Eh Em…is this mic on? Ok. *Coughs* *Clears throat*. Let’s go!.
Well, I’m not one to share a “Year-In-Review” type of story. This is because for the most part, I have always considered them to be cliché. Like, everyone is doing it. Today is Dec 31st, 2022 and I’m definitely sure my “Year-in-Review” won’t be the only one you will read.
But in retrospect, I have come to realize that I have been thinking about yearly reviews the absolute wrong way. You see, I used to think that “Year-in-Review” is more about the readers reading, but on the contrary, it is more about the Writer writing and telling their story. There’s this clarity and introspection that comes with sharing your stories.
Well enough about the Why. Let’s get to the What.
2022 has been quite an eventful year for me, really. As someone who saw Shege Pro Max in 2021 (story for another day), I’m grateful that I had a year where my wins were more than my losses.
Mimicking the review fashion of a dear friend and mentor, I’ll try to run through each month of the year and the notable things that happened to me in them.
January – February
I was continuing my postgraduate studies at the Nigerian University of Technology and Management (NUTM), so not much happened at this time aside attending classes and team meetings late in the night. If there’s one thing I’m grateful to NUTM for, it was the clarity and relationships that I got to build during the programme. Without sounding like an NUTM informercial, I would highly recommend the postgraduate programme to everyone, especially fresh university graduates seeking to gain clarity on their next career decision. I also started my learning journey with an organization called Qala during this time. More information about them shortly
My startup, Tell! received funding from the Goethe-Institut to implement one of our many creative projects. We initially planned on investing the funding into our periodical MONUS (Memoirs Of Nigerian University Students) anthology, but seeing that federal universities were on strike at the period, we didn’t get enough entries. We then decided to invest the funds into organizing a storytelling competition to celebrate Africa Day on the 25th of May.
Tell! got accepted into the first cohort of CCHub’s Creative Economy Practice CreaTech accelerator. This was quite a remarkable achievement for my team and I because prior to this, there had not been an accelerator programme dedicated to startups in the creative economy, and I’m grateful to Ojoma Ochai and her entire team for setting up such a life-changing experience.
I travelled out of Nigeria for the 2nd time in my life. Destination was Nairobi, Kenya. As a participant of the CreaTech accelerator, I was graciously invited to a workshop organized by The Africa Technology and Creative Group (ATCG) to represent African creatives and discuss the impact of the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) on the distribution and consumption of creative works across the continent. It was such an amazing experience as I got to meet with delegates from almost every African country, and I also got to try Kenyan delicacies too – which was delight. Truly grateful to the organizers of the workshop for the opportunity to attend and be a part of the experience.
I got my first opportunity to work with a “company” as a software engineer. As a startupper myself, I’ve always loved the thrill of working in high tension, high-speed startups – which was why I had preferred to lend my skills to startups rather than large corporations. But as “SAPA” is a respecter of no one’s preference, I had to opt for the opportunity to work for this company and it’s been great so far. I love my team’s dynamics and company culture.
Also in July, my NUTM capstone project Wadi won the award for best startup in the 2nd cohort of the NUTM. I am most especially grateful for this win because it took a lot of sleepless nights, brainstorming meetings, teamwork and hard work to achieve this feat. I’m most especially proud of my team members because I experienced first-hand how much each of them (and myself) grew while building Wadi.
I graduated from the Nigerian University of Technology and Management and also received the award for the most innovative TEDlab project ( i.e Wadi). I also had to say goodbye to all my friends and colleagues that I had made at NUTM and this was quite melancholic. As one of us would say, NUTM provided me with access to the highest “IQ per square meter” on the continent and I’m truly grateful for the people and faculty I got to interact with.
As a lover of hackathons and projects, I decided to opt-in for a fintech hackathon organized by OvalFinance with some of my software engineering friends. We pitched Flexpay – a banking and payroll management product that enabled both employers and employees earn APY interests on their savings. It took several weeks of building and testing to develop our MVP for the hackathon and fortunately we were able to clinge the grandprize.
Wadi got into the GET accelerator programme. This was an important win for us because it came fresh after competing and winning at the NUTM and at the time when we were validating our idea in the market.
I turned 24.
Remember Qala from my January review? Well, Qala is a program designed to transform Software engineers into Bitcoin and Lightning developers. Notice how it’s Bitcoin and not “Blockchain” or “Crypto”, well that’s because Bitcoin in itself is one of the most disruptive technologies to have ever been built in recent times, while Blockchain and Crypto are buzzwords. But I digress.
During this time, I was being interviewed by Qala to determine if I would be a good fit for their fellowship programme which comes after the two learning stages I had been a part of since January – Seminars and Study groups. The interviews were quite intense but thankfully I was selected as one of 12 fellows to join the fellowship programme starting in January 2023. This was a really important win for me because I had constantly wondered about how I could take my skills as a self-taught software engineer to the next level and this opportunity came at the most propitious time. I’m truly grateful to God for this amazing opportunity and I look forward to putting in my very best into the programme when it starts next year.
To cap the year off, I think I had most of my wins this December. I got the chance to travel out of the country for the 3rd time ever and the second time this year. As a Qala fellow, I was invited to attend the first ever African Bitcoin Conference in Accra, Ghana. I had also submitted a project idea called Pennybit which had been selected as one of the top 8 projects for the semi-finals of the conference’s hackathon. At the conference I got the chance to meet with some of the world’s top bitcoiners: Jack Dorsey, Obi Nwosu (cofounder of Fedimint), Ray Youssef (ceo of Paxful), Abubakar Nur Khalil (cofounder of Qala), Carla Kirk-Kohen (cofounder of Qala), Bernard Parah (Bitnob), Femi Longe (my former lecturer at NUTM (TEDLab) and cofounder of CChub). I also got to meet other Qala fellows and we had the chance to bond and share our stories and struggles as software engineers.
Shortly after I got back from Ghana, Wadi again emerged as the winner of the GET accelerator programme, clinging a cash prize of N10 million. This was such an important win for us because we had initially felt like we had not been as intensive as we were supposed to be during the accelerator programme. I personally did not sleep on the night before the pitch day as I had to work extensively on our pitchdeck.
My Wadi team made out time to bond and celebrate our wins and how much work we put into building for the year.
So that’s it, my year in review. I thought it would be impossible to share, but I did it, for the first time. And I am super glad I did.
Looking forward to 2023…
My overall goals for 2023 are to learn, build and grow. I’m going to go HARDER than I’ve ever gone before. I also plan to a start a gym membership to turn this my slightly protruding belly into rock-hard abs. I’m looking forward to building better relationships with my network, becoming a better software engineer and writer, earning more, meeting new people, travelling more and seeing the world.
Cheers to the new year, friends.
What do you think?