Agbolade Omowole, a graduate of Computer Science from Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma in Edo State is the Chief Executive officer of Mascot IT. He also works with the ICT department of Igbenedion University. In this Interview with NIYI OYEDEJI, he speaks about his voyage as an entrepreneur in the technology industry.
What do you do?
I am the Chief Executive officer of Mascot IT. I am currently working on the future of transportation in Nigeria. I research on self-driving electric cars, flying cars and hoverbikes. I help people and corporate organisations to solve complex problems with simple technological methods.
I have some experience in pattern recognition to detect crime. I believe the way to curb crime in the future is by putting in place preventive measures. For instance, it is possible to help people who have tendencies to commit crime in Nigeria by providing an enabling environment where they can harness their latent skills for the good of the society. Apart from detecting crime, I build logical processes to ensure technology delivers the expected result.
I am a researcher with focus on emerging technologies, genetic engineering, biotechnology, artificial intelligence and nanotechnology.
In the past five years, most of my time was spent on research on the future of technology and how Africa can leverage on technology for socio-economic development. To that effect, I have birthed two initiatives; Nigeria ICT Fest and Longevity Nigeria.
My business is all about providing solutions to Nigerian and African problems using technology. I want to help provide technology-oriented environment and mechanisms to move Nigeria to the fouth industrial revolution.
Currently, I and my team are into research, basically self-driving researches, solar-powered cars, flying cars and hoverbikes. We are also looking at innovations in batteries.
Can you expatiate the Nigeria ICT Fest and Longevity Nigeria projects?
In 2015, I co-founded ICT Fest (Nigeria) with Michael Imolode, a Nigerian, Kristel Van Den Bergh,aBelgian and Nicholas Allen Carlough, an American. That year, we invited top researchers on emerging technologies such as Aubrey de Grey, Ben Goertzel and Natasha Vita More to the conference. They delivered their presentations remotely. Micah Redding from the USA and Mira Kwak from South Korea attended and spoke at the conference in person.
Aubrey de Grey is one of the pre-eminent researchers on the biology of aging while Ben Goertzel is a public figure in the field of Artificial General Intelligence. He is the brain behind the famous Sophia robot. Natasha-Vita-More is affiliated with the University of Advancing Technology (UAT), and HumanityPlus.
Longevity Nigeria was created in 2015 to discuss research and developments in aging. Longevity Nigeria is affiliated to the International Longevity Alliance (ILA, France).
What inspired you to start your business?
The inspiration behind my business was borne out of my passion to help Nigeria and Africans overcome poverty and contribute to global economic development. It is unfortunate that Nigeria, to a large extent, has struggled to realise and maximise its potential since colonial times up till now.
Nigeria has been behind in technology and has lots of untapped potentials. We have all it takes to be a world leader in agriculture, mining, tourism and entertainment. What is needed to liberate Nigeria from the cold-hands of poverty is leadership, will power and technology, and that’s why my business is all about engineering the country with technological tools and applications.
When did established your business and what was your start-up capital?
It was established in 2014 and we invested the sum of N1,000,000 on research on emerging technologies. By the year 2015, we have met people in the technological space in the developed world who are working on emerging technologies.
Currently, I work with seven brilliant people. On my team, I have innovators, scientists and engineers. My team members include: Mr Allen Akhaumere, Mr Oghenero Jackson Ufoma, Mr Kehinde Ajose, and Mr Ayemhere Aidaghese, among others. Mr Akhaumere is our artificial intelligence research scientist. He worked on an Immuno response prediction model. The model helps to predict if a particular peptide/protein sequence will trigger an immuno response. Mr Ufoma works as Chief Invention Officer. He built a medical ventilator and an alternate energy solution for students called campus i-power. Everyone on my team is actively involved in research and development.
What are your expansion plans?
At the moment, we are focusing completely on research. In the future, about five years from now, we will go into product development. Our product lines are self-driving electric cars, flying cars and hoverbikes, ageing drugs and drugs to cure cancer. We are currently finalising plans to build the first ageing labs in Nigeria, which will use artificial intelligence on Nigerian’s medical records.
What are the major challenges you have faced since you started your business?
Some of the challenges we have had are based on resources and manpower. We had challenges with the power supply and internet speed, which is not always as fast our work requires. In the area of manpower, it wasn’t easy to get the right people.
Success in business and organisations is largely based on the ability to put the right people at the right place and proper administration to manage team to achieve milestones. You need to have round pegs in round holes and square pegs in square holes to achieve a desirable result.
One of the problems a potential employer in Nigeria will face is getting the people with the right skills. Organisations are looking for people who can provide specific solutions. Unemployment in Nigeria is a great problem. A greater problem is the issue of employability of Nigerian graduates. Some graduates are unemployable. The solution to that problem is hinged on our educational system in Nigeria.
How do you think government can address these challenges?
The role of government is to provide an enabling environment. Our strength as a nation is that we have lots of young people. That is potential energy. Government has to provide the fundamental human and economic needs. Nigerian government has to ensure that the average Nigerian can eat well regardless of their class, provide cheap and affordable housing, free primary and secondary school education, good roads, and uninterrupted electric power supply.
I have lived for at more than three decades now in Nigeria and the issue of electric power supply has worsened over the years. Government has to provide hybrid solutions to address our electricity problems. They should look into sustainable solar energy, bio-energy, and wind energy.
How many awards and grants have you won so far?
When I graduated from the university, I was given an award as the most intelligent male student in the Computer Science department. In 2015, I was listed as one of Nigeria’s top 40 game changers by Kennisplace.
What advice do you have for other young people that are interested in what you do?
My advice for young people who want to break the glass ceiling in technology is simple. Start with the end on mind. If you want to work on an innovative idea, don’t start with the goal of building a toy. Your goal should be to develop an excellent product for human use.
You can rule the world actually. There is no rule or law anywhere that says that blacks cannot dominate the world of technology. It is okay to start with the prototype. Your goal should be how to take your ideas to the international market and solve human problems.
Also, be strong and courageous. Truth be told, we don’t have an enabling environment in this part of the world. In other words, the odds are against you. To succeed as a technology entrepreneur isn’t Nigeria, you have to be mentally rugged and wise.
We are re-defining the future of technology for Nigeria. Watch out for our innovations in transportation and biotechnology.