During the course of the 440.ng accelerator program, we host weekly dinners (pizza) with prominent local entrepreneurs. The purpose of the dinners is to give our startups the chance to hear from leading entrepreneurs and learn from their years of experience. We encourage candid talk to give the startups insight to parts of the early-stage that is sometimes left out of the simplified, or glorified public story.
The first one took place last week with Mitchell Elegbe, founder and CEO of Interswitch. He spoke of how he conceived of the idea for Interswitch in 2001, leading a team of young Nigerians to build and implement Nigeria’s first online, real-time, transaction, switching, and payment processing infrastructure, enabling the electronic circulation of money. He started at a time when the general view was that such a system was not possible given the infrastructural challenges in Nigeria. Today, this shared infrastructure has been adopted by all banks, government agencies, and corporate organizations.
He spoke of his previous attempts (Interswitch was his fourth startup) at building a business, and advised the startups that being flexible is important. Here are some of the other takeaways from the evening:
- If something is not working, change it.
- The first customer is the hardest sell, afterwards it becomes easier.
- Surround yourself with passionate team members (his initial team members were still working with him over a decade after he started the company)
Mitchell was great at describing his experiences, hustling early, making tough decisions, and overall was an amazing inspiration to the startups. We look forward to inviting more of Nigeria’s Super-entrepreneurs over for dinner at the Lagos Garage.
Some more quotes from Mitchell:
- “What is an entrepreneur? Someone who turns nothing into something”
- “Success is only true success if it is sustainable”
- “Create a business that allows growth and glamour”
- “Strategy is doing something that is not easily replicable”
- “Go to where no one wants to go to”