Building a startup requires grit and determination

Lanre Adeoye
4 min read
Remote Religion is a series which shines a spotlight into the life of a remote tech worker in Africa. We explore the promise and perils of remote work and how to navigate career transition.
In this edition of Remote Religion, we spoke with Sola Oguntimehin, a blockchain engineer at Lukso. He shared his experiences navigating the startup space.

Hi Sola! Tell us about yourself.

My name is Sola. I am a software engineer and product guy. I have been doing this professionally for over 4 years.

How did you get started as a developer?

My love for software began at a young age. I was privileged to have access to a desktop computer growing up and remember switching it on, seeing the beautiful colors of the Windows 98 logo, and being endlessly fascinated about all the cool things I could do that day.

Although I studied mechanical engineering in university, my heart was never truly in it so I went to back to my toys - computers. Just before I left school, I started doing a lot of freelancing. This helped me decide that I wanted to get into software as a full time career, which led to me joining Andela in 2018.

What made you get interested in startups?

Growing up, I think I was always an ideas guy. Good and bad ideas just popped in my head and I always had a million dollar idea that was top of mind.

After reading about people like Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg, it became clear to me that startups were the right vehicle for my ideas. Doing something you love, bringing a brain baby to life with potentially massive financial upside is one very exciting game.

Tell us about your first experience founding a startup

My first attempt at doing a proper startup was in early 2018 during the ICO boom. I had been spending a lot of time in crypto.

In one of the Discord servers I was in, Sebastian Patiño-Lang, who would later become my cofounder, had posted some results he obtained from backtesting frequently rebalanced crypto portfolios. The frequently rebalanced portfolio vastly outperformed passive hodl portfolios of the same composition.

The results immediately made sense to me and I wanted to build a product around the idea. So, I reached out to Sebastian to see if he was happy to collaborate and the answer came back positive. That exchange led to my first startup - CoinPulley.

What non-technical skills did you have to learn?

As a founder I had to learn how to wear multiple hats and context-switch effectively. Sales, marketing, business development, and HR aren't just fancy departments in big companies. They’re actual important business functions that you either need to perform yourself or hire someone to help with them.

Another thing founders quickly discover is that their mental model of the problem space may be flawed in certain ways. Creating honest feedback loops with customers is very important. It’s critical to stay humble and iterate fast on customers' feedback.

The last one I would add is that building a startup is hard and requires lots of grit and determination to make steady progress.

What else was challenging?

Forming a founding team is hard. You need to bring in a small number people that are quite versatile in skill sets but also very standout in particular aspects that are critical to the growth of the project. You also want them to be people of integrity and you want to have already worked with them in the past.

Further, you want people who understand what it takes to build a startup and what the odds of success look like. Also very key is having cofounders who understand the problem space (or are very willing to learn) as much as you do.

This is quite interesting. What made you decide to move on from Coinpulley?

It started with founder burnout. Along the way,  Sebastian had quit because regulation around crypto asset custody was not clear in Europe and he was afraid of running afoul of the law. So I eventually had to wear all the hats from community to content to coding. This meant I had little time to zoom out and drive high level strategy.

Access to local talent in the space was also non-existent as most devs in my immediate network were relatively fresh in their careers and had zero experience with the crypto space. I would also admit that I was an inexperienced founder who didn't seek out mentoring help.

Our customers really tried to help keep it going but eventually I settled for shutting down the service. I decided to spend the next few years building a global career and network that I can leverage the next time I find a market opportunity.

At what point do you suggest that people move on if an idea isn’t working?Founders should focus on solving a problem and not a particular solution. As long as the problem your startup is trying to solve remains, there's a verifiable gap in the market to solve this problem and the problem is big enough, the iteration and pivoting never really stops.

What do you do for fun?

Haha. I have an unconventional answer. I try to make sure anything I am doing at any moment is fun. Life is too short to not be having fun. Of course, some activities are more relaxing than others.

When I'm not in creation mode, I tend to listen to good music with catchy lyrics, read an intellectually-stimulating piece, drive or travel to a chill location, go out with someone I find interesting, or watch YouTube mixed with some soccer highlights (I don't watch the actual games lol). I also like meeting new people and adding new perspectives to life.

What’s next for you?

I will be working on a web3 product that helps fans invest in their favorite artistes' music and get a cut of the reward cake. Shameless plug, the product name at launch is Tuneedo (@TuneedoHQ) and myself and team are currently working on building a community around that idea.

Thanks so much for speaking to us Sola. How can people find you?

Thanks Lanre. Here’s my LinkedIn account.

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