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OkHi launches in Nigeria to help businesses grow through smart addressing system

OkHi is a smart addressing system that functions across all sectors including e-commerce, healthcare, among others, to make physical location of consumers seamless, helping businesses provide better services and ultimately thrive.

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Timbo Drayson, founder, OkHi
Timbo Drayson, the co-founder and CEO of OkHi

With a clear mission to enable over half of the world, 4 billion people, without a physical address, OkHi has launched operations in Nigeria to solve the lack of an adequate system that addresses this issue, costing the world’s economy over $200 billion a year.

Founded in 2014, OkHi was first launched in Kenya. The company created a smart addressing system that essentially enables anyone with a smartphone to get an accurate verified address, which can be used to get access to services including opening a bank account, delivery and ambulance services, among others.

Timbo Drayson, the co-founder and CEO of OkHi has garnered experience from Google, where he led the launch of Google maps across emerging markets.

It was very interesting to see how differently the product worked in different markets. The businesses of people using Google maps had a much better experience, so that was my first insight.”

After seven years of working with Google, Drayson took a sabbatical and utilised this opportunity to travel around East and West Africa. This was when he encountered the problems caused by the lack of a physical addressing system.

I ultimately experienced this problem first hand,” he said.

Challenges

Challenges

Drayson faced the problem of making an order and spending half of his time explaining directions to the individual making his delivery. Another instance was in getting a sim card and a physical agent was sent to his doorstep to verify his address.

The third instance that boosted Drayson’s desire to solve the issue in question was when he spoke to a Red Cross ambulance service driver who had issues locating the address of a patient and on finally getting to the location, the patient was dead.

I believe that a physical address is a human right, it’s part of your identity and everyone surely deserves to have one. I realised that this was a much bigger problem.”

Drayson quit his job at Google, moved to Kenya and co-founded OkHi to work on the company’s mission.

While Drayson took this big step, leaving a country, the United Kingdom, where he had colleagues, friends and family, to Africa, where he had no one, wasn’t an easy task.

Drayson sold his shares at Google and this enabled him to build up finances for the establishment of OkHi, before raising funds from investors later on.

Driving force

When you see these problems and experience them first hand, you see the opportunity for the impact they could have on the world.”

To Drayson, these problems are a motivating force that has surpassed all hurdles encountered by the OkHi team since its inception.

Speaking further on OkHi’s team, Drayson said:

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One of the key goals from the beginning was to find a group of co-founders and I found a brilliant team most of whom were Kenyans. I had one friend who came to visit me for a month and never left. We assembled a really amazing team to oversee the business.”

Why Africa?

OkHi

OkHi

As an entrepreneur, there are so many problems to solve and I think that’s very true from an entrepreneurial perspective.”

Drayson explained that entrepreneurs who see problems as opportunities and can solve them profitably will be able to build valuable businesses.

“On top of that, it’s a lifestyle, we wouldn’t be here to start a company if we weren’t happy. I found living in Kenya and now Nigeria, to be an incredible life experience. I’m happy and I find the people incredibly hospitable. I feel at home here.”

This problem is not confined to Africa

This addressing issue is a global problem. Drayson noted that businesses from around the world have contacted OkHi, talking about the address verification challenges they have.

The Middle East and even developed countries like the UAE do not have a form of physical addressing system. South America and Asian countries including India and Indonesia are not excluded.”

Currently, Drayson and his team are 100% focused on leveraging OkHi’s innovation to solve addressing problems in Nigeria and once success is achieved to a commendable stage in the country, the company will scale globally.

Big decisions do not come without challenges

Drayson pointed out three key challenges faced in Nigeria:

1. The team

How do you find and retain the best talents?

I’ve experienced working with people here that are better than the engineers I worked with at Google, but finding and retaining them is the challenge,” Drayson said.

We have been able to resolve the issue by having this very big powerful mission that gives everyone a sense of purpose. It’s not going to motivate everyone but if it does motivate you, then it really does start from you. People become very focused, giving us a reason to turn up to work and a sense of purpose beyond just work, but even in our lives.”

OkHi

All you need is a smartphone

OkHi is based on five company values used as a dedicated interview to ensure the right coach is chosen to join in achieving the company’s goals. These values are also used as a guiding principle to ensure the team continually operates and makes the best decisions, “it’s like the DNA of the business,” Drayson said.

