Olumide Ogunlana is the CEO/Co-Founder of PrepClass. Along with his co-founder, Chukwuezam Obanor, this driven young man and Graduate of Electrical Electronics Engineering from the University of Lagos identified some gaps in the Nigerian education system and developed an innovative educational platform ‘Prepclass’ that bridges this gap by preparing students for local and international examinations online and in real time. We spoke with Olumide to explore his journey – it was an insightful look into the mind of a young entrepreneur.
So, today, everyone knows ‘Olumide’ (The CEO,
“10 years ago, I was in the university and I thought that I was going to be an engineer, I studied Electrical Electronics Engineering and I wanted to work for a big technical company upon graduation because, my sister was an engineer and I got inspiration from her. I did not strongly consider entrepreneurship, it was not an option I even thought about.”
At what age did you come up with the ‘PrepClass’ idea? And after the idea popped into your mind, what was your first action, and what were the major turn of events that led to making ‘Prepclass’ what it is today?
“So, I am a product of very good education, I was fortunate to finish with very good grades in the university so I have always been drawn to education. I used to tutor while I was in school, I used to go to the library a lot – education has always been a very strong passion of mine. In terms of the actual business, my partner and I started the informal part of business before it was registered in 2012. We did not start out as a platform, we started as an educational blog, we just used to write a lot of articles about education, all of this started in our final year in the university. Along the line, we got the opportunity to attend a program organized at our university by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). During one of the sessions, I got access to mentorship from a renowned professional in the education industry who enlightened us about the industry and advised us to consider careers along that path. Initially, the idea was to build a platform for students to prepare for the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examinations (UTME) and we did that, and then everything pretty much took off from there… so, I guess the answer to the question is that it was not just one move, but a combination of a lot of factors that led to the establishment of Prepclass. In our own case, it is a combination of the fact that I had a very good educational background and I am very fast in anything that has to do with education, it was also a fact that I applied for the MIT program and the fact that I met my mentor who inspired us to take this up as a full-time career. Also, my partner’s mother is experienced in the education discipline, that provided an additional leverage for us. Everything just pointed back to education as a discipline, and we were interested in being the biggest players in that space.”
There must have been moments that tested you and made you want to quit. Tell us how you navigated these challenging moments.
“To be honest, that moment never ends, entrepreneurship is really mind-challenging because, it tests you, it messes a lot with your sanity, sometimes it can be very emotional. So first up, ‘that moment has never ends’, but, I think the most important thing is surrounding yourself with people that add value in what you are doing, having a business partner really helps, so, whenever I am feeling down and I feel like there is no way out of the current challenge that I am facing and I feel very frustrated, my business partner takes up the challenge and motivates me and vice-versa. So, whenever my partner is feeling down, I motivate him as well and we also have mentors, and investors and generally friends who keep encouraging us when the chips are down.”
Being a young entrepreneur can be tricky, have there been any major setbacks/peculiar opportunities experienced because of your age? And how did you manage/take advantage of these situations?
“I do not think that there have been any setbacks because of my age, if anything, it has been advantageous for us, I remember approaching brands who were very excited that we were young people, doing great things, and we have achieved some milestones for ourselves because of this. What the age factor does for us is that it opens doors that may have otherwise been shut, because the people you meet are impressed that a young person can achieve this much. So, we have not had any set back in that regard. Taking advantage of these opportunities, we also surround ourselves with other smart entrepreneurs who could have done a lot of things that we are trying to achieve. So, we learn from their experience – we interact with much older people who mentor us on the appropriate steps to take before embarking on projects. So, yes, ‘age’ has not limited us in any way but in fact helped us.”
If you could tell one thing to your younger self, what would it be?
“Well… I should have started earlier. So, I started thinking seriously about entrepreneurship in my final year in the university. If I could talk to my younger self, I would advise myself to start earlier – probably in my first year. I should have done a lot more work on the entrepreneurship side of things than on the academic side of things.”
We have a lot of younger aspiring entrepreneurs who want to build businesses in the Technology and Education industry. What advise would you give these young ones?
“Entrepreneurship is very hard, It is not as glamorous as it seems, it is not as easy as it seems, don’t get distracted by the ‘Forbes lists’ or social media personas or whatever it is that you are seeing out there, try to focus, pray hard, involve God in all that you do, have mentors, people that are very interested in your success to guide you along in all the decisions that you would make and above all, be consistent. Consistency is key and not being distracted is also very important.