Neil Patel

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Nadayar Enegesi has gone from building companies out of Canada, back to the entrepreneurial hotbed of Nigeria for his biggest startup venture yet. His new company, Eden Life, has acquired funding from top-tier investors like EXPERT DOJO, Goodwater Capital, Village Global, and Google for Startups.

In this episode, you will learn:

  • Creating a values-based business, and what to do when your values are challenged
  • Managing quality in marketplace businesses
  • Startup fundraising


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About Nadayar Enegesi:

Nadayar Enegesi is an angel investor based in Lagos, Nigeria. He is a Co-Founder and serves as Chief Executive Officer at Eden Life.

Previously, he co-founded Andela and Fora. He has industry experience building enterprise software for the likes of OpenText, PTC, and Bnotions and has worked closely with major tech leaders in Toronto.

Nadayar holds a Bachelor’s in Computer Science from the University of Waterloo.

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Connect with Nadayar Enegesi:

Read the Full Transcription of the Interview:

Alejandro Cremades: All righty hello everyone and welcome to the deal maker show. So today. We have a very exciting founder. You know we’re gonna be learning quite a bit you know from his journey ah from Nigeria to canadala from Canada back to Nigeria he’s built now several companies. The last one you know massive rocket ship you know with a $2,000,000,000 valuation and now he’s on another rocket ship but we’re gonna go into it. We’re gonna be learning a lot around culture around also raisingcing capital around values and mission. But again I don’t want to wait I don’t want to make any of you wait any longer so without furtherther ado. Let’s welcome. Our guest today Nadaya and agasi welcome to the show.

Nadayar Enegesi: Um, thank you Alejandra is great to be here with you.

Alejandro Cremades: So give us a little of a walkthrough memory lane. How was life growing up in Nigeria.

Nadayar Enegesi: Um, oh um, it was great I grew up in the in the southern part of of Nigeria. Um, great weather. ° all year round really close to the to the ocean and lots of seafood. It was awesome. And um, actually as a as a kid my my 2 favorite activities were play music and solving mathematics. So um, if after playing music professionally in in the band for about a year I I moved. To Canada to study computer science and that is really where my entrepreneurship story started.

Alejandro Cremades: So then so then we’re gonna talk about the entrepreneurship journey just a little bit but I know that for you going to um to Canada you know what saying was quite a breakthrough I mean you went to Canada very young, how old were you my god I’m I’m sure that.

Nadayar Enegesi: Me.

Nadayar Enegesi: Is. Our 16.

Alejandro Cremades: You know going at 16 to somewhere so far away without the friends without the family I’m sure that that was very uncertain I’m sure for you. So how do you think that that has shapen up who you are today.

Nadayar Enegesi: Um, yeah, it was it was scary. It was also exciting I think doing doing something I didn’t realize how crazy was actually until until much later. Um, and I think that experience alone has made me sort of like. Fearless like um I am not I have buildinged the resili be able to jump into new Territories a new Terin um, knowing that I I have the ability to figure things out in the midst of all the all the chaos. So I’m really grateful for that experience.

Alejandro Cremades: And in your case too I mean you ended up getting into computer science in Waterloo you know a great university for this now out of all things like computers.

Nadayar Enegesi: Um, because I I knew I knew that was that was the direction. The world was already going at the time right? like that was the that was the rationale thing to do. But beyond that it was also my own. Um I take my own I used the word laziness to describe it because because um I at that point all all I wanted to do when he came to school was um. Solve math and make things I didn’t want to have to read or study or write essays or anything like that and so like once once I landed in Canada at the Pre-university School I went to I just picked math physics courses and computer science that was it and um, and and that’s how I got it to like the top. Um. Computer science program.

Alejandro Cremades: And in your case you know you see 1 thing led to the next then you ended up starting your first business now your first business you know as they say you either succeed or you learn in this case, you learned right? because it didn’t you know, get the outcome that you had hoped for. So.

