Deji says smiling.

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Up & Down the Corporate Slave and Free Bird lane

10 lessons learned as an entrepreneur and employee

Disclosure: This piece was first published in the Alumni Entrepreneur’s corner of the Electrical Engineering Student European Association (EESTEC) magazine (p.47) so #10 may not apply to you.

Upon graduation with a B.Sc (Hons) Electrical and Electronics Engineering degree from Eastern Mediterranean University in 2011, I knew I had the option of either starting my business or becoming an employee to that dream job. It’s been 3 year since then and I have had a good dose of both worlds.

In that short span, I have co-founded 2 startups. First was Nigeria’s first online takeaway site — EasyAppetite.com, and the second a new media outlet offering internet solutions to businesses and brands. I also found myself taking up employment as a Digital Media Strategist for 4 different companies, and even had my spell as a Chief Operations Officer to a technology media company.

It’s 2014 and I find myself alternating between entrepreneurship and employment but here are 10 lessons I have picked up. Hopefully they become valuable to you whether you find yourself in either of these places or need a push in one direction at the crossroads of these two paths.

Photo Credit - Frederic Poirot - Creative Commons - Flickr

1. Entrepreneurship is no easy alternative to being an employee

Many young people and even seasoned professionals often make the mistake that running your own business or being in charge is easier than working for or under someone. This might just be a myth. While entrepreneurship affords you the luxury of control and decision making, it comes along with a lot of responsibilities. I remember taking up the role of product developer, accountant, business developer, operations officer, restaurant relation manager, and even customer care agent at the early stages of EasyAppetite. So be ready to work odd hours and do odd jobs just to get off the ground.

2. No sitting on the fence. All in or go home

I call it the fly or die philosophy and apply it to all of my entrepreneurial ventures. No point starting what you are passionate about and giving yourself enough runway to fly or crash. So I make a 3 months plan, list my goals and objectives as well as get the resource to sustain the effort. If after the time elapses there’s no validation I close shop and move. No point beating a dead horse when you can always mount (or groom) another. That said…

3. Don’t yield to the temptation of juggling more than one ball — at most two

Better to have 100% focus on one venture — whether as an employee or entrepreneur than half efforts here and there. Nothing comes out of it eventually and you waste time and resource. This is one lesson I learned that hard way after summing up how much resource had been lost on about 10 failed startup ventures — average of $500 each (not taking account of time).

4. You can actually get employed as an entrepreneur

Consider the shock when I saw a Google, Microsoft, and Accenture flier all having ‘Entrepreneurship’ as a trait be sought after in potential recruit. Eric Ries, author of The Lean Startup uses the term ‘intrapreneurs’ — referring to hired entrepreneurs. You still get to work on building products with an uncertain outcome but in an environment that breeds discipline and following through on ventures — something lacking in most (internet) entrepreneurs.

5. Don’t start a business with a double

Ah! I thought this was a fad till I experienced it myself and got to learn about leadership at Accenture. You don’t want a co-founder that is just like you in terms of thinking and areas of strength. Get an opposite. If you are visionary, get a realist or an opportunist. Complement each other.

6. Embrace failure but hate it

Don’t be mistaken. Failure sucks and it’s not cool to be tagged one, but your story is more inspirational if you failed failed failed then succeeded. No one really learns anything if you succeed on every attempt. So whether as an employee or entrepreneur, don’t be afraid try with the aim of getting better. If you fail, learn from it and move forward.

7. Nothing wrong in getting employed to raise capital

Don’t know where to get funds from but have a skill? Then get a job and save up some money for your startup capital. You are certain to also learn on the job some transferable skills and lessons. So don’t go starving when you got a skill you can trade for cash.

8. It’s either you know how to code or how to sell

I can’t code jack (and trust me I have tried Codeacademy, Learn street, Codes for Dummies) but I can sell you stuff I am passionate about. If you can do both, respect. I’d however recommend you try learning programming — at least the jargon if you looking to start a digital business or any business that would require working with web and mobile technology. While people say selling is in the DNA you can also hone your sales and marketing skills and the best way to do so is actually selling.

9. Ideas are overrated. It’s all about execution

Everybody has a $1bn idea but only 0.0000000001% will actually execute (Ok, I made up that stat but you get my point). One lesson I picked up from the NDRC during the development days for a startup competition in Ireland was ‘startups can out-design and out-innovate bigger (resource and size) companies’. So after all said and done, it’s how well you do your job as an employee or build and sell your product an entrepreneur.

Recommended book: Execution — The Discipline of getting things done by Larry Bossudy & Ram Charan (available on Amazon)

10. Your Engineering degree makes you cool either way

So this is not really a lesson but I have seen that having an Engineering degree especially Electrical (and Electronics) does place you in a special place when having a conversation with peers, investors, employers, and just random people. I always get the nod of approval when it comes up. So you can be proud to know you are on the right track.

Congratulations and all the best in your future endeavors — whether as free bird or corporate slave.

Up & Down the Corporate Slave and Free Bird lane was first published on my Medium.

10 Start-up Lessons From Fast & Furious Franchise

From stepping up to new challenges to milking the hell out of the cash cow

It’s not a common occurrence to find a franchise as successful as Fast & Furious, which has now gone on to set box office records with its 6th film, with the world waiting for the 7th. But what can entrepreneurs take away from this, aside the desire to drive fast cars and date pretty girls?

