Founder Feature: Innocent Udeogu

Sylvana Lewin, Wednesday November 29th 2017

This week we sat down with Oncenout CEO Innocent Udeogu, one of MEST’s first founders in the new Lagos incubator. Read on to learn why Chimamanda Adichie is his inspiration!

Tell me a bit about your company.

At Oncenout, we see a huge opportunity in the pre-owned fashion space.

Women have a lot of great luxury items wasting away in their closet. In the UK alone,  an estimated $46.7 billion worth of unworn clothes are lingering in people’s closets.

Oncenout is an online community that enables women to sell, donate, and buy pre-loved  premium luxury fashion fashion items through a web application.Through the proceeds from sales, the community also gets to support IDPs in Nigeria.

Why did you come to MEST?

Prior to coming to MEST, I was building software for small businesses. However, it was clear I did not know enough to make that trade a successful venture. MEST was that perfect platform to learn and connect with other young minds from different countries.

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

When you come to MEST, you join a community. I believe one of the biggest things the MEST program gives to you is that community and the huge support. Everyone is ready to help you get to the next level.

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

I consider MEST a prestigious opportunity - one that is only available to a select few at a time. It’s important to carefully think about what you want to be an expert on because you can be really good at several things, but it’s more useful if you are an expert at one thing. It’s also important to select a niche within an industry and soak into its nuances.

If you have corporate experience, it might be useful to start asking questions about the processes and challenges that can be solved and scaled through technology.

And lastly, you can be good at anything be it tech or business. In my cohort, I saw people with zero coding background become subject experts in software development. So it's about dedication and hard work.

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

I would ask if I am ready to throw myself into the problem. Big opportunities and small opportunities take almost the same amount of effort. It’s better to spend time on the huge opportunities.

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?

I would say my biggest challenge during the MEST training program was combining the areas I wanted to specialize on in tech and the tech stack being used in class. Before joining MEST, I had began learning the basics of Data Science through Andrew Ng’s Machine Learning Course on Coursera. It was really difficult to combine both of them. I was lucky I found other Data Science enthusiasts in the community and we formed a Data Science group. This helped me keep tabs on what I wanted to learn. In fact, it helped me win the first machine learning hackathon in Nigeria.

What would you say is your greatest success?

I would say bringing Oncenout to where we are today. It’s been a very tough journey with several layers of challenges ranging from logistics to building a team to designing a replicable business model. We are still far from our reaching goal, but I know we will get there.

What’s your favorite food?

Bitter leaf Soup and hot smooth pounded yam

What do you like most about Ghana?

Life! Ghana is full of life with beautiful beaches along its coast!

What is your favorite memory from your time at MEST?

Emily Dahar’s communication class. There was a sense that you were discovering yourself better and better in every class.

Who is your tech idol? Why?

Andrew Ng. Though not a very popular name in the ecosystem, Andrew Ng co-founded Coursera and the first machine learning class on Coursera. I think Coursera is one of the most impactful educational innovations in recent times.

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

The Hard Things About Hard Things  by Ben Horowitz

What is your favorite tech company? Why?

Stitch Fix. The guys at Stitch Fix are great because it's one company that has been able to do something as complex as fashion styling and get it right. Eric Colson, who is the Chief Algorithm Officer, is also my role model when it comes to building an engineering team. I can’t wait to see OnceNOut get to that scale.

Who/what inspires you?

I get a lot of inspiration from the novelist Chimamanda Adichie. She’s not my role model, but I learn a lot from her personality: excellence , courage, and authenticity.

My mum, Chief Mrs. Nneka Udeogu, is my biggest inspiration.

Where are you from?

I am from Orumba South in Anambra State, Nigeria.