Nadayar Enegesi: Um, you have it.

Alejandro Cremades: So what were you guys doing with this business on why didn’t work. Why did it not work out. Okay.

Nadayar Enegesi: Um, it was um, it was an Edtech platform for africans to access like global university course content. Um, so we’re building this out of Toronto and we were distributing this in in Lagos Nigeria. We’re selling it to people in universities here or people who worked at financial institutions that needed to upgrade their education or their but but their certifications and um, ultimately it didn’t the say didn’t work out for 2 main reasons. 1 of them was was timing. Because you needed lots of internet bandwidth to be able to use a solution like that here at the time internet penetration was was not great in in Lagos and secondly we learned that people care about learning and people care about education but they only care about it. As much as it gives them the certainty of a higher income or a better economic outcome. Um people people are not learning for the sake of learning I mean at the time Coursera was also really popular and Coursera had like what like a 7 % course completion rate. So we we quickly learned that actually like when it comes to educating people. The the education and the economic outcomes must be directly correlated and and attached together and that was actually the thing that inspired us to start the next company because um, for anddela the the next company we were. We were solving the global technical talent shortage. We’re finding the brightest.

Nadayar Enegesi: Young people in Africa and like teaching them to be software engineers that could work for any company remotely and our our value prop to the engineers on the ground here was we will pay you to learn and right after you learn, you’re gonna have access to work with the best engineering teams around the world. And that was really powerful because like people people were putting in everything that was required to be world class so that they could have those opportunities and they did and they walked out reliba.

Alejandro Cremades: So then so then obviously you you know you were saying you know this was the segue to andela. So how how did it, you know, naturally, you know transition into mandela because Mandela.

Nadayar Enegesi: Um, and.

Alejandro Cremades: Absolutely insane. You know Success story. So how did it transition there.

Nadayar Enegesi: Um, um, it was kind of like a a collision of worlds really? so you had myself E Ian Bryce or 4 friends from college who were working on this e tech program right? and then there was um. Jeremy and christtina who were friends from a different life. Jeremy also had an Ed Tech Company he started that has just went public and he was also thinking along the same lines of actually when he comes to education outcome is all that matters right? and our worlds collided and um.

Nadayar Enegesi: Jeremy and Kristina had been talking about something like andela for about a year before we met and when we all met it just felt like okay like this is the dream team that has finally come together that can fully go after after this problem. And so we just jumped right in right away and said how quickly can we validate that we can take somebody from just being computer literate to being a software engineer and completing a software engineering task online that was our first objective and we accomplished that really quickly and from there we just started building the.

Alejandro Cremades: And and actually that also brought you back to Nigeria seven years later

Nadayar Enegesi: Business.

Nadayar Enegesi: Exactly so I left when I was 16 I left here like may twenty first thousand and seven may twenty first Twenty fourteen I was I was on the flight back to lagos to start doing and della.

Alejandro Cremades: On why? Why did you have to return to legors to on to do this.

Nadayar Enegesi: Um, because our our model hinged on finding the brightest people and then equipping them with the skills to be a world class of engineer and on on our team of cofounders I was the one that had the unique skill set of being. Software engineer myself and I had also done a lot of like training and coaching through like community Involvement. So My responsibility was being on ground and finding those people and building these systems that would transform ordinary people into world class Software engineers.

Alejandro Cremades: So so so I guess for the people that are listening to really get it. Why didn’t that up being the business model of Andela How is the company making money.

Nadayar Enegesi: Um.

Nadayar Enegesi: Um, the the company makes money through ums like a a technical talent marketplace right? Any any teams are looking to scale their engineering teams anddela is a number 1 place for them to access. Um, they are talent resources. And now it is it is more than just software engineering is is anything that has to do with like technology. It could be designed. It could be data science anything like that.

Alejandro Cremades: And the company has also raised a ton of money I mean it has raised the how much.

Nadayar Enegesi: Um, over three hundred million dollars so far.

