Who are you and how did you get started with Riby?
My name is Salami Abolore. I’m the Founder and CEO of Riby.
It was a personal journey that started in 2002, 2003. Those are my years of awakening. My mission in life became very clear in that period and it was ‘how do we solve the critical problem that we face as Nigerians and Africans and hopefully the world’ but the world is good at solving its problems so far.
Making our own country and our own continent better was the critical mission that I had. And this was part of my personal journey knowing that I can put things together and wanting to solve my personal mission.
Anyways, that’s when it started; 2002, 2003. This continued all through my university days and when I started working. In 2012, it became a case of earning salary but it wasn’t clear how people will become financially self-sustainable or wealthy or rich or comfortable earning salary without a clear structure and that was where the thought of ‘how do you make the system that make it easy for people to create wealth, build wealth, preserve wealth and transfer wealth?’ became a mission for me and it was simply ‘how do you make sure people always have money, people never go broke?’.
How do we ensure that our people and communities are prosperous? So that’s how we started.
What motivated you to get started with Riby?
I’m lucky that a few things became clear to me early in life as far back as 2004. I’m not so worried for myself in the sense that I’m not so worried as to how I’m going to progress in my life in aspects of being rich, having more money, having a good family.
So I was pretty comfortable and confident that I would be able to build or create wealth, so I was more focused on solving problems that affected not just me but a lot of people. I’m usually always looking for ‘okay if I’m having this problem, am I the only one having the problem?’.
My core problem has always been how to solve problems that affect a lot of people. I knew that if I do that sufficiently, it doesn’t matter if I’m working for myself or somebody else, I’ll be fine.
So, it wasn’t a case of wanting to work for myself, I really don’t care.
I’ve worked for other people. I’ve worked for other companies and I don’t think I did badly and I did that for almost 10 years before I finally left and fully started Riby.
And I still work for other people today, I still work for other companies, I’m really just an employee in Riby. That whole ‘I want to work for myself’ is a myth, it doesn’t exist, nobody works for himself.
Even if you are working for yourself, you are still working for a mission; you are working for your customers.
For about 8 years now, I’ve pretty much designed my own work time and my own work structure. I can’t remember the last time a “9-5” was a requirement for my work even way before I started Riby.
In other companies I’ve worked with, I let them know the kind of time structure I want to work with and I’ve gotten the flexibility to do that and deliver good results.
My point is, let’s forget about this myth of ‘I want to work for myself’, that’s not the purpose, that’s not the mission, that’s not the way; the way is to have a strong purpose, have a strong conviction to solve this particular problem and find an economic way to solve it.
It might be going to work for someone else who’s trying to solve that same type of problem for a couple of years before you then start your own or even forever.
My point is; find a critical and important mission that you think is worth your time and your life because really that’s what it is. You are spending your life doing this thing and do it with all your passion and energy.
That’s what I’m doing every day. Every day, that’s what I do. Right now, my problem is not if I’m doing what I want to be doing, my problem is the number of things I want to be doing is too much, I have to start cutting them down.
I can wake up every day and I’m excited about what I’m doing because that’s what I want to be doing.
There are some problems I don’t always discover for myself; some of them are by my partners, some of them are by my clients, some of them we discover as we are trying to solve one problem.
It’s all about being clear about your life’s purpose, what you want to do, what you want to spend your days, your time, your life doing and chasing it every day and making sure that you design your mission in a way to balance your personal desires, as well as your obligations.
There are certain obligations we all have in life. Sometimes, you do things you don’t really like to do but are important for you to do the things that you like to do.
You have to do what you need to do to be able to do what you love and want to do.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
Being deliberate. Focusing on the customers. Being the best at what you are doing.
Those are the 3 things I’ll say are what we’ve found are critical to this process.
What is your business model, how do you grow your revenue, and what differentiates you from others?
I think the easiest way for me to explain how we are different as a company, not Fintech or non-Fintech is our mission.
We are not trying to build technology, we are not trying to develop a mobile app, and we are not trying to run an agent network. Those are things that we do because of our mission.
