Invention is an idea; innovation gives you products and services. Fixing the transportation paralysis in Lagos remains a challenge in our nation’s largest economy. Many have postulated how different ideas could help: have a water-based transportation system, have a subway system, move some parts of Lagos to another state, and more. Of course, when you check most of the suggestions, it comes down to political actions at both local and state levels.
But things in Nigeria do not just happen at the jet speed – they crawl when governments drive them. That does not mean you should always blame governments – most times, they have limited resources, despite the huge challenges that abound. The implication is thus: they have to prioritize, and too bad, traffic continues to drain the economic energy of Lagos.
Interestingly, few months ago, I met a company that was doing something in the space: Gokada. The startup is a co-pioneering on-demand motorbike hailing service which makes it easier to move from one location in Lagos to another. The young people there pursued a solution to a market friction, and in less than a year, built a recognizable brand in Lagos.
When they celebrated their first year of service to Lagosians, I visited them in their Ilupeju headquarters during my last visit to Lagos. There, I met the head of the team, Deji Oduntan, who communicated his vision that motorbike was just the entry point into the broad transportation opportunity. They have a really nice artwork where they declared “The Future is Green”. Gokada is that green – very fascinating futuristic vision I must note.
So, I was shocked when I read that Deji had left. It does happen – they always have things ahead. Who knows – he may announce something new in days: fintech, edutech, agtech, insurtech, VC funds, etc. While he gets my wishes to his future [no company statement yet of reason and possible next thing], let me examine what has happened in this sector and Gokada over the last one year he ran the show.
I’m Deji Oduntan, Co-Founder and former CEO of Gokada, an innovative motorcycle taxi startup that has taken Lagos and soon, the rest of Nigeria, by storm. Yes, former CEO. I can confirm that I’ve indeed left the company, and as finally announced, Gokada recently raised its Series A round of funding, an achievement that took a great deal of my time and effort, which I now fondly consider one of the best parting gifts I could’ve given.
- My understanding is that Gokada co-pioneered this sector by professionalizing the regular okada domain. Yes, they utilized aggregation construct and unlocked huge value for the stakeholders. Today, Nigeria has at least five motorcycle taxi players including MAX. Simply, Deji and his team stimulated a latent industry and opened new areas for investors to deploy capital and create opportunities in the nation. That they created such impacts within a year is commendable. The sector Gokada plays is going to become more active across Nigeria in coming years.
- If anyone had told me that something like this can be done in Nigeria that quickly, I would not have believed. But the day I rode a bike in Victoria Island to meet an important meeting reminded me why innovation is key. Finding a roadmap to separate the amalgam of okadas in Lagos, and creating a unique brand along the way is not easy. That Deji and team did that demonstrate capability on awareness and observation in the market opportunity.
When I visited their HQ office, I noted they planned to get female riders in the game. They have setup a Driver Training School to train new drivers. The idea of training is critical because anything happens on the Nigerian roads with okada drivers. So, finding a nexus to have professionally trained drivers was strategic for Gokada. And getting women into the sector is great for economic equality.
Running a business of this type is never easy – you have to have statistical models to ensure supply and demand are well managed. That can come via decentralization of drivers while ensuring that originating and transit locations must offer you volume to attain sustainable equilibrium point. To get the best drivers, you may even have to have the recruitment localized while making sure their locations are strategic in the hub where the business runs.
This is not Uber or Bolt – this is Gokada. It is a very great example of Aggregation Construct which actually worked locally. The scale of many elements that must align and how they were able to piece them together within a year to great the brand bring optimism that Nigerians can build category-king companies not just locally but internationally.
To Deji Oduntan, who executed this with his team, he just opened a Pandora box in this sector – I expect great things to continue to happen in the industry. The Future is Green may include Black, Red, and Blue with the end goal being that traffic frictions are fixed across the streets in Nigerians.
We will be checking what comes next for the exiting CEO. Nigeria needs people that can kickstart new sectors and expand our economic growth. And build to glory, at scale.