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An interview with Babatunde Akin-Moses, CEO of Sycamore, on role as CEO and career development for youth

Babatunde Akin-Moses

Babatunde Akin-Moses is the CEO and cofounder of Sycamore.ng, a Nigerian secured peer-to-peer lending platform.

In this edition of Youth Always (YA) with Aderonke Ogunleti, the CEO speaks about his background, challenges faced building Sycamore.ng and the impacts of having worthwhile relationships and network.

He charges recent graduates and youths to take on opportunities while giving their best in whatever they do.

Sycamore CEO and cofounder YA: Tell us about Babatunde Akin-Moses. Who are you? – highlighting education, places you’ve worked and family?

CEO: I currently run Sycamore.ng. Prior to now, I worked at Shell, KPMG, PwC and Pezesha.

My first degree is in Economics, and I have an MBA from Lagos Business School (LBS). I am also a chartered accountant.
I’m the 2nd of 3 kids and I’m married.
I love to read, write, listen to music, watch movies and play table tennis.

YA: What is Sycamore.ng? How old is Sycamore.ng?

CEO: Sycamore.ng is a peer to peer lending platform which connects lenders and borrowers (individuals and SMEs). We will be 2 years in March 2021

YA: Moving from being an employee to an entrepreneur, how has the journey been?

CEO: Very interesting and adventurous I must confess! Starting a new business is like a baby – you know how babies require all your attention initially. So that’s how it is – taking up all my attention and learning along the way (at least until we grow).

It can feel overwhelming sometimes as there are so many people counting on you – customers, co-workers, vendors, etc. But I’m learning to take it one step at a time.

Sycamore YA: How has Sycamore been able to raise funds so far? Bootstrapping or investors?

CEO: To be honest, it’s a little bit of both. But for the first year, it was bootstrapping and money raised from friends and family.

YA: What’s Sycamore’s cutting edge as regards the competition?

CEO: I would say our very quick turn around time and obsessive attention to customer needs. We go the extra mile to ensure that customers are attended to as quickly as possible. There are very few Fintech(s) in Nigeria that can disburse business loans as fast as we do.

YA: How have you been able to build your clientele and how has it been paying off so far?

CEO: It’s been mostly organic to tell you the truth. We started off by basically reaching out to people we know, and offering them great service. They started telling people and the chain continues. Interesting, we’ve done very little adverts.

Our approach has paid off very well. We have since registered thousands of customers and disbursed over a billion naira to individuals and businesses since inception.

YA: Awesome, you would agree your network really helped a great deal?

CEO: Of course! Network is one of the most important factors in us making it this far.

Without the relationships built from schools I’ve attended, places I’ve worked and family/friends, it would have been much more difficult. It’s not something I take for granted because I know many are not as fortunate. So I feel blessed and lucky to have such a good network.

Sycamore teamSEE ALSO: Leading Logistics Company GIGL Launches Cost Effective Delivery Plan for e-Commerce Merchants

YA: Covid-19 was quite challenging, was it a blessing in disguise or were you affected?

CEO: As a matter of fact, we had to stop lending initially due to the lockdown. We also had to give people moratoriums (grace period for loan repayment), because we knew their business was shut down.

Thankfully, business picked up quite quickly even before the end of the lockdown. Added to the fact that most of our operations are online, we were able to refocus our efforts by restricting lending to essential sectors like healthcare and others. That’s how we were able to thrive.

YA: Interesting, that’s a lot of gems and progress. So, as a startup, what are the challenges faced so far? I mean considering loan repayment and the Nigerian people’s attitude to refunding.

SEE ALSO: Nubank CEO shares secret how company acquired over 20 million costumers in two years

CEO: Frankly speaking, it’s really a function of the controls you put in place. Anywhere in the world, people will not pay if you don’t put systems in place to ensure they do. Besides, taking a loan from a business is contractual and might come with certain repercussions if payment is not made. So it’s different from just borrowing money from a friend, where there is no legal obligation to pay back.

One of the things we do, is ensure that there are multiple ways to get payment automatically, hence it’s less hassle for the customer to pay, or dodge payment.

YA: Moving on to career development, what advice would you give to youths out there, in terms of building their career and what opportunities to look out for? Here, we would love you to be as practical as possible.

CEO: I would say mark out an area you are interested in, or a skill you already have, and look for ways to get into that industry. The first step would be by learning all there is about that area, forging relationships with those there, and if possible attend related events. The internet and social media has made this possible. Then start to aggressively apply for work in such areas.

In the event that a job is not forthcoming, just get yourself a job, even if it is free, and start learning.

It doesn’t make sense for a fresh graduate to be idle. It might not be one’s ideal job, but it will be a stepping stone to somewhere greater if one does his/her best.

In any event, one must commit to delivering excellence at all times.
Last but not the least, there’s no need to rush into entrepreneurship. Use some years to get some work experience first.

Babatunde Akin-Moses CHECK OUT: Nubank CEO shares secret how company acquired over 20 million costumers in two years

YA: You will agree that a lot is being said about mentorship as a missing block in the current dispensation. And, that this has also been linked to the drastic fall in the development and growth of our ever increasing youth force. How do you see mentorship in the equation of nation building? And, are you open to mentorship?

CEO: I think that the importance of mentorship cannot be overstated. Everybody needs someone more experienced that they can always look up to. Call it mentorship, coaching or whatever, that more experienced person is key.

It is possible to get mentors without necessarily requesting that someone should be a mentor. It is about constantly engaging such a person respectfully, and adding value to their lives when possible. So it’s not a one way relationship.

I am definitely open to mentorship. In fact, I already have some mentees of some sort – even though it’s not necessarily a formal mentorship arrangement.

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About the author

Youth Art Initiative

Youth Art Initiative (YAI) NG is a youth-led social enterprise with an ambition to develop the youth force and their immediate communities through the facilitation of various empowerment programmes.

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