Meeting and asking someone out on a date with the hopes of initiating a romantic interest might be something a lot of us take for granted but today a young man tells us how his rejection from match.com has not only brought him fame and wealth, reduced unemployment but has also helped to foster technological awareness in his state. Startup Nigeria gives you a sneak peek into the world of Emmanuel Emeka Okeke
So who is Emmanuel ?
My full name is Emmanuel Emeka Okeke , I am an undergraduate at the department of computer science, National Open University Nigeria. I am also the CEO and Founder of Friendite Global Limited, a Social Media/ICT/E-Networking & Advertising Agency.
I know Friendite Global Agency currently manages two startups, can you kindly shed more light on them?
Friendite Global Limited comprises of two main branches, which are Friendite.com – the Nigerian dating site, and Frienditeplus.com which is Nigeria’s largest social networking site.
So how did it all start?
Well it all started when I tried to sign-up on match.com , which was then considered the largest dating site in the world. I’m a very shy person and find it hard to interact with ladies. I had just heard about Match.com and how it could link me to single searching ladies online and so I decided to register. To my greatest surprise I was not able to register, I just could not find my country “Nigeria” from the country tab. Believe me it was annoying at first because I couldn’t just figure out why it was so. I decided to do some research, only to discover that this problem was not exclusive to Nigerians, I noticed that it pretty much affected most African countries.
Long story short, I decided to build a dating site that will not just connect Nigerians to Nigerians but connect Africans to the whole world and I named it Friendite.com. This happened 1st of December 2012 when I was just 20 years old
That was a pretty young age, if I do say so myself. So how has the journey been so far?
Well to be honest it wasn’t easy at all, to me it was not just about solving issues, but about doing something for my country, about being that someone that could make a difference.
Getting funds was quite hard though, just like all most successful ideas, i started from home. I told my dad about my idea and what I intend to do; he loved it but was more concerned about the profit (laughter). My dad was a typical business man and I love him so much for that. He gave me a loan and invested in my company by owning 30% of it while I keep 70%. From there it was just Friendite, the whole world and I.
My site was the first dating site in my college, as of then I was a Diploma student at the famous Nnamdi Azikiwe University Awka, Anambra state. It was really hard for college students in my state to embrace what I was trying to achieve, they always make me feel like what I was doing was a waste of time.
Another challenge was college, I couldn’t handle going to school with being an entrepreneur, it was just so hard and as of then I was studying Java & PHP in AfriHub. So it was like combining three different worlds together. I tried as much as I could but one part of my life was suffering already, my college life was in a mess and I could not afford to give up either because of my parents.
It is so obvious the story has changed now, what are your previous colleagues and the world saying about friendite now?
Like I said earlier, at first it was hard but now everyone is gradually embracing the new online technology I brought in. I am no longer a student of Nnamdi Azikiwe University but I have received three (3) awards from them as the “best brand of the year 2014/2015 and also best social networking site 2014.
My company was also invited to the Web Summit event 2014, which took place in Dublin, Ireland. Friendite.com also has above 79,000 registered users on its platform and its sister site frienditeplus.com has above 600,000 registered users on its platform too. We have also been profiled and reviewed by many media houses like HumanIPO, Techmoran, Irishnews etc.
What area do you think the government can come in to boost the startup community in Nigeria?
In so many ways but to be honest it doesn’t look like the government cares about our innovative ideas because when friendite.com was the only dating site in my college, no one said congratulations, not even the lecturers or the VC of my University recognized what I was doing as being important.
Even up till date my company is still the only tech company in my state. And I have about 23 employees in my company and they are all very hard working people and I appreciate them so much. I am very passionate about what we achieve together as a team so much so that words cannot even explain.
I believe the government has a major role to play in encouraging startups.
It is high time they sat down to analyze what’s really going on in their individual states technology wise because technology is no doubt the next big step in development.
Do have any words of wisdom for the youth or someone interested in founding a startup?
Just don’t give up on your ideas and make sure you are solving issues. Keep this in mind “if it was easy, then everyone would be doing it”