Our mission is ‘creating prosperous communities’, so if that mission is supporting the government to roll out microcredit programs, rolling out a platform for cooperatives so that people can save and invest better, deploying an agent platform so that agents can really get to the customers that need the services and working with the real estate company to help the cooperatives that are on our platform save to own their homes, working with agriculture groups to make sure that they have the right support they need to be able to make more income, we’ll do it, and our mission is what drives that.
Now, because we’ve focused primarily on the nexus between technology and financial services and how that supports any of those missions, it becomes clear the products that we release and the way that we drive them in the market. I think that’s what differentiates us from any competition.
People are too fixated on competition as opposed to fixating on the customer. Competition is not what is really important, your customers and how you are addressing the needs of your customers is I think what is important here.
Whilst anybody can serve customers in different ways, the way we have chosen to serve our customers is to first understand what technology they need to make it easy for them to distribute or access financial services and we give them that technology, that’s all, that’s what makes us different.
We are focused on giving the customers what they want and not necessarily building a technology that we think they need.
What are your business goals for the future?
To support at least 1 million customers.
And when we say support, we don’t mean onboard 1 million customers, we mean get 1 million customers to the point where Riby is impactful in their lives per making them prosperous, that’s what I mean.
What influences you and keeps you pumped up?
These things are usually available in like YouTube videos, the motivational talks, don’t discount them, they are very important, the only thing is that you have to be clear.
If you have a clear mission, you won’t have a problem in achieving what you need to achieve.
Because I have a mission, I have what I want to do, I’ve been restless for the last 15 years of my life, I see that that restlessness is not ending because anytime my spirit senses that I’m slowing down, it just bombards me with things to increase my restlessness.
That restlessness is what keeps me going, what wakes me up every morning and says “hey this thing worked yesterday, try it in a different way today”.
So, that is what drives me.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources for you?
Audible is a resource that everybody must own. It is a product of Amazon, it’s an audiobook, they charge I think about #7,000 every year and you get at least 12 books free, as in as part of your #7,000 and then you have several unlimited numbers of audiobooks that you can listen to if you are a listener.
And if you are a reader, there are other eBook systems you can subscribe to, but don’t wait for the free ones, look for the paid ones; when you pay for it, you make sure you listen to it because you won’t keep paying for something that you are not using. But if it’s free, chances that you’ll read them or listen might even be slimmer.
But I think there are certain basic books that people need to listen to or read; of course, you know you have to select the right author, it’s not everything you hear that you can do or you should do.
We have guys like Jim Collins; you should read every book Jim Collins has written. Also, books like The Purpose Driven Life, The Richest Man in Babylon which was one of the key founding knowledge centers for why we created Riby in the first place.
The Bible, The Quran is also very powerful, not necessarily just for spiritual concepts, but even more for concepts of life, fairness, truth, justice, etc.
So, that should be a natural part of life, listening to YouTube videos, the right ones, watch Messi and Ronaldo, the things they do, the number of exercises and practices they do, watch the right movies.
My point is that there are a lot of places to learn from, just keep learning every day and practicing the things that you are learning.
Information is absolutely free now, for the most part, so get it and use it right.
What were the biggest challenges you faced and the obstacles you overcame?
A lot of people don’t know that there is no such thing as rosy, smooth, clear, you know everything from the beginning, it doesn’t exist, there is no such experience.
Every system we participate in is going to have a journey and a lot of the part of that journey will not be smooth. There is nothing that is frictionless that doesn’t have its own challenge, that’s part of the journey, that’s an essential ingredient of the process.
For me, in business, I see 3 main challenges; I see your capital challenge, I see your talent challenge and I see your market forces. If you are able to surmount all 3, you’ll be fine.
Those are the 3 challenges everybody faces. If you don’t have the right people, 95% of the time, the business won’t succeed even if you have all the money you need and if you have all the right people and the market supports you but there is no money to deliver, there is no resource, you cannot figure that out, that’s the end.