Here are 10 start-up lessons that I’ve drawn out and hope you enjoy it:

Be Fast & Furious

After the first movie in 2001, we have seen 5 sequels and 2 short films spin off over a 12 year period. That’s an average of 2 films every 18 months. Now that’s fastin terms of rate of releases. With writers, characters, directors, producers, and other players stepping in and out of production, nothing best describes this venture than furious.

Always Value Team & Family

The underlying message all through the series of films is the ‘value for family and team’. With every member playing a role and bringing something to the table, it’s always important to be on the lookout for one another. The team is as strong as its weakest link.

Know When To Step Up

Vin Diesel as Dominic Toretto could be said to be the center of the earlier films, but after mastering and delivering on his part as just an actor, he had to step up as Director and Producer in the 4th film. At this point, he took ownership of the responsibility of telling a better story.

Quick add: Knowing when you are not needed on the scene as Vin Diesel was off on the 2nd film.

Work With Other Power Players

Collaboration cannot be overemphasized. Always find ways with work with folks with quality clout. Little wonder, characters like: Dawyne Johnson, Ludacris, Tyrese, Eva Mendes, and most recently Jason Statham — another fast car actor popularly know as The Transporter. No doubt, fans of all these players get sucked in to either back the individual star or the collective product.

Think Diversity — Team & Market

A closer look at the characters and location in the series of films sees an undertone of diversity covering: Black, Asian, American, Military, Pop Culture, Government, South America,Technology, Music, among other themes.This is turn pulls in a diversified market. Little wonder Foreign Box Office Revenue started to outdo that of the United States from the 3rd film — Tokyo Drift and now at more than 100%.

Always Have That Backup

It’s almost cliché to hear the words: An entrepreneur is one that goes all in without any backup. This only makes sense when your backup is the reason for you not going all in. The odds of your failing are high, and so you do not get screwed for the rest of your life (or get killed by a sniper like it almost happened with Vin), have a backup — the type that keeps you going after every failure.

Consider Result-Oriented Compromise

The enemy of my enemy is my friend. This is one scenario most entrepreneurs find themselves and most decide to work alone and then crash. Sometimes you just need to work with a competitor (or in the real sense complimentor), get a technical or business co-founder in turn for shared equity, sign an exclusive deal with (the devil) a big corporation . As long as it’s for the greater good, go for it; same way Vin Diesel worked with the Police to take down bad guys.

Bad Things Happen

Sh*t happens is a better way to put it, and it’s not all rosy for any startup venture. If it was, everybody will be doing it. Even in the successful Fast & Furious, Vin Diesel went to jail, 2 of his team mates died, his girlfriend lost her memory (and shot him), et al. So be prepared for losses — time, money, people, product, and ultimately failure. That’s where the backup plan kicks in.

Be One Hell of a Closer

A bunch of folks that saw the fifth film missed the post-credit scene and went back to the cinemas for a second viewing. That was an epic ending, but nothing compared to how the sixth film ended introducing Jason Statham. So no matter what you do when pitching, making that product video, writing that blog post or press release, make the closing as epic as possible. That’s what is stuck with the other party — they remember and share if epic enough.

Milk The Hell Out Of The Cash Cow

Total budget of Fast & Furious till date — $569 million. Total box office revenue — $2.38 billion. That only happens when you milk the cash cow — giving the best value possible and asking for payment. The 7th film is scheduled for release in June 2014, and Vin Diesel is talking about another trilogy to follow after, and Dwayne Johnson is also to get a spin-off of his own character (Hobb) into a number of films. When you got something of value, then get the most value possible out of it. Simple.

10 Start-up Lessons From Fast & Furious Franchise was first published on my Medium.

Be Smart! Don’t Run Over – by @YinkaAdewale [PODCAST]

I’ve got a friend – Yinka Adewale, and he’s doing great stuff. He calls himself a blogger, among other things, so here is some #BloggerLove.

This spoken words looks at the importance of being smart – no the kind you get from a diploma, but the type you need to have at those critical moments that you need to make decisions.

Play >> Be Smart! Don’t Run Over

Enjoy!

Why You Can’t Sell with Social Media

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Social media can give your company many different benefits.

It can increase awareness and introduce you to new people. It can be used to help customer service, and follow-up with disgruntled customers. It can also be used to get the elusive, but effective word-of-mouth marketing.

But it can’t sell. At least, that’s what people say.

Market research giants Forrester Research and GSI Commerce looked at online retailer data in 2010. They were trying to determine how many actual retail sales came from social media visits.

The results aren’t pretty.

Less than 2% of all orders were from social networking shoppers. (Conversely, paid, SEO and email marketing converted the most).

The most common objection for people using social media is, “What’s the return-on-investment?”. And when you try to come up with an ROI, you get results like these (dismal, to say the least).

So what’s the solution? Give up entirely?

Or should you just look a little more closely..

[as seen of Fix Course]

Why Creative People Fail: Value Creation != Value Capture

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The main reason why creative people fail is that they are very good with creating value in a product or service, but lack the know-how and asset to capture value (mostly via sales).

What are Assets?

That’s things are put in place for capture value. A good example will be a government policy that allows for a particular product to be essential for purchase – e.g. ‘1 laptop computer, 1 child’ educational policy. Such a policy will allow an intel to sell more computers, even though the value creation is production of microprocessors for computers.

Other forms of asset include capital – whether cash or human, strategic partnerships and collaborations.