Alejandro Cremades: Yeah I see here like closer to 400000000 about 381000000 with a valuation of over two billion now you know in this case, you guys were able to get absolutely incredible investors but investors that were more in the us. So what was that process of. You know here you are you know, pushing an operation in Lagos there in Nigeria and being able to get money from the us I mean how difficult was that.

Alejandro Cremades: How difficult was that not a year to to get this this investors.

Nadayar Enegesi: Um, um, yes, um, it was it was definitely challenging because at the time at the time there was not a lot of like investment activity in in ventures that were Africa focused really right? But. Um, one of the strengths of our team is also the diversity of the team. Um, so while I was on ground and some of our team were were on ground in in Africa we had our Ceo and Ceo Jeremy and Christina were working out of our New York office um, Jeremy’s former company had also got ipo so that really helped a lot as well and he’s an incredible Ceo I mean like he he definitely pulled all the stops like even at times when like things were so uncertain he just carried everything on his back and and kept going and um. Been a great inspiration to me as a leader who is going to perever until until the very end and I think his perseverance definitely paid off on that on that front.

Alejandro Cremades: So now I your how how were you able to get all these investors from the us I mean you guys got the who is on the investment world and especially being in Nigeria.

Nadayar Enegesi: Yeah I um I’d say credit to to Jeremy our our Ceo he did a fantastic job I mean um, it was a pretty difficult period actually to raise to raise fundnt for an Africa focused company because. Um, not not not a lot of venture was going towards Africa focused ventures thankfully Jeremy’s previous company had gone public so we had that credibility on our side but still it was really really difficult and. Were moments where he just carried everything on his back and just press it there until the end and so um, Jeremy is a very important figure for me. He’s um, he’s an inspiration. he’ the person I think about whenever like I’m going through a really tough time and it seems like there’s nothing also done I’m just like yeah if Jeremy were doing this thing. He would just like give it everything that he has until the very end so um, credit definitely goes to him and also to the rest of the team because like everybody was able to pull their weight which allowed him to to focus a lot on thekisha that we had the the funding that we needed to build or we had to build.

Alejandro Cremades: And how was that transition of um of financings because I mean every every year pretty much you know you guys were almost every year. You know you guys were raising money. So how was how was that journey like going from 1 financing to the next.

Nadayar Enegesi: Um, um I mean like it meant it it be the the causation and also the implication of that was like we had to be growing very quickly like we had to be tripling or doubling our revenue almost every year. So like. After after every round of funding It wasn’t even a thing of like oh like let’s celebrate that we have this much money Now. It’s like Nah like every new funding around came with the with the realization of the work that had to be done to get to the next stage and so the team was um was super super focused and I think that helped us. Um, stay the course.

Alejandro Cremades: And then I mean the company incredible growth when it comes to employees how many employees does the company have now.

Nadayar Enegesi: Um, um, I’m not sure the exact number now is um is been. Its been a couple years since I was there last but um, no, no.

Alejandro Cremades: But probably close to 2000 no

Nadayar Enegesi: Definitely not 2000 employees because now like initially um, we operated as a full stack managed Marketplace where the the engineers who are working for client companies were also employees. But um, Angeldela has Since. Moved to a purely marketplace model. So Most of the team right now is the technology team and the and the sales team so is a much much smaller team and running a lot more efficiently.

Alejandro Cremades: And then in this case, you know for you at what point do you realize? it’s time to turn pages I mean with all these employees with all these money raised I mean 2000000000 valuation I mean that’s absolutely incredible for for you guys. You know so.

Nadayar Enegesi: Um, um so about about 5 years into into building the business I think this was after after our series d um I had now lived in legos for about 5 years and I had spent a lot of time in in Nairobi.

Alejandro Cremades: Why Why did you decide? you know it was time to turn page.

