Hi Paul, tell me about yourself
Hi Lanre! Excited to chat with you. My name is Paul Oladimeji. I'm a Technical Product Manager with over 3 years of experience building and managing products in Fintech, Edtech, Robotics & AI.
How did you get started in tech?
My journey as a developer started in 2010. Just out of high school, I saw my brother earning from building websites for people, and I wanted to do same. So I joined APTECH, where I learnt the basics of programming. I then had an idea to build an MP3 download website, with the hopes of retiring at 21, lol.
Of course that never happened, but I learnt HTML & CSS while working on this project, which helped me land my first gig as a web designer for MI, Basketmouth and a few other celebrities.
Interesting! What was your career progression after graduating from the university?
After uni, I caught the startup bug again, and briefly worked on a student reporting system for parents similar to ClassDojo. The product failed to gain much traction, but it taught me my first PM lesson - the importance of “customer development when building products. Frankly, I should have built deeper relationships with my target customers, and involved them in the early development process. Luckily, I was able to apply this and other lessons at Educare, where I built similar edtech products, albeit with more successful outcomes this time.
After these I joined TeamApt as a Technical Project Manager working on banking products. While in this role, I got offered a paid scholarship to study in China.
Why did you decide to study in China?
Firstly, I have always been fascinated by traveling and exploring other parts of the world. Secondly, China was (and still is) a leading force in bleeding edge innovation, and I figured I'd learn a ton that I could apply in my future projects. Also, I'd be paid a decent sum every month, so for these reasons, I packed my bags and moved to China.
After arriving in Beijing, I dived headfirst into the startup ecosystem, attending meetups, hackathons, etc. It was in the midst of this that I got a job offer to join a startup working on products at the intersection of education, robotics and artificial intelligence.
How does the Chinese startup ecosystem compare to the Nigerian startup ecosystem?
Nigerian and Chinese entrepreneurs have similar hustle and drive, and our engineering talent, despite being much smaller and less diverse, compares to the best over there. Also, despite the relative maturity of the tech ecosystem over there, there are still a lot of beginner-friendly online and offline communities, similar to Nigeria.
In terms of differences, the work schedule in Chinese-owned startups are known to be grueling, with engineers working from 9am - 9pm, six days a week. I don’t know any Nigerian startup with such working hours (please don’t do this 😁).
Another key difference between both countries is the active contribution of the government to the tech ecosystem, due to innnovation-friendly policies.
In China, it’s common to see local governments providing generous grants and benefits including free office space, tax breaks and subsidies to attract entrepreneurs.
While I understand that the economic realities of Nigeria and China are different, I still believe applying similar policies would do a lot to boost innovation in Nigeria.
Also, there is more active investment in hardware and “high-tech” innovation in China than in Nigeria, due to better infrastructure, high purchasing power in the domestic Chinese market, and the presence of hardware clusters like Shenzhen that provide speed to market. The talent goes where the money goes, so China has a more diverse talent pool compared to Nigeria.
There is also a lot of collaboration between academia and business. Apart from internships, pitch competitions, and exchange programs between startups and universities, a lot of universities have also set up innovation hubs and provide grants and free office space to promising student startups, even after they graduate. While we have similar programs in Nigerian universities, they are not as actively promoted and replicated. We need to be more aggressive.
Why did you decide to work on PiggyFi? Is this why you got interested in DeFi?While PiggyFi is my first blockchain startup, building it is like coming full circle, because coincidentally, a remittance use case sparked my interest in crypto. Back in 2016, I wanted to urgently send money to a close friend in Kenya. It was a frustrating experience. But, while researching my options I came across Bitpesa, one of the few African blockchain companies at the time. I didn't end up using it because I didn't understand how the product worked, but their promise of near instant settlement using Bitcoin got me interested in learning more about the technology.
Fast forward to 2022. Despite the relative maturity of our financial and tech ecosystems, Africans are still the most disconnected from global financial systems, especially for individuals and small businesses. Online international payments are difficult, and sending/receiving money with countries that are not the US, UK, or Canada requires multiple workarounds that are slow and expensive. Also, if we’re trying to empower intra-African commerce through policies like the AfCFTA, it makes sense to have a platform that enables true intra-African remittances (not just in the Nigeria-Kenya-Ghana corridor, but across the entire continent). This is why we’re building PiggyFi.
What next can we expect from you?
We’re at the early stages of growth for PiggyFi Send, our flagship product, so this is my focus for the immediate period.
I see PiggyFi Send as our first step in unlocking financial freedom for Africans. In the near future, you will be able access your local bank accounts and mobile money wallets from anywhere in the world through our app. You can send and receive money, pay bills, make online payments, and earn interest on your savings. In the future we envision, Africans are not constrained by borders, and have one wallet to transact across the globe.
Apart from Defi, I am also a big believer in the transformational effect of remote work and digital skills on the African continent. So in my spare time, I try to contribute to this cause with RemoteSkills (https://remoteskills.africa) where we provide curated roadmaps, communities and resources to people looking to learn digital skills and land remote jobs.
Apart from financial means, the biggest problem I’ve observed for people trying to transition into the digital workforce is a lack of guidance (how do I get started, what do I do next?). RemoteSkills is my way of helping to bridge that gap.
This has been very insightful Paul. Thank you so much for speaking with me. How can people find you?Thanks Lanre. I’m also trying to write a lot more these days (about Web3, product management, and remote work) either on my website: dimeji.me, or on Medium (https://medium.com/@paulror). You can also find me on LinkedIn https://linkedin.com/in/pauloladimeji and Telegram — @pauloladimeji