My Journey Into Tech and How I Travelled To 25 Countries and Still Counting – Funfere Koroye

Please tell us about yourself.

My name is Funfere Koroye, a hardware developer, design and technology expert, with a decade of experience. Learned handwork in the US, ITALY, CHINA and more recently the UK. Worked across furniture, FinTech, Fashion and stuff related to consumer goods.

You’ve basically gone everywhere. Kudos to you. So, what are you currently working on?

What I’m currently working on is complex. Firstly, I’d need to explain what happened last year. 12 months ago, I got the Tech Visa; it is a Visa for tech entrepreneurs looking to move to the UK either to start a Tech company or join a tech company. At the time that I was awarded the visa, I wasn’t sure of which one I wanted to do. I’d say I was working freelance and exploring my options in the last 4months. In the last 8years of this Visa being active, only 4,000 people have been awarded this Visa in the tech category, so it is a very difficult Visa to get. More recently I got into an accelerator, incubator, and VC firm called ANTLER. ANTLER is one of the most respected builders in the world and one of the most qualified in the EU, UK region. They have about 50,000 Africans every year globally and they only accept 2,500 globally. It is really good, that is a 5% acceptance rate. With joining ANTLER, the goal is to build a company. The only role ANTLER has is that you find your co-founder in their program and if the two of you have an idea, you pitch to them and you instantly raise $125,000 if they accept your venture. Yeah, so that’s what I’ve been up to in the last 12 months.

I was working on something for the health industry, I was working on something for FinTech and I was working on Fashion. However, these things were more like projects than actual ventures and the reason I took this approach was that I wanted to see what I was very passionate about. I am going to tell anyone reading this right now if you want to validate what you’re working on going through an accelerator, incubator or venture-building studio. Yes, they’re difficult to get into but if you get into one it streamlines your pass to an MVP and your pass to what I will call your first start-up. Fail or Win the key thing is about meeting with seasoned professionals and not building on your own. So, yeah I was working on a few ventures over the last 24 months.

It looks like you don’t have a failure story, seeing what you’re doing now makes it look like everything is rosy.

No, that’s not the case. If you know me on social media, I do a lot of things that people don’t do. I started a hashtag called #unfortunately. What I did was that I posted all my rejections in the last 24 months and these were all jobs that I applied for that said they won’t move forward with my applications. If I’m being totally honest, I have been failing totally forward for the last couple of years and the important reason to fail forward is to learn lessons and one of the lessons I learnt was that you need to talk to the people that understand what you’re doing, you need to apply for jobs and you need to hear NO to understand that you’re either not as good as you think or you need to upskill. I do not like sharing only good news so that’s why when I got into ANTLER I made sure that even when I was sharing this very fantastic news of getting into this VC studio, I was also shocked that there were a lot of rejections because for me, I build products and ideas based on trying to sell them to companies and I can tell you that out of 99 ideas I’ve sold only one just to put it in perspectives.

Not everything gets successful. Maybe I do need to share more failures as time goes on, I’ll be more honest that things are not as rosy as it looks.

Yeah, I understand. This is great. So would you mind running us through your backgrounds and how this all started?

I will start from when I was 13 years old because it’s important to tell from that point. As an average person, 13 years old is when you’re in secondary school in Nigeria, High school in America or College in the UK. When they start to ask you one question, WHAT DO YOU WANT TO BE? Most people, they’ve been asking you this question for almost 6 years and they’ve been brainwashing you with Lawyers, Doctors, Oil and Gas…. This was where it started. 

I was asked what I wanted to be and I said I want to do what I see people doing on TV. I don’t know what it’s called and I use to watch a show called how things are made. There was this Japanese guy in front of a computer moving objects around in a three-dimensional space and eventually got paid and I saw a similar program on the discovery channel about how things are made too. So I said I want to read about people that designed how things are made and people that work in this factory.

This is the story of how I got into this and at my own luck I’d say Nigeria got the internet when I was 13 years old and I started to research this field.

At the time, the field was called manufacturing engineering… but the real turn was design and technology and it lured me into my first-degree Design Engineering which combines Mechanical engineering and three-dimensional designs and the closest field to that in Nigeria is Architecture. So, that is the early stage of this.

I’d say I was very adamant about who I wanted to become and I looked up to people like Steve Jobs and Bill Gates. These were the guys that took charge of what I will call the second technological Revolution in America. As we all remember cyber café was everywhere but the technology was not personal in Nigeria, it was commercial now we can do everything on our phone but this was a crazy concept.

Computers were seen as things that should only belong to banks or cyber cafes and not things that we should have in our homes. I wanted to be one of those people that brought this kind of technology and I didn’t make it at 13. So, yeah that’s the long short of how I got into the field.

Worth Reading: Revolutionizing Driver Education in Africa: The Story of DriveMe – Damilola Odunlade
That’s amazing; your story is quite interesting. Alright, you’ve travelled a lot, what exactly is the motivation for it?