Nadayar Enegesi: Kenya I spent some time in Kampala Uganda and other places just like expanding the business and um, it really started to hit me that I mean like at that point in andela. We we had built all of the all of the rails and the engine for getting talent in and ecquipping them with the right skills I could have decided to to coast you know at the company. But um I I started feeling a deep sense of responsibility. When I left my house and I go out and I see how like um, how how people just lived every day within within these different markets in Africa I was like there are the definitely day-to-day life challenges that we that we have here and um I feel personally responsible to do something. Something about it that was that was how my my my journey with eden life started and um, one day I just decided that you know what I’m definitely in this environment for your reason and I think I think the first big reason why I was back was to create economic prosperity for a small group of people. To software engineering now. How can we? you know like make that impact 101000 times by touching how a lot of people or millions of people live on a day-to-day basis and um I contemplated that thought like day on day week on week month month

Nadayar Enegesi: And it never left me right? and that’s like after like six months that’s when I knew that this was what what I was meant to be doing and I decided to take the plunge.

Alejandro Cremades: And as you as you are now. Um you know, pushing with it in life and and as you were doing with andil I know that the values on the mission you know has been a really critical thing you know for you guys. So how. Were you able to do that you know with e life I’m sure that you learned quite a bit with Mandela and I know that you guys have spent you know quite a bit of time you know on making sure that people are aligned that people you know are really um, you know, excited about the future that you guys are living into and having that level of clarity. So how have you guys gone about putting that in place.

Nadayar Enegesi: Um, very good. Um I mean like it is it is just like documentation and and repetition and continuously engaging with our purpose. Why do we exist and who what what kinds of people Do we need to be to achieve. Or to leave that purpose of of why we exist as a company in the in the case of even life. The reason why we exist is to tenx the quality of life We want to make life. Um, 10 times better for everybody and so for us like the the values that supports that um. Mission is that we are audacious. Um, what we are trying to do is hard and so we must live with that consciousness and not be afraid to challenge the status quo we are. We are obsessed with quality. So if we’re going to be the ones that create the rails for 10 X in quality of life Then. Ah, us Ourselves. We must be obsessed with Quality. We must. We must look around the world for all the inspirations of what quality of life looks like and like imitate and innovate from there. Um and make those things accessible to our market. Um, another one of our values is exponential thinking. Ah, means we must always look for ways to do more with less that means like leveraging the latest technologies to make sure that we are um, we’re able to achieve larger results with small amounts of um of of human efforts.

Nadayar Enegesi: Um, one of our values is also radical Candor. We say it like it is to ourselves within the company. We. We challenge each other directly but that doesn’t mean that we have to be assholes right? We can also care deeply about each other a while while challenging um directly um discipline is another one of our values self-discipline and. Um, team Execution discipline That means that even when it doesn’t feel like it. We show Up. Um and another value that we have is is thoughtfulness and this one is more is more about how we engage with ourselves and how we engage with our customers. Um, someone can be helpful without being thoughtful. Be be thoughtful implies implies, empathy implies asking the the deeper questions and making sure that the solutions that we provide and the support you provide to each other and to our customers actually get to the roots. Of what that person. Um really needs from us and our final value is is diversity. Um, it is a value that embraces our our ethos of just being welcoming to the people that come into our space and the people that that work with us. Regardless of their backgrounds and regardless of their of their sets of beliefs as long as they’re not harmful. Um and it also diversity also speaks to the kind of product that we are building because for E and live the product we’re building is one where we’re building the operating system for like.

Nadayar Enegesi: But is a wide range of stuff you can find on our product from food delivery to home care to self-care to travel and entertainment all of those things in 1 place. So you you need people with with different points of view that can like make such a product exist.

Alejandro Cremades: And and also what happens when that doesn’t happen because I know you guys have been dealing also with with abuse of people. So how do you identify that and then how you how do you clean up house so that that’s not cancer that spreads.

