Oluwaseun Babajide is a British Nigerian entrepreneur living in Essex, UK. He is building Snaphubr, an image stock platform similar to Shutterstock but exclusively dedicated to Africa-related content.
Nigeria and other homes
When his father asked him to join him in the UK, Oluwaseun Babajide did not want to leave. He did not want to go anywhere actually, because life was good in his native Osun state. Yet in 2001, he set off to Essex, where he currently lives, and he says he has never regretted his choice,
because if you never leave home, you miss exposure to a great deal of things.
Oluwaseun enrolled at Greenwich University, earned an MSc in Applied Mathematical Modelling and Scientific Computing with a full scholarship and defines himself as “a very, very techie guy.” He rejected a scholarship for a PhD because he was disillusioned with the current education system, which “should rather teach Entrepreneurship and Leadership from primary school.” Later, he worked as a revenue analyst, then as a risk manager, until he was made redundant a few years ago.
Starting up to get back in control
“The type of job I was doing could not last forever because I was dependent on someone else,” Oluwaseun shares. So, he decided to take full control of his career, and in 2014, started up Snaphubr, the first image stock exclusively dedicated to African images.
Not only was there a gap in the market, but he also saw how to create opportunities for Africa.
Images on Snaphubr cost 99 pence and photographers can earn 60 percent on it. In Africa, there are a lot of images taken by local people, which are shared, liked and used, but most of the times, they don’t make any money. If you add the huge level of unemployment in the continent, I think Snaphubr is an opportunity to make a decent income for many.
Snaphubr is a simple platform, created to be as easy as possible to use with a few fundamental features. When users register to the site, they can start using the platform immediately; the number of uploads is unlimited, and pictures can portray any subject which is not offensive (the admin checks the quality and content of each). For each image, the user receives a code, and as soon as an image is sold they get an alert. Whenever the income reaches $50 in a month, photographers get paid through Paypal or a bank transfer.
The remote company
Snaphubr does not have a specific headquarters, although the company is registered in the UK. “I’ve always believed that with an online business, you can work wherever you want. I think what matters is your mental position. Everywhere is home as long as you’ve got good people around you and you can make a positive impact.” His five members of staff work from the UK, Russia, Ghana and Nigeria. “I mostly communicate with them via Skype and I really have no complaints, they’re performing beyond expectations!”
Challenges and discrimination
He maintains this optimism despite things not being all rosy. Snaphubr, is bootstrapped, and after pouring roughly $40,000, besides contributions from friends, into it, it has not yet reached break even. Oluwaseun has tried to raise funds, but shares that his origins give rise to prejudices when it comes to investments.
As an African, it can be very, very challenging. After approaching so many VCs, I have noticed that they do not even want to give you a chance to prove the value of what you are doing.
He goes on to explain that his is not an isolated case and quotes a few examples from highly successful Nigerian entrepreneurs, “Take Jason Njoku, Founder of iROKO [the ‘Netflix’ of Africa, which has raised $22 million, has a catalogue of over 5,000 films and offices in three continents]. His attempts to raise funds failed until some VCs invested $3 million in his British business partner Bastian Gotter.”
I don’t know if it’s lack of trust, but there is definitely an imbalance in investments between Africans and non-Africans. I believe that more investments in African small businesses would definitely improve the economy as well as economic relations with the investing countries.
Aiming high and getting the right mentorship
Yet, Oluwaseun keeps his ambitions high. He shares that he wants to be the next big tech giant in Africa. He plans to reach one million users on Snaphubr by the end of this financial year. He comments that, “even though it sounds impossible, it is what drives us to put so much effort into our work.”
The “very, very techie” Oluwaseun indeed looks a people person and reveals that his confidence is greatly due to his very good team and to amazing mentors, who include his board of directors and Sadhguru.
As an entrepreneur, it can be very challenging sometimes and listening to Sadhguru has really changed my approach to work and life. I really appreciate his teachings on seizing opportunities and being yourself wherever you are.
Oluwaseun, who has recently become a father, is indeed optimistic about the future.