So, the travel bug for me started from my own parents, my father and mother moved to Port Harcourt, to Kano State where I was born, and from Kano state to all over Lagos. So, moving has been in my DNA from the beginning.

When I went to school, I just knew that staying in one place was not my destiny. I switched schools at least six times; I’m always on the move. I learnt something from National Geography and discovery channel, you’ll see Americans just get on a plane and go somewhere and discover something. Americans just get on a boat and explore some new waters and dive into a deep ocean, I was attracted to this. My theory is always go where you will grow and that has always been my reason to move around. Let me give you a good example, after university I ended up in China because I walked into an office of a shoe manufacturer in New York, I liked what they were working on and I luckily met the owner in person and he said their shoes were made in China and I said Oh, I wanna work with you and he said can you come to China? And I said Yeah, why not. Ironically, I’d been to Hong Kong a year before.

That was how I ended up in China and before Covid; I lived in China for 4years. Travelling is my destiny.

That’s crazy mehn. I was checking your page and I noticed you’ve visited about 25 countries. That is massive.

25 countries in 15 years and still counting.

What exactly are the things that get you motivated or resources that you read or podcasts that just keep you going?

Okay, I think my first point of inspiration for staying productive will be reading. I read a lot and a lot of what I read are tech journals. I’m always listening to podcasts and I watch a lot of videos from inspirational speakers and content creators that really inspire me and few of them are in the Nigeria space and a good number are internationally and I’d say my largest source of inspiration is that I follow creative people. I’ll always tell people that the internet is a blessing, if you have access to the internet always follow people that do cool things.

Follow all kinds of creators and creatives and those people motivate me. It motivates me when I see someone painting something really cool, carving something cool.

Human beings always find new ways to push themselves into things. These are some of the things to stay motivated.

This is amazing. There are lots of people who are trying to be like you, what insight do you have to give to them?

Okay, first of all, I’d say follow your dreams, if not body go tell you. If you don’t follow your dreams you’ll learn the hard way. I believe that there is no such thing as failing. Failure is just not succeeding at the moment; do not be scared of that thing.

As human beings, we have bills to pay and we have realities to think of. Another thing is you have to rebel a little bit, I know this is not a very popular opinion in our culture but you have to rebel a little bit and you have to ask WHY a lot.

Back that shit up, you have to put in the effort and show results. If you want to do something, you just have to show that you can do it instead of talking about doing it.

A good example I can give is you might be studying a course right now but you don’t want to but that’s the only course you can pay for or are you doing courses of that thing you really want to do?

Let the opportunity present itself to you and show that I can do this thing. A lot of people say what they want to do but don’t actually act on it, they just wait to get approval before they start to move. Move first because what most people call luck is when preparation meets opportunity, you have to be prepared.

Because even with Antler, some that look easy, truth be told my eyes were not even on it but I prepared my portfolio in such a way that, when the opportunity came along I knew that it was the right time to make the move. A lot of people are not even building for when opportunities come around, you never know when opportunities will arise. You need to prepare for when the opportunities will arise.

Give us some exclusive tips on how one can relocate using the Global Talent Visa.

Okay, I believe in going for what you value and I believe in getting to the next level of your career.

If that is what you’re trying to do, I am all for it. What is very dangerous are people trying to leave for the sake of leaving because there are lots of horror stories about just getting on a plane and trying to just land without a plan.

That being said, if you have a plan and you know what you want to do, these are the key major tips for getting into the talent visa.

One is there’s no particular job field that is more important than the other. I personally have coached people in HR, Digital Marketing, UI/UX… to get this Visa.

So whatever field you are in, rest assured that if you have three to five years of experience you can get this Visa. All you need is a portfolio that shows that you are a talented hardworking person, that portfolio should include nine very solid pieces of work; you need three recommendation letters from industries in tech. They can be spread between Africa and Abroad but the more spread out the better for you. They need to be CTOs, CEOs, and CIOs and they should be leading tech companies that have some reputations.

Last but not least is your letter of intent, you need to be able to explain why you move to the UK and do you want to build something or expand an existing business or join a business. If you have employers that are interested in you in the UK that helps you to accelerate your application because it shows that something is waiting for you on the other end.

This is extremely competitive so you need to show a range of skills from your core competency to ensure that you do those things really well and you’ve been doing them for a while. You need to show other things outside of your core competency, you volunteered; you’ve done certifications to touch up your new technology and new ways of doing things within your field. You just need to show that you add value to the United Kingdom.

Now the UK is not the only country with a talent visa, there are more countries popping up every day with a similar visa. Australia has one, Canada has one, Portugal has one, and somewhere in Asia has one, and Dubai has one that is coming up soon. There are other countries to look into.

So post on your social media, don’t just believe that just by doing a low thing in your room someone is going to find you and appreciate you.

Hype yourself and it will go a long way.

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