My Dialogue With Olaoye Joseph, Technology Lead For Kora Networks, Nigeria

Being an ex-software engineer for Konga and Flutterwave, Joseph shares his awesome experience, in my dialogue, on how he became the Technology Lead at Kora Networks Nigeria.

Matthew: Tell me about your educational background.

Joseph: I have a diploma in Software Engineering (Java) from NIIT
Then proceeded to a BSc from the Open University UK
The BSc was a top-up degree from the diploma
They allowed us to do credit transfer to the BSc
I also have an MSc in Information Systems Management
From the Roehampton University, London.

Matthew: What are you currently working on?

Joseph: I’m with a small fintech startup called Kora Networks, they’re in the payments space.

Matthew: I will like to know your career journey on how you got to work with Flutterwave and Kora.

Joseph: That’s a long winding journey.

Matthew: I will be willing to ride with you.

Joseph: I started at NIIT as a graduate instructor, teaching software engineering, using Java. Then went to a tax consultancy in Ogun State. they were doing tax consultation for the state government and I was writing software for them. Then back to Lagos to work for ChamsAccess, a terminal business owned by Chams Plc. They were into ATMs and outdoor terminals. I left to try to start my own business in 2011, all of the above was between 2008–2010. I tried to do a software shop but it failed because I got more jobs than I could handle. I started owing people money because I couldn’t finish their jobs when they wanted.

Matthew: Wow

Joseph: Anyway I got back to working a 9–5 when Joined VAS2Nets in November of 2011, and I stayed for a few months before moving on again and trying to do my own thing before Konga came calling in November of 2012. I joined Konga in February of 2013 as its first in-house engineer. All its engineering had been done abroad, prior to when I joined, I was there for the next 3 years and it was an exciting time.

Matthew: When you joined Konga, you had already failed to start your first startup?

Joseph: Yea sure, I already tried twice at that point. Anyway, I was laid off during Konga’s first round of layoffs in January of 2016, but I was introduced to a co-founder of Flutterwave that same month by my former boss. I joined Flutterwave the following month built the first version of its API and software infrastructure. It was fun times too. I left office at the end of August 2018, and I’m now with Kora.

Matthew: During that period you left Konga, how did you feel?

Joseph: To be honest, it was a shock at the time. In hindsight, I shouldn’t have been surprised though. The handwriting was on the wall, but while it signalled a big shift for the company, for me personally it ended up not mattering much. I was laid off in January while I resumed at Flutterwave in February 2016.

Matthew: Ok, so what basic challenges did you experience in your life journey?

Joseph: A few, I lost my mum at 14 and my dad at 19. So I had to look out for myself. Those were the real challenges though, it’s been a good life otherwise.

Matthew: So you are the only child?

Joseph: No I’m not, 4th of 6.

Matthew: Oh I see. When you started your startup, did you have a team?

Joseph: I couldn’t afford one. So it was only me when I started, but I got a few people to help along the way. But the debt pile up too quickly.

Matthew: So how were you able to settle your debtors?

Joseph: Over time, I have been able to clear it all up.

Matthew: So what’s your role at Kora?

Joseph: I’m the Technical Lead for the African team

Matthew: What advice can you give to people who are about to start a startup?

Joseph: Go for it. You either win or learn.

Matthew: How do you think the Nigerian Government can support startups?

Joseph: I don’t know to be honest. Outside of financing and providing infrastructure, these are the two main hurdles to overcome as an entrepreneur. You’d spend a lot of basic things like electricity and internet connection, that’s before you even get to the business itself.

Matthew: So you feel this are the basic areas that need financing?

Joseph: Yes, infrastructure more importantly, because if electricity is readily available and the internet is cheaper it will create a better atmosphere for technology businesses to thrive.