Founder Feature: Ben Kissi Frempong

Sylvana Lewin, Tuesday October 31st 2017

This week we sat down with AdGeek CEO Ben Kissi Frempong. Read on to learn why he will always be proud to be Ghanaian and why his mum is his inspiration!
At the end of the day, no matter how cool your product is, if your customer doesn’t use it, that’s not a business.

Tell me a bit about your company.

AdGeek currently helps online merchants to reduce their advertising costs and maximize their returns. However, we are on a mission to help all marketers do just that. Our main focus is improving ROI.

[caption id="attachment_5729" align="aligncenter" width="665"] Ben with his AdGeek cofounders at MEST.[/caption]

Where are you from?

I am from Techiman in the Brong Ahafo Region of Ghana.

Why did you come to MEST?

I’ve always wanted to start my own company. My entrepreneurial journey started while I was in high school. I realized some of my friends needed some money because by the end of the semester they had used up all of their cash. A friend and I started loaning people money and having them pay us back with a small amount of interest. After university, I started a company called I-Alert that sold bulk SMS to schools to help them disseminate information to parents. I applied to MEST, while I-Alert was ongoing.

I saw MEST as a place where I could hone my entrepreneurial skills, improve myself, and develop my potential. I’ve always believed that you can’t do everything on your own so I also saw MEST as a place where I could work with other like-minded people.

How did MEST help get you to where you are today?

MEST has helped me in a lot of ways, but most noticeably improving my skills. When I came to MEST, the only thing I knew was sales. I didn’t know things like financial modeling, creating business slide decks, pitching, managing a team, managing finances, and more. MEST taught me all of that.

What do you wish you had known as an EIT? Do you have any advice for this year’s group?

You never know until you test it. While running a global-facing company, I have come to learn that there are certain things you can assume or project to some extent, but you have to test everything. Testing everything reveals some of the things that you might be blind to.

If you could go back in time to when you were just starting your company, what would you tell yourself?

Always know that the customer is key. Sometimes as a developer, you might think of creating something that you think is cool. But it’s important to ask if the customer really needs it. Reach out to the customer, try to understand their pain points, and try to deliver value to them. Don’t just stay in your office and try to create something cool. At the end of the day, no matter how cool your product is, if your customer doesn’t use it, that’s not a business.

What have been some of the biggest challenges you've faced while at the MEST training program and the MEST Incubator? How did you get past these challenges?

As an EIT, something that was very challenging was trying to figure out what role you would play in a team after MEST and what kind of skillset you were going to adopt. At MEST, you can learn a lot of things. Within your time in the program, you have to decide what part you’d like to play depending on what skills you have. I decided to try to do everything as much as possible, but having enough time was very challenging. As I had two years, I decided to take the first year to try everything and then focus in on one topic in my second year.

At the Incubator, the most challenging thing has been churn. A lot of customers come and go. We have to find out why they’re leaving, and that is very difficult to answer. As a small business, you have to be very efficient in how you find this out.

What would you say is your greatest success?

Being able to work with a team and launch a product that people are paying for. Even back at MEST we used to build things, sometimes for the fun of it; but, building something that provides value that someone will actually pay for - that is a great success.

What’s your favorite food?

Rice balls with groundnut soup.

What do you like most about Ghana?

The people. Ghanaians are funny, welcoming, and creative. Being a Ghanaian is something I will be proud to say no matter where I am. We are a unique people that stand out wherever we go. We have so many tribes in Ghana, but we are able to coexist despite our differences.

What is your favorite memory from your time at MEST?

My first capstone pitch because standing in front of a crowd to pitch an idea is something that will always give you butterflies. My first time doing that is a memory that will stick with me forever.

Who is your tech/business idol? Why?

Elon Musk. I am inspired by the way he thinks, his approach to problem-solving, and the way he looks at the world in general. Sometimes people say he has fantasies of saving the world; but, when you really listen to what he has to say and try to understand his views, you realize he’s incredibly smart. One thing I’ve learned from him is his approach to solving problems, which is taking first principles, breaking them down, and analyzing the problem from there. I also like the way he thinks big. I want to always do the same.

Do you have any books about tech that you would suggest?

  1. Blue Ocean Strategy by Renée Mauborgne and W. Chan Kim

  2. The Art of Strategy by Avinash Dixit and Barry J. Nalebuff

What is your favorite tech company? Why?

Tesla. I like what they are doing and the revolution they are causing in the transportation industry. They were able to overcome so many challenges and naysayers to make electric cars cool and create a culture around them. A lot of big brands tried, but didn’t succeed. Tesla coming in has done a lot for the adoption of electric cars.

Who/what inspires you?

My mum because she has grit. She brought me up by herself and she was able to provide all that I needed. She was responsible for me, my welfare, my education, and my morality. I think she brought me up in a way that will enable me to contribute to society. She means a lot to me and really inspires me.