Founder Feature: Julius Odai

Sylvana Lewin | Thursday, October 26th, 2017

This week we sat down with the CPO of MEST Incubator company DevLess, Julius Odai. Read on to learn why he believes MEST is so good at creating software entrepreneurs, why he wants to be the next Mark Zuckerburg, and more!

Julius Odai with his Co-Founders at MEST during the DevLess hackathon last weekend.

Where are you from?

Accra, Ghana – specifically Nungua, which is by the sea.

Tell us a bit about DevLess.

DevLess helps developers build solutions faster and at lower costs. As far as tech is concerned, development can basically be divided into two phases: the frontend and the backend. The frontend is what you see and the experience, while the backend is where a lot of the functionalities happen. We want to make it possible for developers to focus on the frontend while we tackle the backend because generally the backend is tedious.

We want developers to develop less and not have to repeat themselves. We want to provide the components that are common amongst platforms. If you look at social media platforms, you realize they have certain features in common. You can post a comment, you can like posts, you can share posts. If a developer wants to build a new social media platform, our question is why should he or she write code to handle these components all over again. We want to be the platform that provides them with these components so that they don’t have to do it themselves. DevLess is always seeking to improve upon the platform so that developers won’t have to write a lot of code to handle what they do.

Why did you come to MEST?

I came to MEST because I wanted to build a globally successful company. After university, I started a web design company, which was quite successful. I heard about MEST and realized it was an opportunity to formalize what I had already learned on my own as well as equip myself with the skills that I needed to build the next big thing. Although I had taught myself web design and programming, I didn’t have a teacher to help me learn the most advanced and newest concepts. MEST was an institution where I could come, have formal training, and become better at what I was already doing. The funding also caught my attention because I knew that once I came to MEST if I was able to build a good solution, I would have the support to improve it.

How did MEST help get you to where you are today?

I learned almost everything from MEST. We were taught about networking, KPIs, marketing, business, modeling, even how to write effective emails. MEST has a goal of creating successful tech entrepreneurs. This was what I wanted to become, and while at the training program I was trained to become just that. MEST helped as everything was well structured to allow us to become what we wanted to be.

What do you wish you had known as an EIT? Do you have any advice for this year’s group?

My advice to the current EITs is that they should make the most of this time as they won’t get an opportunity like this again. They should learn as much as they can.

If you could go back in time to when you were just starting your company, what would you tell yourself?

I would tell myself not to make assumptions. When we were starting, we made a lot of assumptions. We thought that there would be a lot of customers from the beginning and made a lot of assumptions based on that. Once we started, we realized it doesn’t work that way.

You have to face reality and modify the kinds of assumptions you already had.

What have been some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced while at MEST? How did you get past these challenges?

The biggest challenge at the MEST Incubator has been taking up a role that I didn’t have experience in. I have to learn day by day. In the beginning, I watched a lot of tutorials, read articles and books, and took advantage of any resource I believed could help me become what I want to be. I have also made mistakes and learnt from them.

Another challenge has been facing reality. When you are preparing business models, you may make assumptions, but once you start the business you are not working with assumptions – you are working with hard facts and the truth. You can’t lie your way into success. You just have to face reality as it is and adjust.

What would you say is your greatest success?

My greatest success has been starting DevLess with my team.

What’s your favorite food?

Red red.

What do you like most about Ghana?

The hospitality. People are just willing to help. If you get lost and need someone to give you directions, you can always ask someone.

What is your favorite memory from your time at MEST?

My favorite memory at MEST is my first pitch. I hadn’t stood in front of people to do a presentation before. I’m shy and at a point I froze while I was pitching, but I had to recover and proceed. I believe in faking it to make it. I may be shy, but I won’t let you know that.

Who is your tech idol? Why?

Mark Zuckerburg. It’s amazing that he was able to build something like Facebook that we’re all addicted to. I want to be like him.

Do you have any books about tech that you would suggest?

  1. Hooked by Nir Eyal
  2. The Lean Startup by Eric Ries
  3. Blue Ocean Strategy by W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne
  4. Traction by Gabriel Weinberg and Justin Mares

Who/what inspires you?

I’m inspired when I see people do what they’re not naturally capable of doing. It tells me that I can do anything if I work at it. It also really inspires me when I see people overcome barriers that limit them to achieve something great.