By LAWRENCE ENYOGHASU and JENNIFER EZEOKOLI
He is just 28 years-old but that does not count to the name he has acquired on the international computer-application development world, Henry Mascot has made his town, Arochukwu and country proud. This Aba brought-up has won numerous awards; MTN Developers Challenge, Dubai 100 Accelerator, Entrepreneurship Programme in Germany, with his many brain-child applications, the leading of them all is Curacel; application made to eradicate paper record system in hospitals.
How did you get the concept of Curacel?
Before I started Curacel health I used to be a software consultant, so we used to basically build applications for different businesses, so during that course, we built a couple of couple of system for hospitals, and we were able to see how their efficiency increased, and also during that process we saw that the problem was that the data is actually that 95 percent of hospitals in sub-Saharan Africa still use paper records and so we were wondering if there were systems like this that could make their operations better then why are people still using paper and so it was around that time as a consultant that we found out that people weren’t adopting this system because it was expensive, it was too expensive for them and it didn’t make economic sense to for you to go and use a system you would pay for when you don’t pay for paper, so I decided to start as a way of providing a system that is accessible to people so these hospitals could afford it so it is not expensive, you don’t have to be in the bank to get it. There were a lot of innovations we did on top of it but basically the problem we wanted to solve was to provide a system that was accessible to help provide a better health care system
And have you been able to do that?
Yes, so we’ve been doing that for a couple of months, at the moment we have hospitals in Accra and in Nigeria, so we keep on changing our model because initially when we started we were just doing software so we just give them software to manage their operations but as we started interacting with more hospitals you notice that you walk into a hospital and you are saying to them this would help you do this, do that and they would say okay…cool and then there is no power right? They don’t have any computers so we had to innovate on our model, right now when we walk into any hospital we are also telling them that we can provide them with a tablet that they would use in addition to the software.
Did growing up make you come up with such thing?
Yea, I think the main thing is that I believe in purpose. I believe in people having a dream and chasing it, so I don’t know if I would say the environment In Aba. Aba is not so much of a beautiful place so basically, at home when I was back home, it was from the house to school back to church I would say that what shaped me was some of the materials I was exposed to when I was young, some of the books I read and some of the people who were around me so I grew up in a fairly upper middle class system so people around me were people who were dreaming big and wanted do something big so I grew up right from when I was 5 yrs I wanted to build a conglomerate, I wanted to be something big, so it started and formed my steps so when I went to school , the businesses I started, I started a couple of businesses when I was in school, I ran a co-working space back in Enugu, so because ideally my vision has always been to make impact using technology so some of the stuffs I’ve always been doing has been in line with that, the programmes I did before now, the co-working space I started Curacell, they are all basically geared towards impacts using technology.
What did you study?
I studied methological and material engineering.
So basically when you were going to school you were just doing authorization?
So, I wanted to study computer science and engineering and I applied and I got in to study in the faculty of engineering but I didn’t get computer, so the plan was to change after 2 years and I started the process but you know how Nigerian universities are. I didn’t conclude the process of studying Methological engineering, Methological and Material engineering is an little bit like chemical and mechanical engineering so it’s different but I kept doing my computer stuffs so I was faraway In the school, school is school so you have to do school.
Did you take computer courses in school?
No, I’ve always been self taught, growing up, I was exposed very early, when I was in JSS1 I was teaching computer, so I grew up in a family familiar with computers and my neighbour was one of the very first people in Aba to know anything about computer, it was one f the very first Aba cafés so I literally used to sleep there so I grew up having a lot of background and foundations in terms of computer and by the time I was in university I was already writing a little bit of codes, building websites for organization.
You said you were literally sleeping in a cyber café?
Yes, the thing was that it wasn’t like it was far from my house; it was like my house then the cyber café was in someone’s garage. Ezeuba, that’s his name, he has a cyber café in their garage so I’d just jump the fence, so they are my neighbors, I literally grew up in their house, as from my house you’d just cross over so it was easy. Growing up, my mum tried, my dad died when I was 2 years old so it was my mum basically and yes of course there was a little bit of family. My older brothers were 13 years, and 15 years older than me, it wasn’t like they were beating me but there was the whole playing stuff, then computer used to be something people thought was like playing, it is now that people are becoming a lot more acquainted with technology then it wasn’t very accepted, everybody wanted me to go and be a lawyer, a doctor and work in oil companies so I used to have push backs like ‘what are you doing in the computer every time? But I was too passionate, it didn’t stop me
Have you ever worked for someone?
No, I’ve not done any official job for anybody, I’ve done one internship, I did my IT In one oil company back then in Kwale, the surprising thing was that I went to do the IT and I ended up being the computer guy there, so I came in after studying methological and material engineering so typically if you studied what I studied you would work in a mechanical oil companies, stuffs like that so I was lucky to do my IT there and I spent 3 months, but I turned up being an IT guy so I was basically helping everyone fix their computers, that was one, and then when I was in Ghana. I interned as a digital marketer for a like a month, 2months that’s how much work experience I have so it’s been basically me, myself and I.
So how does the lifestyle of having your own company, having to run, dictate the pace of the game and progress of the company feel like?
It’s also challenging but it is what I love to do, it’s what I’m passionate about, like I do it all the time but it’s up and down, it’s not like an office work, there are times where there’s depression and you’re like ‘is this working? And there are times when you’re like YES!!!!! When you hit it like this is the life. Fundamentally, this is what I love; I wouldn’t want to do anything else, this is the dream, every single day in wake up and I work on what I want to work on, the challenge with working for yourself is if you don’t have the right mentors, if you don’t have the right people above you and you’re not very motivated you won’t move as fast, typically in some companies you have co founders, I had people I worked with but it didn’t work out so at the end of the day I’m a solo founder and what I noticed is that sometimes you need someone to hold you as iron sharpened iron so sometimes it’s when you’re in an organization and have people who motivate you and are moving together in the right pace, that I don’t have so what I basically do is that I have mentors around me so I have people that I hold myself accountable to so I need to be able to deliver this and deliver that, I push. I love my life, I always say to friends that it’s not like a smooth pace its challenging stuffs are not working as you plan that because nothing works as you plan, fundamentally at the core is what you want to do.