So, those have been our 3 key challenges, having the right type and amount of money, having the right people, trust me, people make a huge difference in how we succeed in life, how we achieve the results we want to achieve in our business and lastly ensuring that we understand the market and the forces that drive the market and that we are able to align them.
I just put them in those 3 categories; capital requirement, talent requirement, and market forces.
Revenue is the most important source of capital that people don’t understand. Revenue is a lot of things; revenue is how you grow your business; revenue is how you fund your business; revenue is how you pay your investors in the future; revenue is the most important thing in business but in this scenario, let’s treat it as a form of capital.
Capital could also be debt, could also be equity, and could also be convertible notes or debts.
Talent is very clear; the right people, the right skill, the right network but market forces is the biggest and most people don’t know.
Market forces are everything from timing, for example, the regulators say your business will not run the way you want it to run, that can mean the end of your business. Our regulation is not static; it can be one thing in one country or city and another thing in another country or city.
So, for me, I think that’s the easiest way to classify the 3 key things I think are the biggest problems for successes of business and the 3 key things that have also been our own biggest areas of challenge.
Understanding and achieving those 3 things for me is the beginning of success.
Have you had any failed business?
I’ve tried at least 8 businesses. Okay, let me say that everything I tried before the last 4 years, effectively we can say all but one failed. Everything else before Riby failed, and then after Riby, we’ve been seeing quite a number of successes in our businesses as well.
I also learned a lot by working for other people, other businesses. Those 10 years of working for other people was a credible amount of experience, either working for a company or for an individual, interning.
I think I learned more that way than I learned trying to do business by myself before the year 2016 when I finally started Riby. Between 2004 and 2016, for most of those times, I was learning by working for other people and I think I learned more from that process than I did on my own.
Only a few people will ever go from ‘I’ve not worked for anybody before in my life’ to ‘now I’m very successful’, only a few people.
From data, it seems less than 10% of successful entrepreneurs have that story. Bill Gates, Elon Musk, and Mark Zuckerberg are exceptional examples. Warren Buffet worked for someone else, Jeff Bezos worked for someone else, I worked for someone else.
So, there’s no myth, just find your path and follow it.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
First and foremost, are you ready?
That’s the question everyone needs to ask themselves, are you truly ready? Have you learned enough? Have you built a strong network?
If you have to go work for someone else, hopefully, someone within the sector of where you are going, dedicate yourself, tell the person or the company that you are going to work there for 3 years. You want to start working for yourself, and so, where are you in a hurry to, there’s no hurry, there is no rush and I’m happy that I can speak from both sides.
I stopped my own business to work for someone else and then started my business again. I was supposed to start Riby in 2013, I stopped it. I worked for someone else till 2016, 2017, and then started Riby again and I’ve followed the pattern of an entrepreneur since 2004, so I’ve seen it, I know what I’m talking about.
If you are not ready, quit whatever you are trying to do, go work for someone else, go and learn from someone else. But be clear you are on the part of your mission and what you are trying to do, that’s it. There’s no other thing.
And then there are different ways to make money, there’s a difference between money and passion.
If you need to make money, make money however you like. Google’s passion was not to make money from selling ads, the guys that founded Google, their passion was to create an engine that can organize all of the world’s information, it was years after they found out that okay, this engine that we have created, one of the easiest ways to make money from it is by selling advertisements.
So it’s not what you are doing that you necessarily need to make money from and that’s what people don’t get, you just have to have a clear line between the two.
A lot of people also need to realize that when it comes to personal mission, it’s you and yourself, but when it comes to the company’s mission, remember, it’s a company, it’s not only you.
So that mission and the pieces of your business have to be one that’s broad enough that it brings other people into the fold, other partners, your co-founders, your employees, your shareholders, your investors, the market, your customers, it is a shared mission at that point on.
So, you have to be clear. When it’s a personal mission, it’s just you, but when it’s a company, the mission is in the company of other people.
Where can we go to learn more about you?
You can reach me on Twitter.
You can also connect with me on LinkedIn.