The Story of Boye Oshinaga: CEO Gradely
If you have never been to Africa or encountered an African, you may be wondering what an African youth looks like. I will advise you not to paint a picture from the bushman story you’ve once heard because this demographic and what they have in their minds will blow you up.
Let me start with one story about an African edutech-preneur in Nigeria, West Africa. His name is Boye Oshinaga. Boye is the co-founder and CEO of Gradely, an online platform that uses AI to curate practice questions and produce video lessons for continental and international certificate examinations.
Boye’s ability to create and hold alternate realities not just in the novels he read extensively or the ones he wrote but also in the video games that he occupied himself with as a teenager, was one of a few things that sparked his interest in the field of science and technology. When it was time to pick an undergraduate course of study, he opted for Computer Science at the Obafemi Awolowo University in Ile-Ife, western Nigeria.
Boye is also a business mogul at heart who started a book leasing/sales service during his secondary school (high school) days. Again, the young man also has a passion for education, and these three areas gave him a sense of purpose.
His interest in education was inspired by his observation of his academic performance during secondary schools. According to Boye, he observed an educational classification system employed by some Nigerian secondary schools whereby students are grouped into classes based on their academic performances. Hence, a class has the best performing students while the other often ended up with the worst set of performers, and his school somewhat practised that system, which led to Boye’s struggles in a particular class at some point in secondary school.
“In my former class, I was coming in the first place, and then I was coming in 11th,” Boye told TechCabal.
While trying to break the puzzle as to why students perform differently and why some students perform better than others, these concerns shaped Boye’s decision to take on education as a career path.
As an undergraduate, Boye decided he wanted to teach, but not in a classroom setting. In 2012, he started an online learning and community platform for students from across Africa, called “Youngsoul.”
Boye was able to raise ₦340,000 (US$870.00) by pitching to about 50 friends and classmates, and in addition to a ₦10,000 (US$26.00) sum from his pocket, “Youngsoul” kick-started.
The platform did quite well in Ife and even more so when he took the business to the Nigerian adaptation of online reality television show Dragon’s Den in a bid to raise more funds to sustain its growth. However, his inability to define the business model his company made his company look like a [social] club. So, Boye began to think more deeply about the business and what was missing. He decided he was going to engage more in tech-centred, writing and business competitions representing the school at events like Microsoft’s Imagine Cup.
During a Tech program, he met and had a conversation with the MD and CEO of Venture Garden Group, Bunmi Akinyemiju, who loved what he was doing and his plans for after school. The meeting landed him a job with Venture Garden Group as a consultant for Edutech, which focuses on online university courses.
While working at VGG, Boye was still head bent on finding a viable business model and scaling it, but it remained an issue for him. He tried a few more businesses which didn’t scale through, so he went back to continue with the VGG.
VGG soon obtained the license to provide online learning for the Ahmadu Bello University (ABU) in Zaria, northern Nigeria. Boye led the team to launch the country’s first online MBA programme with ABU, registering 1,000 students in the first tranche.
With a little taste of fintech and his ambition to establish a business model that will scale, Boye launched an ed-tech company called “SchoolsCompass,” which scaled from 300 to 3,000 in justr a year. From this, Boye learnt that there was hope in the ed-tech space.
Knowing this, he launched deeper and then he cofounded Gradely, a tailored learning platform that uses artificial intelligence technology to create learning modules and quizzes specific to each learner.
Boye sits as the Chief Executive Officer of Gradely; he is putting to practice all those years of observing how individuality can be a strong determinant in educational outcomes.
In April 2020 at the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, early-stage investors Microtraction made a USD 25, 000 investment in the company.
So far, over 80 schools have been signed onto the platform.
It is blooming season, as it were, for many ed-tech startups in the country given the realities of the coronavirus pandemic and the uncertainty of school re-openings.
According to Oshinaga, Gradely’s traffic increased tenfold between the end of March and April, and even investors are making contact which wasn’t happening in the past.
There are questions about whether these increases are sustainable or just a temporary fix for both parents and the sector. He says it is certainly not well prepared for the current situation.
However, Boye believes that the impact of the coronavirus and length of time the lockdown lasts will make an indelible impression on the use of technology in education. He says that even if things return to normal and schools begin to re-open, the impact of the edtech sector in changing the way students learn will remain.
“Even when things go back to normal, the schools will remember, the parents will remember, the children will remember,” Oshinaga says adding that he’s had parents call to ask questions like; what if we made school partly online? Why do we have to sit in traffic every day to pick the kids? Why don’t they come back home at 11 am, 12 noon and continue online?