They are as regular as the guys next door. The brothers, Akin and Adedayo Ande are a mix of digital geeks, salesmen and entrepreneurs.
Akin’s Alma Mater included Ilupeju Primary School and Odogbolu secondary School, LAUTECH, OAU and Manchester University where he studied software engineering.
Adedayo, like his brother, is also an alumnus of llupeju Primary School and Bonny camp, Baptist Academy and the University of Ilorin where he graduated in 2004 with a bachelor degree in Business Administration.
Presently, they are at the forefront of cybersecurity and Internet of Things in Nigeria. In this encounter, Akin, the CEO, sketched their trajectory, a fine tapestry of grass-to-grace story with bold strands of how they are pushing the digital boundaries.
Our first business venture was supplying Elubo (yam flour) to Federal Government College, Ogbomoso. We got our supplies from Barubaland in Kwara State. That meant sleeping inside trucks for days. We were trying to support our parents. It was a business suggested by a friend who wanted to help our mum, but it wasn’t feasible for her, so we jumped at it. We couldn’t sustain it for long. The stress was too much for our young age. We were teenagers waiting for university admission.
In the UK, I was doing telesales job after college hours. I sometimes worked at the weekend for sports shops selling clothes and other things. I was very hardworking. Throughout my undergraduate days, I was doing one form of job or the other because I had to pay my fees myself, a common story to the majority of Nigerians in the UK.
While at OAU, Ife, I would ask my parents and uncle for money. But in the UK, if you don’t work, nobody would give you anything.
When I got to England, I worked free for a friend for four months. The job was “Door Knocking,” one of the worst jobs in the UK. You knock on people’s door and try to sell them something there and then. Once, a bloke was so angry to see a black guy standing at his door trying to sell him what he did not want, he wanted to punch me. The experience gave me tenacity; after a year, I had a track record that opened more opportunities for me. At Manchester, I was knocking on companies’ door. I got my first proper job before I was 19.
Dayo, who was in University of Ilorin, was also hustling. From Alaba Market, Lagos, he would buy plenty of CDs. In Ilorin, he had a CD rental service. CDs he bought at N100 apiece were rented out at N100 per day. The profits he made saw him through his four-year course. After graduation, he joined us in the UK and got a door-knocking job. His later jobs were at a baking factory and Manchester United and Manchester City stadiums.
Laying the foundation
In April 2008, I got a job at Insight UK while preparing for my final exams. They were enamoured of my IT and sales skills. I started in May and resigned in March 2009. Earlier on January 6, I had registered a company, RAA. We started sending laptops to Nigeria to our cousin. Then, I put all my savings, including my wife’s and that of a friend, into buying the West Africa exclusive right to a cloud technology from a company called MobiU. We came to Nigeria in March. Three months later, the company went bust because Vodafone was embedding in its laptop that same technology which enabled users to work inside a USB that backup in cloud storage rather than on laptops.
With all our savings wiped off, we reverted to selling laptops, Kaspersky antivirus and anything IT. At the time, I was attending a Bible College with my wife in the UK and with both of us out of jobs, we were forced to a toilet-cleaning job to survive.
With Dayo in Lagos, I’d get original three–user license or single-user license antiviruses to him. Our cousin had a shop in a third-floor office in Computer Village, Ikeja. We sold our stuff on the streets in batches to retail sellers. We were one of those who first started selling original antivirus in the Computer Village. We never sold fake products. Soon we started getting referrals: “If you want to buy authentic products, meet those guys.”
At Insight UK, the business was online. I knew this was the future. So, we developed a website and started selling Kaspersky antivirus online. Soon, we were getting phone calls. The money we made was reinvested in the business. For a while, we didn’t register a company. The person we approached to help us even discouraged us––“But this is a hobby, why do you want to register a hustle?” By 2011, we had to register a company when we got an order to supply five laptops to a company. To be taken seriously, we had to register Chert Computers.
We got the online platform, Chert.ng, today’s biggest IT online store in Nigeria and West Africa with over 80, 000 products––laptop, desktop cables, servers, switches––anything IT, from schools buying pads to banks using high-end infrastructure. The business model didn’t come out of a sudden brainwave. It was a replica of InsightUK. We have expanded into three major service areas: IT infrastructure (from sales to deployment to installation to sales support and repairs), cybersecurity and Internet of Things (IoT).
Raising awareness of cybersecurity
Don’t be ignorant––this is the most important stuff about cybersecurity. Don’t feel “it doesn’t concern me.” It concerns every single person. Gone are those days when people said, “I don’t have anything they can steal.” It’s more than that now. Hackers can use your resources to commit a cyber attack or offence, so you unwittingly become part of a criminal enterprise. This is why we shouldn’t be ignorant. A couple of months’ back, an entire company’s infrastructure was used for bitcoin mining and they were none the wiser about it. The dangers and issues of cybercrime are manifold, but awareness and education will come in handy. Nigerians are quick adaptors of technology but are sometimes using technology without having proper knowledge. Cybersecurity is not something we should be ignorant about. Chert, having committed a lot of funds to research development and training for the next three years, is using all we are learning to help our clients. The next phase is to actualize a big cybersecurity centre in Nigeria where clients get help to prevent attacks before they happen.
The dynamism of Internet of Things (IoT)
A lot of people struggle to understand IoT. It is just a connection of computing devices––objects and home appliances––over the Internet. Smartphones are part of IoT, so are smartwatches. There is a lot of ways we can apply IoT to make our lives better, make normal day-to-day things easier and reduce the cost of energy. For example, in a home with inverter and fridge connected to the mains, who will switch them on when electricity is restored while you are out? Once light is restored, you get an alert on your phone; you can remotely switch on or off appliances including security light, bedroom light and your gas, all from your phone.
With IoT, my phone alerts me the moment someone gets to the front of my door at home. I can track things around my home from my office. I can check what is happening to the kids. I can listen to conversations in the house. IoT is extremely affordable than people think. A lot of people now have a normal modem at home––that is all you need. You are simply sending commands, not pulling data, so you don’t need a big bandwidth. The IoT is one of our specializations. Currently, we are into prototyping, testing units in Nigeria.
We plan to expand Chert to other African countries, having registered the company in Cameroun, with the Republic of Benin to follow in three months and later Ghana and Togo.