Kevin Cook

Kendall Ananyi – A man on a mission to rub out poor internet connectivity in Africa

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Kendall Ananyi is a Nigerian entrepreneur, founder/CEO of ISP Company, Tizeti, which recently secured a $3m series A funding.

Tizeti Network Limited provides Internet services in Africa. It offers high speed broadband Internet to residences, businesses, events, and conferences, as well as deploys public Wi-Fi hotspots at various locations.

Tizeti Network Limited was founded in 2012 and is based in Lagos, Nigeria with an additional office in Menlo Park, California.

Techpreneur Magazine chats with Kendall to find out more about his company and the quest to improve internet connectivity in Africa.

Tell us a bit about yourself and what you do?

My name is Kendall Ananyi and I am the CEO and Co-Founder of ​Tizeti ​– an ISP which operates in Nigeria. I am an electrical Engineer and prior to setting up Tizeti, I worked as a Lead Project Engineer with ExxonMobil, a Software Design Engineer in Microsoft Canada and Associate with PricewaterhouseCoopers.

We have a customer facing-brand​which was launched in 2014 to the mass market with the goal of providing a sustainable solution to the poor internet connectivity problems in Nigeria and Africa as a whole.

We provide fast Wifi technology and unlimited, uncapped Wifi internet through our own solar power base stations. Currently we have installed over 7,000 public Wifi hotspots
within Nigeria and have 150,000 customers. We will be launching Wifi.Africa​; our new consumer-facing brand which will cater to markets outside of Nigeria – starting here in Ghana.

You’ve made tremendous impact in the ICT and tech infrastructure space, what has been your greatest source of motivation?

The idea of connecting people to internet and marveling at what they do with the internet each day is what motivates me. I have seen people progress from when I started – witnessing them sending emails on a blackberry phone; to now using their uncapped internet round the clock to do amazing things. The possibilities have been made endless with internet access.

Your company seeks to rub out poor internet connectivity in Africa, how do you
plan to do so?

Through making internet more accessible and affordable for as many people as possible by means of our solar-powered base stations and towers. As a continent, Africa has an abundance of sunshine; and the use of solar power has increased drastically across the West African region in recent years. As a company, we saw the benefit in taking advantage of this abundant resource as well as the decreasing cost of solar panels and constructed our own solar-powered towers. These have been paramount in helping us build a
dense network of towers to improve internet connectivity; which we hope to eventually extend beyond Nigeria and Ghana.

Any reason why Tizeti is keen on adopting solar-powered base stations?

In order for our business to scale across Africa we are rolling out solar powered base stations so they can be deployed anywhere in the continent without being restricted to only locations that have good power. Power is still a big problem in the continent. We also can pass savings on the operating expense from powering the base stations to the customer as the use of solar energy also reduces overheads on generators and diesel, which are often used across the continent to run towers. This allows us to remain profitable, while providing unrivaled internet access to our customers.

When is Tizeti officially starting operations in Ghana and what should we expect?

We have setup the subsidiary along with local partners in Ghana and are working with the NCA to get regulatory approval to commence. Once this is obtained we will commence operations the same week.

Can you share with us one fundamental tip you’ve employed in raising funds for
your company?

One of the most important thing that helps with fundraising is traction; which is showing growth in the business. Too many startups either fail to launch or wait for capital injection before starting to grow their business. We on the other hand started out with the first base station added customers on it and used the
profit to fund the next one and kept growing like that. Investors love companies that are showing great progress as it reduces their risk and shows that businesses once funded, will grow at an astronomical pace.

What sacrifices have you had to make to be a successful entrepreneur?

Where do I start…every day is a sacrifice. I will start with family as it is the most important to me, being an entrepreneur means you have to dedicate a lot of your time to the business and sometimes at the expense of time that could be spent with family. Your days are longer and you don’t get any days off especially for our business that is a 24/7 service. Next taking a huge pay cut. I mentioned I worked with Exxon and Microsoft and as an entrepreneur your business is not going to pay you as much as you earned.

You also have to ensure you make payroll and the staff get paid first before you do each month. You learn to put your customers first ahead of everything to ensure you can retain them at any cost. I remember in the early days we had an outage in one of our base stations and when we got to the location it was locked and we had to jump over the fence to get in. We have lots of stories of me and my early staff working through the night. On one occasion for example, when we had a firmware upgrade we had to do, we had to work on it by hand as it wasn’t automated back then. Each day brings its own challenges and you have to sacrifice to keep going.

What do you do in your non-work time?

I love to meet with my friends when I get the time to do so which is not a lot these days. I love to run so I do that with every chance I get and I also love swimming.

Where do you see yourself and your business in 10 years?

As one of the leading ISPs in Nigeria, we hope to replicate this success as we launch in Ghana and eventually continue this onward trajectory into other English-speaking West African countries. We also hope to be a public company listed on a major exchange.

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