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Meet Pascal Okeke, South East Technology Evangelist

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“Seeing Developers and startup founders migrate to Lagos on daily basis makes me think of what will become of us in the next few years if we don’t do something to build an ecosystem of our own”.

. Exposure, investors’ network are what we need

The Chief Executive Officer of BigCode.ng, Pascal Okeke has voiced his opinion on how to get on track, the startups in the South Eastern part of Nigeria.

The Easterners have demonstrated entrepreneurial spirit in many fronts, but are believed to be mostly economic migrants; lacking in economic diplomacy too. Pascal believes a time for paradigm shift has come which must tilt towards investment in tech startups.

In this interview with TechEconomy.ng, he stressed that two major factors required to boost the morale of these startups anchor on exposure and investor network.

He believes the region should develop a template to assist the young startups develop confidence as against the present situation of looking outward to other regions for survival.

The Anambra-based technology entrepreneur is the Goggle Developer Group Lead in the State; Convener of #StartUpAnambra; CTO at Extraclass; Consultant at TripArcher; State ICT Director at National Youth Council of Nigeria; Coach at Django Girls; State Director for ICT at Nigerian Youth Chamber of Commerce; CEO at Bigcode, among others. Pascal believes in developing women talents in technology as means for economic growth. He discussed about Bigcode.ng and general talent development.  

Pascal, how do you combine all this and remain on top of your beat?

First, I understand that human beings are multitasking in nature. So I try as much as I can to activate that module and know the core functionalities. (Laughs) I run a digital and technology company – Bigcode and over the years, I have learnt how to set my priorities right as well as manage my time. This has helped me so well in handling and scheduling responsibilities for each and every of my engagements. Again some of these offices use same network and algorithm, so i practically use the network without hassle.

What’s the most important thing you’re working on right now, and how are you making it happen?

Hmmm, I am engaged with lots of work/products now but let me talk about the one we are about Launching. That is Extraclass. Extraclass has graduated from being just a marketplace for hiring expert home tutors to being a Global Edtech platform. Though all the new features will evolve with the beta version.
First, it is not easy working with a team of ‘All Female’ developers on a huge project like this but to me it’s an experience as well as opportunity for me to also see that really, women are good.

Trust me, in the next couple of Months, Nigeria, Africa as well as the whole world will hear of our long time hard work.

What was your first code/product like compared to your most recent?
I can swear that I wasn’t the one that wrote that first code/product. (Laughs)
Though I started as a hardware developer, but when I joined software development, it was as if I re-enrolled in a kindergarten school. But am happy we started from creating simple apps to more complex systems. We started from building solutions for clients to owning products of our own.

How do you develop talent?

I like smart people and one of the things I cherish is if those Smart people are also innovative and passionate about what they believed in as well as result driven. During my undergraduate days, I started a students’ club where we exchange skills on a knowledge chain algorithm. When I left school, I needed to replicate that model in the outside world with lots of new features. That’s my reason for starting the #StartupAnambra community. We wanted to change the narrative; we wanted to build a community of creative people. We wanted to rewrite our story and anybody who feels he’s in for the game automatically becomes my friend. With this, I can be part of what you do to changing your cause as well as contribute my own very little quota.

What gets you out of bed in the morning?

I think the right question should be, ‘Do you ever sleep’? Anyway, I don’t have a particular sleeping timetable. I don’t differentiate my days from the nights. So falling back to your question- passion, focus and the desire to succeed and keep legacies to the upcoming generation does that. It’s simple, I am a passionate goal-oriented, focused individual and these things give me sleepless nights.

If you sold BigCode today, what would be the tone of the conversation? What would you want to gain? What would you want to avoid losing?

Selling Bigcode is out of it. I never had that in Mind and wouldn’t. First Bigcode is a Limited Liability company owned by some shareholders and co-founders, so it will be very hard for them to decide to sell it but if it eventually happens, I will find a way and attach myself to other brands. I have built/building. Lots of young people believe in me; so I wouldn’t let go of that grip. It will be one of my greatest lost.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years based on – BigCode, StartupAnambra, and other platforms you manage?

In the next Five Years, Bigcode will be the leading Technological Company providing innovative solutions to Africa’s problem.
StartupAnambra must have birthed lots of brands and businesses that contribute back to raising another generation of young entrepreneurs. I am much optimistic of what the future holds for us. As for other platforms like Extraclass and Scratch, those guys are already making names for themselves and in five years time, we will not just be the biggest brands in Nigeria solving specific problems, but we will live in the heart of every well meaning Nigerian.

How much capital have you raised and when do we expect cash flow to get to next level?

I manage to sustain myself. I am cashless as I work to put more into the platforms we are building. Once we can be able to fly any of the platforms, we expect cash flow. When we have built values in our several products and provide the contents we need as well as the traction expected, we are making progress.

What actually inspired you to join the startup buzz?

I have traveled far and wide to make a way for myself; I discovered that there are some things that exist there, but are lacking in my domain, I felt there is something I am not doing right. Again, seeing Developers as well as startup founders migrate to Lagos on daily basis makes me think of what will become of us in the next few years if we don’t do something to build an ecosystem of our own.  I felt the responsibility starting out kept knocking on my door.

Sometime ago you posted on facebook: “Sometimes you have to sacrifice your favourite things to achieve greater results”. So, would you hire as fast as you would fire your best friend from your company?

The relationship between me and my friend will have nothing to do with Brand Bigcode. If I find my friend worthy to work with us and he ended up not living to expectation and the only option we had was to fire him. I will gladly append my signature in his Sack Letter.

What kind of person will succeed at BigCode?

Anybody who is passionate about building a future for his/her generation.

How well do you know about the tech ecosystem before marshalling out your plans, commercial strategy and how do you plan to make money?

I have been coding since 2008 and have helped companies and brands grow. Over the years, I have watched companies solving one problem or the other but have not been able to solve one myself (aside paid solutions). So, I decided to pick up a sector and solve the problem the way no one has ever thought of solving it.

Paraventure BigCode fails, what happens next?

First Bigcode is my poorest firm. I run a couple of other firms as well as some offline businesses. These are building redundant money routes and trust me, if paraventure Bigcode fails, I will gladly walk away with my booth.

Do you think BigCode is in synch with tech culture in the region and country at large?

Sure, we are.

We noticed you have passion for developing women talents in IT, what is the motive?

I develop women as well as men but with greater passion for women. The reason is simple: Women gave birth to every generation. If our mothers are developers, entrepreneurs as well as smart business owners, then even at infant stage, they will pass such trait into our life and we will definitely grow. I was raised by a woman who loves giving back to the society and today, I am a direct replica of her. Teach women and teach the generation. Teach men and teach just a person.

If we have more women succeed, it will reduce the level of dependency. Encourage more women to think innovatively and challenging men to sit up and be smarter.

Why do you think some startups fail, while other succeed, even in Nigeria?

Any startup who fails to innovate, place passion and growth ahead of winning grants and investments is directly proportional to failure. I have watched some startups come onboard and fail while if similar startup is being replicated in other places will succeed.

When you compare South East and other regions in terms of tech development, what actually comes to your mind?

Let’s watch out for SouthEast in the year 2021. I am not interested in what is happening now. In the ecosystem (Startup Anambra) where I champion, lots of startup founders are volunteering and currently we have the largest startup ecosystem and with each passing day, we see new sets of innovative brands being rolled out from their tables. The Only challenge we have is exposure and investors network. But once that is conquered, watch out from us.