Founders Spotlight:Arabang Olekanye(Co-Founder,Lime Gig)

High levels of youth unemployment in Botswana and Africa has made it necessary to have a platform that allows people, young or otherwise, to use their skills and expertise to earn a living.  This is where Lime Gig, a locally built freelance marketplace, comes in. In this interview, I chat with co-founder Arabang about what they plan to achieve at Lime Gig and much more!

In your own words, please tell us who Arabang Olekanye is

I am more than I can ever put into words, that’s for sure. I am a young man that's still evolving and figuring himself out both as a man and an entrepreneur so explaining who I am gets really hard, but okay: Arabang Olekanye is a problem solver that’s currently building platforms that connect people to earning and learning opportunities. Is that all? No, a lot can be said about an evolving young man that’s deeply in love with himself, that still has a lot of fears to conquer and a lot of crazy dreams to bring to life.

Briefly take us through your journey to founding a tech startup

Storytime? I don’t believe there is a brief way to lay out everything that drove me to tech. It all started with my first google search in 2011 “how to build facebook”, I believe I was 11 at the time. I don't remember what the google search results were but they then led to my discovery of W3Schools (an educational website for learning coding), where I then wrote my first “Hello World” program and learnt how to build web pages - and a job at Google is all that naive 11 year old has ever wanted since then hehe.

Time flew really fast and before I knew it I was now 16/17 stuck in boarding school without a computer to tinker with. The only way to get access to one was through the school’s Computer Studies lab. I had to make a plan to get enough screen time to keep building stuff. I somehow managed to figure it out and got my CS teacher to trust me with the keys to the lab. I spent most of my nights there running my freelance web development agency and a cinema whenever there was a new movie that dropped (I still don't know how I never got caught). 

Sitting in front of a computer and building stuff is all I did when I wasn't in school or playing chess through my teenage years (and some distractions I can't mention here of course hehe). So all this plus having participated in the Ngwana Enterprises Kidpreneur Weekends up north back in the day made the decision of what I wanted to do after high school very easy for me. I went and became a techpreneur that hops between FAILURE and a bit of success daily.

The journey has been quite rad.

What inspired you to choose the entrepreneurship route instead of a career in corporate?

A decision I regret sometimes when I see some of my software developer friends’ paycheques hehe **just kidding**. I really find it hard to connect with a vision that isn't mine and I won't be motivated enough to give you my best if I can’t connect with the vision. Also: there are a lot of problems in the world and somebody has to solve them usually by founding a tech startup or dedicating their life to building a certain product.

Please tell us more about your startup, Lime Gig

Lime Gig is a freelance marketplace that connects skilled African talent to paying global gigs. Navigating around the world of work is very hard for African talent; we have talent that's qualified and skilled but sits with no means of making an income because they are in places where no one requires their skills and are very far from people that require their skills. We offer skilled individuals a financially viable alternative to a traditional job within their locality: FREELANCE.  We believe no one with a skill should ever go to bed hungry because they can't find earning opportunities.

What was the motivation for founding Lime Gig?

We realized there is no quick fix to the scary unemployment stats in Africa and the sooner everyone starts making peace with that the better because people we love and care about fall within those numbers and we need to start building solutions that enable them to earn and live comfortably. This problem is not going anywhere anytime soon!

How receptive have Batswana been to Lime Gig?

Very receptive, it even scared us - we were able to make $18 000+ in payouts to our freelancers within our first 3 months, something we thought would take us a very long time to do.

Freelancing platforms like Fivvr and Upwork currently dominate the industry that Lime Gig is in. What is your differentiating factor?

Competition? We look at that very differently over here; between you and your competitors only one is doing it right and the rest aren’t, the beauty of it is YOU DECIDE which one of the two you are. We are doing it right for the African talent, that's for sure.

Our UNIQUE MARKET INSIGHT (wish I could share it with you hehe) sets us apart and will probably help us catch up because we came a bit late to the party.

What challenges have you faced in scaling up Lime Gig?

I’d be lying if I said we’ve had any major problems with scaling so far. We are only a few months into what could be a century-long journey and the only problem we are facing is the question that rings in our heads every morning; “What if we fail”. You can't really run from that. The insanely high internet prices usually make it hard for tech startups. Sometimes people really want to use your platform but they just can't because accessing it is expensive and that's something that is out of your control. I am happy that hasn't been the case with us so far.

How have been trying to overcome these challenges?

We are still in the startup honeymoon phase where problems are less and taking over the world seems possible but of course, we do know we have a lot of challenges coming our way - our readiness to face those will be tested when we get there.

The Gig Economy has over the last few years revolutionized how we look at employment by making “side hustles” easier to turn into sustainable means of earning a living. What this in any way a motivating factor in building Lime Gig?

Yes - in a major way. It's something we wanted to see our fellow countrymen go into through a platform built by people they can relate to. The gig economy has grown into a trillion-dollar industry and we are here to get our piece of it.

In a country with such high rates of unemployment, platforms like Lime Gig are a needed development. How are you as Lime Gig leveraging this fact for the growth of your platform?

That’s true. That has made our job very easy - we don’t have to do a lot of convincing to get people on the platform because it’s something they need and something that solves a real problem for them. Job boards did a great job building communities of job seekers before we came in. We have partnered with a few leading job boards and job seeker communities so as to propel our growth.

What has been the proudest moment of your entrepreneurship journey so far?

It always has to be your first customer, for everyone. We do what we do to solve their problems. We get out of bed every morning to serve them. My proudest moment has to be when we got a batch of 10 freelancers to cross the $1000/month mark, I still remember where I was and what exactly I was doing the minute it happened. It’s a feeling that will forever stay with me, a feeling I want to feel over and over as we keep growing - it gives you all the validation you need. 

What is the best advice you have ever received with regards to entrepreneurship?

“Start” - starting makes everything easy, your confidence will grow from all the small wins and no one can stop you once you’ve learnt what it takes to start and now have all the confidence starting pours into you.

What is the one thing you wish you knew earlier in your entrepreneurship journey?

You can't do it alone. I am very big on solitude so I found out the hard way that you will not go so far in business rocking alone. Find people that are as passionate as you about the problem you are solving and fly through all the good and bad days with them - finding the right people isn’t easy but nothing is easy about business, right?

What advice would you like to give to freelancers and employers who are yet to list on Lime Gig?

Come prepared. Freelancing is not a job and doesn't give you the security a traditional job would; you slack, you don’t get paid. We are ready to have you on our platform and earning bucks.

Are there any interesting features launching on Lime Gig in the near future that you would like to share with our readers?

Yes, we have a few new exciting features plus product updates and partnerships underway and I am not going to be the guy that ruins the surprise for everyone.

What are your goals for Lime Gig in the next 3-5 years?

Very big and scary goals but here is one: To have at least 20 000 users on our $3000- $5000/month earner bracket, that's far more than what most Batswana earn. Our success isn't measured by the number of users we have but by earnings being made on the platform and the frequency in which freelancers get matched to gigs.

Lastly, please share with our readers your contacts in case they have more questions about Lime Gig

All my business card has is my name and a “FIND ME” text, I guess BW TechZone will now be where people come to find my contact details:

Facebook: Lime Gig

Instagram: @getgigs_

Email: hello@limegig.com or arabang@limegig.com

LinkedIn: Arabang Olekanye

www.limegig.com

NB: Interview has been slightly edited for clarity


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