Not much people in the country try to solve problems relating to education. This is even when the sector is obviously in shambles. However, three friends, now two (CEO, Samson Abioye passed on recently), chose their part to make a difference in the sector. So far, it is very fair to say they have made a very huge impact in the lives of the common students sitting for an exam or another.
TechMoran had a little chat with Imole Oluyemi, a co-founder of pass.ng. The startup prides as the personal examination buddy of students. They are a one-stop area when it comes to preparing for examinations, with access to numerous past questions and all.
Imole recounts how he met Late Samson, Abayomi and Joshua which led to the birth of pass.ng.
Tell us about your relationships with Samson, were you friends first before business partners? Or just business partners?
I and Samson Abioye are Classmates of the same Computer Science and Engineering department of LAUTECH Ogbomoso. We got close around 2012 during our six month internship at our School’s ICT Department. He was someone that dropped very deep insights and displayed a lot of wisdom on a lot of subject, and these qualities endeared me to him. He told me of the App he is working on, which was named “Mobile jamb CBT” at the time and I immediately bought into it. As a designer, I helped with branding and some user Interface design needs for the mobile App until we secured investment and he officially asked if I will join and become a cofounder. At the time, I was running a mini digital Agency and Printing firm back in School. I left the business and Joined Samson, Abayomi Akanji, Joshua Adebagbo and we incorporated the business properly and PASS.NG was born. For us, it was friendship and brotherhood first before business.
What inspired pass.ng as a startup? Did you encounter problems with exams yourself?
Samson got the idea of an App that helps candidates prepare for and pass examinations when we were in the 3rd year in the University. A secondary school friend of his called him and was lamenting that he was still stuck at home as it has been difficult for him to pass his Universities entrance examinations (JAMB UTME) for the third consecutive year. That became an Eureka moment for Samson, looking at WAEC and JAMB failure rate that year, coupled with the fact that mobile was just becoming a norm at the time, it seem like a perfect time to do something about the problem and he did! I failed at my University entrance attempt for two times as well and I had to settle for the Polytechnic, after which I crossed to the University. So it’s a problem I could relate with and one which I was determined to solve. I do teach a lot of tutorials back in College and also Authored a book to help students pass their semester examinations.
Since the launch of your startup, how well have you grown?
The startup journey has been a roller coaster ride, one which is laced with a lot lessons along the way. The first unforgettable training received was during the three months 440ng Accelerator Programme. We got exposed to a lot of business insights and lessons for Tech Industry experts and Entrepreneurs who took turns to teach and mentor us. A lot of those lessons are still been applied till date in a lot of our business dealings. I have met a lot of people and have learnt the power of networking. Been fortunate to be out of the country as well where I had the opportunity to see first-hand, how things work in other countries. And most importantly I have learnt the art of team work and human capital development, which is key to a successful business and its culture.
Putting in mind the financial incapabilities of most students, how do you turn them to paying customers?
It’s simple! We offer value and so it was not had turning the students into paid users. We give so much and charge less. By leveraging the reach and ease that comes with Telco recharge cards, we were able to charge our users a low as N100 for daily subscription, N200 for weekly and N500 for monthly subscription. As at the time we started, a lot of our user do not have bank account and so could not pay using cards. The problems we are solving is one that we all come across and so even parents ensure their wards a subscribed to PASS.NG a long time before the exams commence.
There are a lot of platforms that claim to help students during exams, how exactly does yours stand out of the crowd?
First, we are interested in the entire candidate’s journey from the day he/she decides to sit for an exam till the results are released. So we are your personal examination buddie. The questions we work with have been properly licensed from the relevant examination bodies and a properly solved with explanations provided by seasoned and experienced tutors who have been preparing students for such examinations for a minimum of ten years. We ask our users to flag any error found or tell us which subject area that they may still found difficult in addition to the user behavior data which we get and carefully analyze to constantly make the platform better. Also, we give scholarships to 10 best JAMB students who used our platform in a particular year. Over three hundred thousand users cannot be wrong!
Tell us about your funding experience. Did you first bootstrap the startup? When did you later get investment?
While we started in School, the business was solely bootstrapped using our individual funds and skills. We had to use a professor’s office as our office and meeting point. But we knew that we needed exposure and support. 440ng (www.440.ng) came along and did just that by choosing us as one of the 9 startups that they will be backing with seed investments and mentorship.
What has been your most challenging experience with the startup? How about your most memorable one?
Every single day is a challenge while some may be bigger than the other, that’s what makes the entrepreneurial journey interesting. Losing my friend and CEO – Samson Abioye, has been the most challenging experience for me. I have had to grow up very fast ever since he went to be with the Lord. The most memorable is every day that we spend together, overcoming every challenge placed on our part with humor and love. I love the ability to dream about something totally new and go after it until its achieved despite the challenges that may arise.
If there was one thing you could do differently since you launched, what would it be?
As a company, there are a lot of things we could have done differently especially since we employ the fail fast approach. This means some experiments don’t turn out as we want and we could have done in another or a better way. Nevertheless, there is still a lot of ground to cover and technologies to be used.
When can you say you are fulfilled with pass.ng? Are there plans to build any other platforms in the future?
So far, so good. I am not totally satisfied, but we have achieved a lot in the last couple of years. We have been building something Iconic but she not there yet. All hands remain on deck regardless of the setback (death of Samson Abioye), we push on.
We have a goal to be the number 1 destination for examination preparatory needs and e-testing in Africa, and we will not stop until that is achieved.
Which other educational challenges is pass.ng NOT tackling yet?
The challenges that don’t go in line with our vision and goals. There are lots of challenges in education and only a laser-focus approach to selected problem areas will enable a sustainable and solid solutions.
No doubt, you both are very young entrepreneurs. Tell us how you started and what kept you going. This is for the benefit of many other young and budding tech entrepreneurs.
Yes. We started as a group of people united by the same goal and passion to impact the educational landscape in Africa while we are yet undergraduates. We had no money but we had the skill and were willing to learn as we go along with the journey. We were friends first before business, so we could stick together even when things were not going as we would have wanted. We all sacrificed to ensure the continuity and growth of the business.
Lastly, just share a piece of advice for upcoming “techpreneurs”.
To upcoming techprenuers, money should not be your first motivation, knowledge and experience should. Always place people and experiences above money. Always do things that scare you. The way to establish yourself and business is by building relationship with the right people.