Olaniran Abiola, 28, is the founder and CEO of Gamsole, a mobile game production company. He speaks about his motivating factor
What did you study at the university?
I studied computer science and mathematics at the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife.
What motivated you to establish Gamsole?
I was motivated by my love for multimedia. I started developing games as an individual developer using designs, audios and other forms of arts in technology. I saw an opportunity in developing mobile games for the global market, because over 38 per cent of applications downloaded on app stores are games, which is more than any other application category. Although gaming isn’t mainstream in Africa yet, there is a huge opportunity in the local market, when you consider the number of youths in the world. When compared to other countries, Nigeria has the highest number of young people and that is why I established Gamsole to develop applications for this group of people, as well as help brands communicate with them.
What year was the company established?
I started the company in 2012 while in my final year in the university.
How much was your start-up capital?
I started the company as an independent developer in my hostel at the university. This was before an investment company reached out to me since I was already doing well. They invested a seed capital, which gave Gamesole room to experiment and figure out a business model.
Did you get funds or grants from other sources?
We received an investment from 88MPH, which is an accelerator programme. We also got a grant from Microsoft Africa.
What challenges did you face at the beginning of this venture?
It was difficult starting a company from a Nigerian university because of the infrastructure that were not available to the average citizen at the time. That’s why when an investment company from Nairobi contacted me, I decided to move to the tech hub in Kenya.
What kind of games do you produce?
We produce mainly casual games for both mobile phones and computers.
What did you do differently to become successful?
What I did was very simple. I took hold of opportunities that came my way and partnered with the right people.
You were in the pioneer set of the Google Student Ambassador Programme in 2011…
My responsibility in the Google Student Ambassador Programme was to create IT-related activities in my university, help up-and-coming computer programmers by giving support and information about Google products and how to use them.
You are a recipient of numerous awards including being mentioned in the 2016 Forbes under 30 list. How did you feel being so honoured?
It inspired me to do more and be more, I realised that people see your work and observe your ethics even without your knowledge. Now I do my work bearing in mind that I am a role model for the younger generation.
What is the place of mentorship in the lives of youths?
As a young person, it is important to have a mentor that is available to you, because mentorship is as important as the mentor’s presence. Having a Rockefeller as a mentor is not a bad idea, but what is the use if you cannot sit and gain personal knowledge from him? Find knowledgeable persons who you’d have access to and who have done well in the field you’re interested in and allow them to guide you. Also, do not be afraid to move on from a mentor if you have learnt what you need to learn.
What are your goals for the company in the next five years?
We have a vision to communicate with children through television and games from a very early stage. We want to create content that they can identify with; characters that they see themselves in, names they know, stories they can relate to and basically a representation of their immediate environment. Considering that children are impressionable and learn a lot from television, it is important that what they see is a representation of themselves. So, creating local animation and games will create a positive outlook on their identities.
Who are your role models?
I have a lot of them. Fusajiro Yamauchi, the founder of Nintendo is one of them. The company started with card games and has been able to evolve from that to arcade, mobile and so much more. Till date, it is still the biggest gaming company by revenue after 127 years of existence. The meaning of the Japanese word, Nintendo (leave luck to heaven) says a lot about his mindset and his belief, which is something I admire. He believes in hard work and not luck, which is similar to the Gamsole culture.
How would you encourage youths who want to emulate you?
Pay attention to details. Don’t follow the crowd but instead, trust their ideas. Take advantage of the 21st century advancement in technology and explore because the Internet has made it such that you can learn anything from anywhere. There are so many resources online and forums from all over the world full of the brightest individuals who are willing to share their knowledge with you. Learn coding and invest in a computer.
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