This also helps us build and maintain the right talent in and around our values which is about being bold, being open, growing together and enjoying your journey.”

2. Good network effects
Noting the second challenge, Drayson said:

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“We are a smart addressing system that connects consumers with the OkHi address to businesses that require users’ physical addresses to provide a better service.”

We are this two-sided platform and like any two-sided platform, we face this chicken and egg problem; when you start your business in a new country where you have no customers or businesses, it is a real challenge to get to a tipping point.”

OkHi is solving this problem through absolute focus, not trying to solve the issue all over the world at the same time.

In fact, we’re very focused today, on serving a certain network of population type in Nigeria and that’s a very important focus to help us get to that tipping point.”

3. Funding
The third issue pointed out by Drayson was the challenge of finances.

If you’re a business that hasn’t reached that tipping point, it’s very difficult to raise money.”

We have managed to raise over $4,000,000 today and there’s a lot of learning and best practices but ultimately, it’s perseverance that has enabled us to raise that money and to keep knocking on investors’ doors. If an investor says no, we just understand why, move on and take that as learning. We are thankful that we have a group of investors that believe in our business and add value not just in terms of money but advice,” Drayson stated.

Cybersecurity

Cybersecurity

Cybersecurity

Cybersecurity is a major concern globally. The increased digital transformation has brought this issue to business owners and customers in both the private and public sectors. Putting this into consideration, Drayson says it has been at the forefront of building OkHi from the beginning.

One of the problems that consumers face today is giving out their physical addresses to lots of businesses, for purposes including delivery or the bank. “You actually have no transparency into how the data is being used and no control over that because it’s distributed across all these different services.”

This brings about security challenges and is a very high risk. Beyond data privacy, you have to share the location of where you live which is sensitive information that shouldn’t get into the wrong hands.

What we see at OkHi is a huge opportunity to solve that problem by being this centralised addressing solution. We can give you the transparency of who you’re sharing your address with, and the control to turn it on or off. We’re going to work really hard to ensure your data is private and secure to you.”

We see a hug opportunity to add value at a very critical time in the world where data privacy and security is becoming an issue.”

Uniqueness

Uniqueness

Standing out

According to Drayson, one of the core reasons why the team decided to focus on Nigeria is the fast-growing fintech sector in the country.

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Rather than competitors, Drayson says these fintech companies and banks are OkHi’s customers and partners.

As part of the KYC regulations to onboard customers, every financial service needs a verified customer address. This data can give them a competitive advantage in lots of ways.

Today, address verification is a challenge. Financial services companies have to send physical agents to the doorsteps of customers to confirm such information. This in turn costs money and time.

Even when using utility bills, over half of the potential customers do not have these bills in their names. “This limits the growth of financial institutions.”

OkHi is this thin verification layer that provides services to fintech companies and banks, enabling them to ultimately grow faster and access more customers.”

OkHi’s infrastructure is similar to that of payment company, Flutterwave, helping businesses grow.

It is worthy of note that the vision of OkHi goes beyond just fintech, banks and financial services. “Our goal is to be among the top three Nigerian core addressing infrastructure. That means we are enabling any business to use our smart addressing system services; e-commerce, delivery, ride-hailing business and most importantly, the healthcare industry.”

Reiterating OkHi’s mission to enable the inclusion of over four billion people who do not have a physical address, Drayson said the aim is to enable over 50,000,000 unbanked adults in Nigeria to get an OkHi address and be financially included in the world.

One of the biggest challenges of financial inclusion is trust, added to the fact that the world is going digital, unlike initially when you walk into the bank and have physical interactions.

Addressing inclusion is the power of identity inclusion which then enables financial inclusion. We create the addressing infrastructure to properly unlock the financial services to bank the unbanked. However, we can’t go after everyone in Nigeria at the same time.”

Hence, OkHi is taking a gradual step to expand its services across the country.

Conclusively, Drayson emphasised: “OkHi is free to consumers and will always be free.”

The company gets its return by charging businesses every time they utilise its technology, which provides a faster, more robust and affordable service.

​Joan Aimuengheuwa is a content writer who takes keen interest in the scopes of innovation among African startups. She thrives at meeting targets and expectations. Contact: [email protected]

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