Interview #3 : Eden Life

This series features talented founders in our portfolio.

Our third interviewee is Nadayar ENEGESI, Co-Founder and CEO of Eden Life Inc.

Eden Life is a superapp that puts home services on autopilot. (meal preparation, cleaning, laundry etc.) for busy workers in Lagos, Nigeria.

We asked Nadayar about his entrepreneurship journey till today, what led him to found a company, and how he sees himself as the founder as well as the company in the future.

1)Tell me about yourself, how your entrepreneurship mindset was cultivated?

I’ve been living in Lagos since 2014 when I moved to start Andela. Ever since I started living here, I realized how hard a life in Lagos was. My other co-founders all worked at Andela together around 2014–2018, and they had the same opinions as mine. However, we decided to stay in Nigeria because something interesting was happening here — the future of Africa is going to be built here over the next decade.

To enjoy our life in Nigeria, we wanted to build new cities, with systems that make living here enjoyable and sustainable. To build new cities, we need a lot of capital, but we didn’t have such money nor have real estate/urban planning background. Instead, we have our software and technology background and eventually we settled on the idea that we deal with people who have difficulties due to the infrastructure, and provide a service that lets them relax when they come back home.

What happens now is that many households hire household helpers, but it is always difficult to work with them, coordinating what time they are showing up, addressing the chores and making sure tasks are to be done, and quality was the issue as well. However, since there is no reputation system existing, household helpers were not incentivized to do a better job.

So we were thinking if there is any way that we can build something that allows people to outsource home services. By implementing the reputation system, users can see the reviews of the household helpers, and household helpers can get good reviews if they do the job properly. In any case if something goes wrong, our company can guarantee to take a necessary action to make sure users are satisfied with the services.

2) What do you love the most about your job? What makes you feel that it was the right path that you chose?

I love what I am doing. First of all, it’s new. We have a unique opportunity to have an outsized level of impact because no one has brought the benefits of technology and venture to this industry here.

One of the places Eden will have an outsized impact on is the general service culture in Africa. Because of what we are doing, the bar for acceptable service quality will go up — both for consumers’ expectations and the abilities of service providers.

I would say on a day-to-day basis whenever I see positive reviews from customers, it makes me really happy. We are always improving the product, and whenever I see customers confirm that progress, it makes me super happy and fulfilled. These are the things that I love about my job.

3)Being the founder of the company, what was the most difficult thing that you have faced in the past? How did you solve that problem?

Our toughest challenges come from any external dependency that we need to work with. Anytime, we have to work with a third-party for something that is core to our operations, and we suffer from it a lot. It is challenging because in those moments, our hands are tied, but we have to do something because it is not acceptable for us to just do nothing. Those are really challenging because sometimes there are no easy answers on how to handle situations like that. These days we focus on doing great work on any process we control, and we have incentives/penalties for external partners to hold them accountable to doing great work as well.

I would say the other challenge that we have is — we are building a company that is sitting at the intersection of physical infrastructure, human dependency, and technology. We have to constantly innovate across these three areas. We iterate very fast on technology and human processes, and occasionally we have to innovate around physical infrastructure. For example, we have built technology that manages food production in-house, and the tech is used by humans and improved on weekly based on their feedback. Meanwhile, we have a physical kitchen space where we’ve made considerable modifications in a very short timeframe. In the next few months, we are either opening up a second kitchen or moving to a bigger kitchen and then we also have to think about what we have learned in this small space that we need to transfer to that place. If I use the word ‘challenging,’ I use it for the fact that we have to innovate across these three dimensions over time.

4) What are the lessons that you have learned from the past experience and that you are applying to build the company right now?

One big thing is focusing on culture. At our previous company Andela, we had a very amazing culture like everybody was excited to come to work every day. So that is something that we have intentionally created here from day one. We are building a good company where all team members know that their company is good, we are not going to be fighting any political game and you don’t get promoted because of how well you talk or how nice you look. At a good company, you get more responsibility based on your efforts and results that you get, that is a very big focus for us here.

Another thing around the culture is also in a way that the company takes care of its employees as well, so we are building an environment where it is clear to everybody that the company is on your side. It is not like employees versus management, everybody knows what our goal is and that we’re working together to achieve it. We want to make sure that 5 years from now, the company is successful, and at the same time, people who built the company also see the success in their life. That because of their great work, they are learning, advancing in their career, have an incredible network, and feeling fulfilled. Or the stock options that they had has now made them millionaires overnight. That is the kind of company that we want to build. Importance of building a culture is the biggest lesson that we are applying from Andela to here.

Another thing is the use of data. At my previous company, we knew the importance of data, but we only invested in it 2 years after and it made a massive difference. So at Eden, from day 1, we paid attention to data. We measure everything we can measure. Even if the system to measure it is not ideal at first, we would measure it first and then iterate it on the system to get better accurate measurements over time.

Third thing is establishing the brand image. Andela has successfully established a very, very good brand. Everybody wanted a piece of it. I don’t really think we have put much effort into our brand at Eden now, so we’ll be investing more there in the coming months

Those three things are what I learnt from experience. The first two, the culture and use of data, we are already applying a lot of it here. Then we would likely invest more heavily in our brand soon. Once we are confident about our product, then we are going to 100% invest in the brand.

5) What kind of support do you want to receive from investors?

I think the support that founders need is one that will get them to the next level. So for example, for a founder that just has an idea or a prototype, what they are really thinking about, is if I get into YC, the level of my company is going to change. So, if they have pre-seed investors, how do those investors help them get into that stage. It could be by reviewing the application, by helping them rethink the business model, or by helping them to get into the program somehow.

Then every founder is looking for customers, so it is possible for the investors to provide this kind of strategic relationships that are going to lead to having more customers.

Another interesting need — which I also have — is we use a bunch of different tools like, we use Slack, Intercom, Mailchimp, GSuite, Notion. It all adds up overtime, and if there were ways to reduce those operating costs to become cheaper, as a result of the likely influence of the investors, that would be huge.

Rena Yoneyama(Samurai Incubate Inc.) & Nadayar ENEGESI (Eden Life)

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Samurai Incubate’s global blog

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SAMURAI INCUBATE AFRICA

SAMURAI INCUBATE AFRICA

Samurai Incubate is a Tokyo-based venture capital firm with strong conviction for founders in Africa.

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