Founder Feature: Bubunyo Nyavor

Sylvana Lewin, Tuesday November 7th 2017

This week we sat down with AF Radio CEO Bubunyo Nyavor. Read on to learn why he admires Elon Musk and why he believes being open to feedback is so important!

Where are you from?

I am from HoHoe in the Volta Region of Ghana.

Tell me a bit about your company.

AF Radio is a consumer application that helps people find, and listen to, their favorite live radio shows, and listen to shows they missed on playback. It also helps radio stations monetize playback content and gather audience insights.

Why did you come to MEST?

I wanted to learn a different way of doing things. Before I came to MEST, I started and ran a classifieds site called BuyChaw. Users listed the items they were selling and then someone could buy them and come pick them up from the seller's place. I had realized that most of the people buying from classified websites in Ghana were students, so thought why shouldn’t I just create a platform for students alone? It makes it easier to market, and when you list hostels, it’s easier to find and pick up items.

However, it failed for a couple of reasons. I realized that I didn’t have the adequate training and that something was missing. I came for a hackathon at MEST and spoke to a couple of guys here and realized that the reason my business failed was that I wasn’t thinking about the business side, I was just thinking about building a website, launching it and trying to see if I can get people to use it. When I realized what was missing, I wanted to come to MEST and learn those skills.

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

I came to MEST with one main aim of acquiring business skills, and that is what I did. I am now able to think through business implications.

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

When I came to MEST, a lot of us embodied our work. Those of us who coded were the embodiment of code. Anytime somebody told us what we were doing wasn’t good, all we heard was ‘I’m not good’. Our inability to listen to that kind of feedback meant we were unable to learn some lessons. If we had been able to see that the criticism was not about us, but about our work, we would have been able to learn even more. I think we should detach ourselves from what we do so that when somebody tells you what you are doing doesn’t make sense, you can ask why and get feedback. They need to be open to feedback.

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

Don’t build a consumer app. I don’t think the market we are in is ripe for a consumer app. I’m lucky to be in a kind of market that eats up radio so it’s easier to figure out the market and with the right partnerships reach the target market. But tech facing Ghana as an economy is not ripe for a consumer app. It’s a very steep uphill battle that’s not going to pay a lot of dividends in the short term.

I think people need to start thinking more about building B2B apps. This might come as a shock because my company is a consumer app. The first iteration of AF Radio, Channel, was consumer facing and we had been told not to build a consumer app. We didn’t listen to the feedback. After closing Channel down and starting AF Radio, we got much more positive feedback.

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?

The biggest challenge at the Incubator has been managing my own expectations when it comes to setting KPI's. When you get to the Incubator, you set KPIs for yourself and try to hit them. In the beginning, we set KPIs so high and weren’t really thinking about how we’d reach them. We were just thinking about the numbers looking nice. It’s been a learning process. It’s important to be honest with yourself.

What would you say is your greatest success?

My existence. The fact that I’m here is my success. I’ve been a solo-founder since December and I’ve been able to get some work done with the help of anybody I can get my hands on. If you had asked me if I could do this before December, I would have told you you were crazy and that there was no way. But I am doing it, and I am succeeding.

What’s your favorite food?

Banku and grilled tilapia

What is your favorite memory from your time at MEST?

BBB. Soon after you come to MEST, you are given 20 cedis to start a business. You are put in a group made up of Nigerians, Kenyans, Ghanaians, and South Africans where you barely know anyone and you are supposed to go out and make money. It’s amazing how you see different characters at play in terms of the kinds of ideas that come up. I’d never been in a setting where everyone was so highly driven. It made me realize that at no point should I be hungry because all you need is hustle to build a business.

Who is your tech idol? Why?

Elon Musk because he doesn’t take no for an answer. I don’t think the word impossible means anything to him. I think he breaks impossible tasks into smaller, possible tasks, and then they become achievable.

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

The Lean Startup by Eric Ries

Venture Deals by Brad Feld and Jason Mendelson

What is your favorite tech company? Why?

Square. I think they have some of the smartest people in the world working on payments, and they do a lot of open source.