Nadayar Enegesi: Oh yeah, very good right? So every every every company like talks about values until until this time to enforce them right? It’s very easy to to celebrate the values when they are being upheld but like when when they’re not being upheld. That’s when a company’s metal is um is really tested. In in our case on on one occasion we we did have a very senior team member who was um, both verbally and and and physically abuseive to an another team member and for us that like that. Infringes on on how we believe people should treat people it infringes on our our thoughtfulness value it infringes on our radical candor value like if there was a conflict. It’s a much better way to handle a conflict um than being than being abusive and um, once that situation came up. Investigated it and on our leadership team. It was It was a pretty straightforward decision to make it like yes, this is going to be very painful. It feels like we are cutting an arm off right now, but it is better for the long-term health of the company because like this is the time when we stand true to our values. Ultimately, we Um. We got that person off the team and the response from from the rest of our team was like super so positive because like now everybody knows that the leadership of the company actually puts our money where our mouth is and it has definitely made our our culture stronger.

Alejandro Cremades: And how many people do you guys have today. That’s incredible, especially because you guys haven’t raised a you know a ton of money. How much money have you guys raised today.

Nadayar Enegesi: Um, we have about 50 people.

Nadayar Enegesi: Um, um, we’ve raised about $2000000 to date.

Alejandro Cremades: That is incredible. So how are you able to really you know, get this thing going I mean coming out of super hyper growth crazy a amounts of rounds of money that you raised to the last company. Why have you been.

Nadayar Enegesi: Um, um, a few things. 1 of them is that it’s a it’s it’s a completely different. Um is it different market and is it different um is a different sort of product. Um, even life is also doing even life is doing something that has not been done before in this market.

Alejandro Cremades: More careful and more conservative as you are thinking about raising money on this on this journey with even life.

Nadayar Enegesi: So the discovery period is is longer and um, it is better to build and figure these things out without um, consuming copious amounts of of capital. So naturally we are more cautious about like raising too much or raising way more money than we than we need. Until we have got into a critical point where it is time to literally pull rocket fuel on on the fire. Um, that’s 1 thing other thing is that our team is mostly is mostly local. We do not have an international team structure like like we did at Mandela where we had people. Not just in Nigeria but like in in New York and in San Francisco which commands higher salaries. Um, so those those 2 things have actually helped us stay very prudent when when it comes to raising.

Alejandro Cremades: So so in this case I mean imagine you were to go to sleep tonight and you wake up in a world where the vision is fully realized what does that world look like.

Nadayar Enegesi: Um, amazing. Um that world looks like 1 where um, africans are just thriving um get thriving because all the things that they need. For a good life. They can easily access them. They’re eating right? They’re saving lots of time because like all the jobs around the home they need to outsource. They can easily outsource people that they trust they can get to the places that they that they want to get to um on time because they’re saving time they can dedicate that time towards. Things that make their lives better like um, upskilling or spending more time with family and friends or engaging experiences that just like replenishes their school and these things under longer at things that people just like dream about having but don’t access. It is not possible for them because like write on that e and life app they can access all of these things are their fingert tips. So um, that’s the world. That’s the world that we’re going to build into one where everyone just thrives and wins because what they need to drive or we is super accessible to them.

Alejandro Cremades: And talking about thriving and Vision. You know the way that you guys got started. You know it’s not the way that you guys are heading now I Mean in fact, you guys started as an open platform and then you know it was tough to to manage the quality control and then the ship had already sailed so it was really tough to to turn it around. So. What happened there and how did you guys you know, transition or shifting gears.

Nadayar Enegesi: Awesome. Um, it’s’s it’s a constant journey of of evolution. You know so when we started we were like yeah we’re going to work with all of these third party merchants to offer these different verticals on on our platform and quality was really really with a big problem. Um, food delivery is the biggest service on on our platform today and we we decided that you know what what? What we’re going to do to enter 100 represent quality is they’re going to vertically integrate this food delivery operation. So.

