Founder Feature: Richard Yao BakuThis week we sat down with InvestXD cofounder Richard Yao Baku. Read on to learn some of his favorite memories from MEST and more about his love of waakye!
Where are you from?
I am from Havé in the Volta Region of Ghana.
Tell me a bit about your company.
InvestXD is a startup that is focused on bridging the gap between the banked and unbanked by making it easy for young professionals to save smarter by selecting from different investment products, providing their details, and making payments online without the need to go to the bank. You can also monitor the performance of your portfolio. There is a learning module that breaks down technical jargon into plain old English for users to easily understand.
Why did you come to MEST?
I was unfulfilled with the 9 am - 5 pm job. It became monotonous and mundane after a few months. You can get away with lazing around and still earn a monthly salary and I definitely did not want to do that my entire life.
MEST gave me a chance to do something different: build a product and sell it. I like selling and bargaining. I came to MEST to build a product and sell in a market that is either not tech savvy or they have not adapted to the full potential of technology. I took the challenge. I wanted to be fulfilled whilst making money.
How did MEST help get you to where you are today?
MEST helped me by providing access to a community of entrepreneurs who have built projects and implemented various projects as well as an entrepreneurial sharpening stone which helped smooth my ideas, goals, and my entrepreneurial journey. Access to internet gave me the chance to consume lots of content and research.
The fellows gave us constructive criticism and feedback, which helped boost most of the companies at the Incubator, especially InvestXD. Enoch, one of the business fellows. helped us nurture InvestXD.
What do you wish you had known as an EIT? Do you have any advice for this year’s group?
My advice to them is to enjoy the company of their colleagues and get to know them properly. I can go to Kenya, Nigeria, or South Africa without telling anyone, but I know there is someone there who can host me or be my business contact when scaling in these countries. Your colleagues are your greatest assets.
If you could go back in time to when you were just starting your company, what would you tell yourself?
I would tell myself, “Enjoy your weekends Yao Baku, they may never be yours again and be hungrier than you are now. Always be eye red!”
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?
Some of the biggest challenges I faced have been with teamwork and time management.
Teamwork: MEST had a cluster of quirky entrepreneurs with different cultures and mindsets. As much as you are all focused on a unique goal, the human elements get very hard to work with. Sometimes it is a plain mismatch and other times it just needs takes time and team bonding. I spent considerable time with my co-founders playing scrabble or chess or going to premieres. It helped a lot.
Time Management: We had absurd deadlines at MEST. Some of them were from Ashwin and Dziffa, 11:45 pm and 4:00 am respectively. We always had multiple projects or assignments to work on and you have to balance your time to finish them. It is still not a rosy ride at the Incubator because as a new startup, there is so much to do to lay a solid foundation.
What would you say is your greatest success?
Bringing InvestXD to where it is now. When they say it gets rougher ahead, it’s no joke. The Financial Industry is shaping our lives and helping us push InvestXD forward. I love InvestXD. It is that one company I would go through anything for.
What’s your favourite food?
Waakye. I remember very well travelling miles to go buy waakye back in Kumasi every day. I have even written poems about waakye.
What do you like most about Ghana?
The people. The food. The hidden and unpopular tourist sites; they hold treasures.
What is your favourite memory from your time at MEST?
Shouting from window to window, “Tasty doughnuts, tasty doughnuts”. I needed money so I was selling doughnuts, earpieces, pen drives, chargers, etc. to my colleagues whether at school, in class, or at the hostel. I did go to Lizzy’s Sports Complex to sell doughnuts. I had a doughnut partner who handled and expanded my doughnut business into the adjoining class and an electronics partner who was the front for business.
Other great memories include late night conversations on the rooftop, sharing experiences, cultural differences, and dreaming about taking over Africa.
Who is your tech idol? Why?
I don’t have a specific idol I emulate. I have several of them. They range from some of the Incubator CEOs. who I keenly follow, to Jeff Bezos.
Do you have any books about tech that you would suggest?
- Emotional Intelligence: Why it Can Matter More Than IQ by Daniel Goleman
- Zero to One by Blake Masters and Peter Thiel
What is your favourite tech company? Why?
Shazam. I love music. I am that person in the trotro who is listening keenly to the lyrics to I can search later on Google to know which song was playing. Shazam does the heavy lifting for me and that is what InvestXD is aiming for. Let’s do the heavy lifting, automate your investments from MoMo or Bank and all you have to do is check your portfolio to see it growing.
Who/what inspires you?
Me, myself, and Edem. I see my life as a body transformation picture. I see myself now, and the successful gentleman I ought to be and nothing but that pushes me. I am also inspired by my elder sister. She works so hard that the standard she sets is always hard to beat.
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Due to COVID-19, MEST postpones training program to next year and doubles down on growing portfolio companies
At MEST, we continue to be deeply concerned about COVID-19 and have been closely monitoring developments locally and globally. Our number one priority remains the health and safety of our community and we will continue to follow local authority and health official guidelines.
Due to the ongoing nature of the pandemic and the uncertainty that the future of travel holds, we have been unable to conduct in-person interviews and host recruitment around Africa for our next cohort. For this reason, we have taken the decision to postpone the Training Program to next year.
While these circumstances are indeed unfortunate, we see this as an exciting opportunity at MEST to double down on providing support and mentorship to our existing portfolio companies and the African ecosystem.
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