Founder Feature: Eyram Tawia

Sylvana Lewin | Thursday, December 7th, 2017

This week we sat down with Leti Arts CEO Eyram Tawia. Read on to learn how he went from one of the first MEST teaching fellows to one of the first MEST cofounders!

Tell me a bit about your company.

Leti Arts is one of the few early game companies from Africa. We are focused on building videogames and digital comics. About 7 years ago, we embarked on a mission to introduce game development to the continent.

Leti Arts was founded as the first MEST Incubator company by myself and my cofounder Wesley Kirinya with the help of MEST. We build games based on African history and folklore, transforming them into 21st century superheroes. Africa has been flooded with a lot of foreign stories, and now there is a disconnect with our heritage. Our mission is to use storytelling in modern formats to restore pride in African youth.

Why did you come to MEST?

MEST came to me as a place I was supposed to be. I love teaching and impacting people. I remember my dad showing me the first ad for MEST in the newspaper. It was exactly what I love doing. I applied as a trainee, but during the interview I met Jorn and I was made an offer to become the first local teaching fellow. It was like a dream come true. When I came to MEST I received support, became a part of a network, and was able to make an impact. I saw MEST as sharing the same vision and mission as myself.

Eyram with the other two original MEST teaching fellows.

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

It was the place to be. The network, the people, the exposure, the challenge, and the training. I think I was more of a student than a fellow. If you ask any of the fellows, you realize that we learn more than even the EITs!

MEST instilled confidence in me. I was nervous before I came. I was a typical geek, I was scared when I stood in front of a crowd. MEST also gave me the opportunity to know how a business is started. We had a lot of challenges starting the business. It hasn’t been perfect, but the guidance, direction, mentorship, and structure from MEST has been remarkable. The network has been the most valuable thing for Leti Arts because we have met so many people and gained so much support. Having someone who believed in us was also invaluable.

How did you meet your cofounder?  

In 2006, I made a 3D game for my final year thesis, which was based on one of the comics I had written in Junior High School. In 2007, I read that the first 3D game had been made, but it wasn’t me! It was Wesley. So I found him on a blog and told him he needed to do research before he claimed he was the first to do something! He replied apologizing and we started a project together through Yahoo messenger.

I told this story during my MEST interview and the next thing I knew Jorn had Wesley on a plane coming to Ghana. It was Jorn who brought us together. We’d never heard each other’s voices or seen each other before that point. When Wesley came to Ghana, we sat down to discuss how we could make video games after the fellowship. That’s why I say that MEST cannot be taken out of my story. It was such an important part of my journey.

What would you say your greatest success has been?

Looking at how far Leti Arts has come now, the greatest success is the impact we have made. We’ve been able to achieve what we set out to do. Leti Arts is known as a game company from Africa. Jorn came down awhile ago and told us that he was in a museum in Norway and he saw a globe of game companies around the world. He told us that Leti was the only one that showed up in Africa. That to me is success: recognition of the African gaming industry.

What’s your favorite food?

Kenke and hot pepper!

What do you like most about Ghana?

The people! We are free people. I drive to the office and I look around and I’m happy. I love the peace and freedom.

Who is your tech idol?

I grew up with Bill Gates and Steve Jobs as my idols. I wanted to be Bill Gates, but bigger! I had a local idol as well, my cousin. To me that cousin was the best because he could do anything on the computer. He was the one I wanted to be.

Now my idols are all the MEST entrepreneurs. Everyone inspires me so much! Africans need idols on the continent.

Do you have a favorite tech company and why?

Microsoft will always be my favorite tech company. I’ve been loyal to them since day one. Windows was my first OS. I found out about who made Windows and since then I haven’t looked back. Now, I don’t use my Windows technologies as much, but I still have an xBox and I will never buy a PlayStation. Microsoft will always be my favorite tech company because I grew up with them and I admire their technology so much.

Do you have any books about tech you would suggest?

  1. Uncompromising Passion by Eyram Tawia (my book!)
  2. The Art of the Start by Guy Kawasaki
  3. Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson

Who or what inspires you?

Anyone who has passion for what they do. I am infected by people who are passionate. Positive energy also motivates and inspires me.

Jorn is one of the people I always use as an example. That level of passion is something that drives me. He has so much passion for what he does.