I am Tijah Imoter Igbazenda, a graduate of Telecommunication Engineering and co-founder of Afyasoft Limited. I am very excited to write about my experience with IEEE Entrepreneurship’s Founder Office Hours Program.
I started Afyasoft Limited with my classmate in 2017 and incorporated the company in 2018. We were excited to leave a positive mark on society with our ideas through the company, but as we set out to implement our ideas, we encountered many challenges. Some of these challenges we could easily handle, but as we progressed, some became more involved and needed to be handled with more experience and knowhow. This is when our quest for the right support system to address our challenges began.
One avenue of help came through the Entrepreneurship Workshop for Scientists and Engineers, organized in collaboration with IEEE Entrepreneurship, during the 2019 IEEE, ICTP and EAIFR Entrepreneurship Workshop for Scientists and Engineers. Much of our challenges were addressed during this workshop and we quickly went on to implement these solutions. We had to pitch to investors for funding since we had exhausted our out of pocket funds; for every pitch we had, something was lacking and we missed those funding opportunities.
My partners began to lose interest and began to withdraw. With all my persuasions to make them stay falling on deaf ears, I chose to be resilient, to not give up, and to succeed even if it was alone. I needed the right support system to help me do so. At a point where I was literally left alone and desperately in need of help, I found the right help through the IEEE Entrepreneurship Founder Office Hours Program, and coincidentally it was someone with prior knowledge of what we were doing. The session looked pretty much like a follow-up on the 2019 workshop.
My mentor Ken Stauffer, through the Founder Office Hours Program, was a very good listener. He listened to me and gave me the tweak that I needed to be able to convince someone to invest in the venture. I call what he gave me a ‘magic wand’ because of the immediate result that came of it.
There was a call for application for funding, which I applied for again with the new additions I got from the program. It was a very competitive seed funding opportunity and I was able to use the knowledge obtained from the program to assemble a new team and prepare a better proposal and pitch deck. Out of 68 ventures, 16 were to be selected for funding after a screening phase and pitching session which was done virtually.
Afyasoft was amongst the last 16 selected for seed funding of US$6,600. I was very excited about this news because it confirmed to me that we were on the right track. All we needed was a push to be able to stand out. I am very happy to state clearly that IEEE Entrepreneurship offers startups an opportunity to grow and become self-sustaining ventures. It may not be financial help, but surely the benefit derived from IEEE Entrepreneurship is more valuable than money.
It’s been a rough and very bumpy road with a lot of no’s, but right now we are on the path to becoming what we envisioned, especially now that we are armed with the right knowledge from the very best in the startup ecosystem.
All this could not have been possible if not for the help we have received along the way. My team members and I are so grateful for the opportunities we have received, especially from IEEE Entrepreneurship. Afyasoft is set out to offer a service that is essential to its geographical location and to get people to not only see that the difference, but the impact of the solution we are offering is empowering. This is exactly what we got from the IEEE Founder Office Hours Program.
I still recall the counsel from the session which was on getting the right partners on board, carrying out marketing campaigns, and using word of mouth, which is efficient in this location of ours.
Words may fail me to express all we have received from this program, but if there is one thing I would like any reader of this article to part with, it is that the IEEE Entrepreneurship Founder Office Hours Program works, and I am a testament to how magical it is because it transforms you and empowers you to do more. I hope that this program continues to thrive and continues to help many more like me, struggling with their start-ups or ideas, to bring those ideas to fruition. We are grateful to the team that made the program possible because it’s already working for us. We want to give special thanks to Ken Stauffer, Thomas Monaco, and Lauren Beighley, for your time and hard work.
Afyasoft is open to this meaningful partnership to help realize our aim, which aligns with that of IEEE, using technology for the good of humanity. However, for us, we are more focused on solving identified healthcare problems to strengthen the healthcare system and to help them become more efficient, accountable, sustainable, and informative to the population they serve.