Nadayar Enegesi: We We built a dark kitchen We. We brought on a team of professional Chefs. We started R and D we created our own menus and like we started delivering that Product. We went from a place where customers we complaining every single date’s ones where. Customers hardly ever complain and they just like give reviews most of the time and they’re like wellre retained but like before we accomplish this thing myself and my two cofounders we didn’t know anything about what it takes to to produce Food. So it was It was a period of dedicated learning and focus and leaning on the right people and the right experts to make that to make that possible now we are the place where we now understand what it takes to deliver like quality food at scale. And we have built we have built um processes and technology that helps us to achieve that on a daily basis. So We’re now going back. We’re going back to the beginning with third parties. But this time around we’re going with the knowledge because we know what it takes to succeed and we have codified all of those things So we’re going to be giving them to. These merchants to be able to operate on our platform and we believe that this is how we enable quality for the rest of the continent because at the end of the day we cannot. We cannot do all the operations on our own forever or we have to enable the rest of the of the market and that is what we are here to do.

Alejandro Cremades: I love it. So ah so let me ask you this one so how is it now you know they’re in in Nigeria you know to to because there’s a lot of innovation going on. But how is it you know being an entrepreneur there compared to perhaps what you experience in canadaala.

Nadayar Enegesi: Um, oh um, is is it’s um, is is different in in a few ways. So one of the things I enjoy about building in Lagos is lagos has legos nigeria has raw entrepreneurial energy. It’s like everybody. Is is building something because like the thelare pathway to to wealth here is actually starting a business and then um, outside of that we have adopted a lot of these digital technologies very very quickly right almost everybody has a smartphone almost everybody has um, data and and internet. But at the same time our our infrastructure in the urban areas hasn’t caught up to the rest of the world. So which means that anywhere you look. There’s a problem to be solved. And if you can solve that problem and and create more efficiencies or create convenience for people then there is um that that’s an opportunity. So I love being here because it is it is constant stimulation of that entrepreneur energy and and opportunities all around as opposed to at least like Canada where it feels like. Um, is mostly first world problems. Um, so like this is one of the best places to come to to get inspired as to like what what one can do for the world and for authority humanity.

Alejandro Cremades: So imagine you know now that I give you the opportunity of going back in time and I put you into a time machine and I bring you back in time to that moment where maybe you were still in the university of Waterloo and taking a look at you know, maybe starting something of your own and and becoming an entrepreneur.

Nadayar Enegesi: Um, again.

Nadayar Enegesi: Are.

Alejandro Cremades: If you were able to go back in time you know, especially after having achieved you know this incredible amount of of wealth of knowledge that you’ve gotten with these 3 companies that you built. Let’s say you were able to grab that younger na that year and putting that younger another higher you know there to sit down and to give that younger self. 1 piece of advice before launching a business. What would that be and why given what you know now.

Nadayar Enegesi: Um, ah um I would tell them um I would tell them that I’ll tell you younger and a daughter that actually you have.

Nadayar Enegesi: You have everything within you to materialize whatever vision that you have in your head and um and you have to trust trust that at at the right time things will materialize and you meet the right people and you you will do. You would do all of those things. Um I will say that Because. At the time I was I was pretty nervous and I was and I was pretty scared and there were times when I did not believe that I had it in me to to do all of these things but I realized that when every when every challenge came we just we just went through it. And it it was it was because of the amount of focus the amount of perseverance and also the people around that were that that were um that were committed to accomplishing the same goals. So I would I would really just if I went back in time I would save myself the anxiety and just give myself that very reasssurance that like all all of these. Dreams are possible. Um, everything.

Alejandro Cremades: It is possible. That’s for sure with hard work and dedication. Everything is possible. So now that I are for the people that are listening that will love to reach out and say hi. What is the best way for them to do so.

Nadayar Enegesi: Um, um, the best way to to reach out and say hi is is my Twitter my handle is not dire said at nadayar especially to reach out to me. And.

Alejandro Cremades: Amazing. You see enough. Well hey now I are thank you so much for being on the deal maker show today has been on on earth to have you with us.

Nadayar Enegesi: Thank you so much ay Handra so much fun.

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