Here on Whoot Africa, we not only showcase brands, but we also talk to the people behind those brands and have them share with us their back stories as well as give tips on how to successfully start and run a business.
Welcome to Whoot Africa’s – 15 Questions with the CEO.
Today, we will be talking with Sola Akindolu, CEO of Foto.com.ng
1. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and foto.com.ng as a brand you represent?
I am Sola Akindolu, an Electrical Engineer by education and I think a lot about the internet and the power of technological possibilities. Foto.com.ng is a microstock company providing royalty free stock images to creative people and companies for illustrations and various works. Images from Foto are African-themed, of top quality from professional photographers and finely selected to meet creative standards. Currently, there are 10,000+ images and images are added everyday to the library.
2. How did you get started in business and what did it take for you to get to where you are today?
Thinking about business, it started for me as an undergraduate mainly as an Electrical Engineering student and upon graduation, it evolved into the internet after discovering its possibilities.
3. Did you know you were going to be an entrepreneur all along, or did it happen by chance?
Well, entrepreneurship for me is a journey. I have always thought of it as a medium of expression and so, I would say I knew quite early I would end up an entrepreneur.
4. Foto.com.ng offers royalty free images at affordable prices, how long has it taken to put these images together and how do you plan to monitor the pictures uploaded on your website especially with the likes of snipping tools and image grab software?
It took over 18 months to put most of these images together. Beyond photography, there is a careful process of image selection and image description that needed to be done for search and discovery. These activities, however, are still ongoing. And for the image monitoring, there is a team dedicated to this. We’ve, in fact, discovered a few instances of image theft. As we move forward, we look at developing tools to help bring this down minimally and discourage further happenings.
5. Considering the ever changing international copyright laws, can you enlighten Nigerians on the various copyright laws when it comes to using images off the web for their various platforms and businesses in Nigeria?
Our Stock images are royalty-free implying you can use these images for any application as long as you act accordingly to the license agreement. This simplifies the entire creative process and cuts down associated costs. An image used without permission or purchase of license is equivalent to copyright infringement and criminal. An infringement may mean monetary charges or lawsuit which is why we try every time to discourage people especially established organisations from scrapping images off the site or attempt any form of intellectual theft.
6. Foto.com.ng is sure to spring up local competition in royalty free images, are you prepared to handle the competition for this pace your business has set?
Sure, we expect that. We today, have 10,000+ images up and several photographers are interested in making submissions of their own materials. We also have an amazing team dedicated to offering customer service support, helping people find just the right image for their works. We will continue and strive to be ahead in these things as we go forward. We believe having top quality images over different categories in large volumes combined with top-notch customer service for our clients will always keep us on top, beyond other things.
7. The Nigerian business scene is not for the faint hearted, if you had to sell doing business in Nigeria in a few words to an investor, what would they be?
Business challenges are not in any way, peculiar to Nigeria. These challenges are present in every country and even though these challenges differ as we move from one country to the other, entrepreneurs face the same problems of coping with limited resources under uncertain conditions. I think these challenges as they arise present opportunities that can be readily tapped into.
Nigeria is a middle-income, mixed economy and an emerging market, with fast expanding financial services, media and communication sector and lately, part of the MINT nations which makes it an attractive place to do business following recent advances in these industries. Foto.com.ng is one of those companies riding on the growth wave the country is currently experiencing and I certainly think it’s a great time than ever to do business in Nigeria than ever.
8. What are your thoughts on E-commerce fund sourcing are there any techniques that helped you with funding your business that you would love to share with those who are still in the process of turning their start-up ideas into business ventures?
There are no special techniques really, other than building a service that meet real needs. Foto, for instance, meets real needs. Investors, often times, look forward to businesses that will do well even without them. I believe if you can adequately build a service that will do well even without an investor, then you will perhaps and most likely, get investors attention.
The fact that we are collecting African images and bringing them in one place, giving creative people both locally and everywhere else, these images to connect, tell stories and give their businesses relevance keeps us motivated every time. In 5-10 years, we hope to have our library boosted to the millions and develop more advanced tools and making Foto, one of the top micro stock companies around the world.
10. What do you love most about your business and life as an entrepreneur? At what point did you decide foto.com.ng was it for you?
Building a business can be quite tough. It means handling several information and data and trying to make sense of it all at the same time. It’s really hard finding African images for creative works and for us, it makes us work extra harder, knowing we are helping to fix what is broken and simplifying the entire creative process of individuals and businesses.
11. What do you think are the most important personal skills someone must have to be successful in business?
I think it would be determination. If you are determined long enough, it will start appearing like you are talented or specially gifted. If you work hard at a problem, it is likely you will get a breakthrough. It doesn’t work on all problems like math, for instance and this is not to encourage stupid insistence but determination, many times, separates you from failure. Just keep moving and keep trying all things.
12. Who was the most influential person or mentor in your life?
Paul Graham(of Y Combinator). I have literally read all his essays. He is especially, the most interesting person I have heard or read about. I really hope to meet him some day.
13. What was the biggest risk you’ve ever taken?
Taking this path as opposed a more rewarding job when offered or a graduate degree when I could. A decision I hope not to regret or rather be grateful for, when all the dots connect.
14. What do you think about college education? Should kids go to college now or get into business if they feel it’s a better choice? Considering some of the world’s greatest never had college education, your thoughts?
College education is totally important. I don’t think the few instances of outliers from the likes of Zuckerberg, Jobs and Gates is enough to make a theory. Outliers don’t make a theory. Doing business is dependent on hard work and a good amount of wit and of course, lucks. So I would advise anyone to go to school, get a degree and in fact, consider a job as opposed to doing business. Ignore the glamour, it’s harder than advertised.
15. What would be the most important piece of advice you could give to young entrepreneurs and why?
Keep moving. You lose your balance when you stop moving.
If you missed the previous parts of the 15 Questions with the CEO series, please click here