Ten questions interview series with Ogundipe Fikayo, CEO & Co-Founder of ToLet.com.ng, online lettings agency helping renters with Lagos property market.
1. What does ToLet.com.ng do?
We are Nigeria’s First Online Lettings Agency; we provide a comprehensive property rentals platform that helps Lagosians navigate the stressful, frustrating and unstructured Lagos property rental market.
We provide an easy to use website that allows Lagosians to search through what is unarguably Lagos’ largest real-time inventory of property rentals. Our users upon finding properties they want to view and can arrange a viewing via the site or through our call centre.
2. Who is ToLet.com.ng aimed at?
ToLet.com.ng is aimed at every Lagosian looking for a property rental, the class of our users ranges from young individuals looking for their first apartment, to Celebrities, High Net worth Individuals and Multi-National Companies.
3. How does ToLet.com.ng stand out against its competitors?
ToLet.com.ng is the only online lettings agency in Nigeria as of today. Asides from that unique position in the online industry, we have the largest inventory of available lettings in Lagos, we have highly trained are specialists who have been trained not to just get a client to pay at all costs but to ensure our clients get the best deal possible based on their taste and budget.
Our competition on the other hand are offline and comprise many Quack agents with no training, and who go into the property market because of the demand in the housing market.
4. Did you have any concerns when you went to start a business in an emerging economy?
Like anyone going into business anywhere in the world, we had our misgivings, but we focused our thoughts on the positives and prepared ourselves for the challenges ahead. In our case, a look at the Lagos property market made us think little of any concerns we might have had.
Lagos has some of the most highly-priced real estate in Africa, with a square metre potentially costing as much as US$1,200 in some cases. The real estate market is characterized by demand far outstripping supply. A current housing stock of about 3 million homes, to a population in excess of 21 million has led to a housing deficit of 5 million houses.
5. Where did the idea for ToLet.com.ng come from?
The idea of ToLet.com.ng was born around the time my fellow co-founders and I had just left university and a lot of our friends were having a hard time getting their first apartments. I called upon the rest of my co-founders to create a web based centralized listings service for properties in Lagos and thus we started what is now ToLet.com.ng.
6. What is your business background, and what got you interested in startups?
I am actually a lawyer by training, I hold a masters degree in International Commercial Law from the Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen, Scotland and my undergrad law degree was from the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ife, Nigeria.
My interest in startups and business in general probably comes from my being born into family of business people, I had my first taste though while as an undergraduate law student I co-founded a computer hardware sales business with one of my current co-founders.
7. How did you initially raise funding for ToLet.com.ng?
We started the company from our personal savings and funds raised from family and friends. After which we raised funding in 2013 from Spark.ng
8. What do you think is the difference between growing a business in an emerging economy like Nigeria, compare to growing a business in Europe?
In economies like Nigeria, bureaucracy, lack of skilled manpower, lack of infrastructure, aversion to new ways of doing things can be said to be key differences that stand out. It’s however not all bad news, the positives are the fact that most emerging economies are virgin territory business-wise and thus full of opportunities just waiting to be tapped.
9. What has been your biggest achievement so far as a startup owner?
In a short space of time, we have achieved quite a lot at ToLet.com.ng, so it would be hard for me to point to one particular achievement.
However I would say building the business itself is our biggest achievement, we have gone from just four co-founding staff to 35 staff, we have had over a 107% increase in revenue just over the last 6 months. We have had a monumental increase in our user base. All in all the business as a whole is my big achievement.
10. How long has you’re company been in the making, and who is the team behind the business?
It has taken us over 2 years to get our platform to where we are today. The co-founding team comprises of:
- Fikayo OGUNDIPE
- Sulaiman BALOGUN
- Oladapo ELUDIRE
- Seyi AYENI
11. In the coming year, what would you like to achieve with your business?
We hope to over the next one year, to corner a larger portion of the Lagos Rental Market and to also expand our services to other major rental markets in Nigeria notably the country’s capital city of Abuja and the oil rich city of port-Harcourt.