Nosa Omusi, Friday October 26th 2018

On the 19th of October, Seedstars held the Nigeria edition of its global startup competition, Seedstars World. Seedstars World promotes, connects and invests in emerging market startups though its exclusive startup competition, with finals held in Switzerland. This year, one startup will be chosen from each of the eighty regional competitions and get a shot at the grand prize of $1,000,000 in equity investment.

MEST portfolio startup Dropque emerged the winner of the Lagos edition of the competition. Dropque is an AI-driven video interviewing startup which helps companies quickly find the right people at lower costs by analysing video interviews and determining the best candidates for recruitment.

They qualified as one of ten finalists out of a pool of 200+ companies who applied, and came in at first place out of the final ten companies who pitched on October 19th.

We caught up with Dropque founder Opeyemi Akinwoleola to learn about their recent success and their plans for the future.

[caption id="attachment_7464" align="aligncenter" width="678"] Dropque and MEST Founder, Jorn Lyseggen[/caption]

What led Dropque to apply for Seedstars?

Seedstars is a well-known brand in the global emerging market startup ecosystem. They have an amazing team that we would love to work with, as well as a network of mentors, advisers, investors and other people we believe we can do great things with. All of this and a shot at $1,000,000 in equity investment was all the motivation we needed.

How would you describe the selection process for the Lagos competition, and what would you say got Dropque into the competition?

It was a rigorous selection process. We could tell by the calibre of startups who pitched. They were all working on cutting-edge tech with huge potential. We had to make a strong case that we were worth being given a chance. We had to show that we have built an amazing product that everyone needs to hear about and that we need all the help we can get to scale it across all the markets we intend to. In a nutshell, it was about telling our story and telling it well.

How does it feel to be first place in a competitive startup ecosystem like Lagos?

It feels pretty amazing! It goes a long way to show us that we are a good startup and that we have the right attitude towards innovation and building traction. It makes us believe that we have the potential to match up against other high quality startups across the world. It is some justification for all our hard work.

What would you say were the key ingredients for your win over the other impressive startups in the Lagos competition?

I would say a key ingredient was the depth of our software application. We have really harnessed a number of exponential technologies. We may be a recruitment startup but we have utilised tech such as facial recognition, emotional analysis and personality profile analysis. These are areas that, on their own, can be the building blocks for an impressive startup. We have seen many good companies emerge around these themes. However, we have taken it a step further by fusing these different technologies and deploying them towards selecting the best candidates for companies in a manner that is very fast and cost effective.

I also feel that our ability to anticipate the objections people would raise about using such a tool and addressing these concerns such as privacy and bias, has also played a part in our winning the Lagos competition.

What would you say have been the positives from your win?

First off, it has been a huge PR boost. It has given us a great deal of exposure and attention. We have already had interest from companies across the world who have been part of this competition in previous years. We have seen potential interest from some investors as well. We know that being part of the finals in Switzerland will also further enhance these benefits and add new ones.

[caption id="attachment_7465" align="aligncenter" width="600"] Dropque come first place at Seedstars World Lagos edition[/caption]

Without giving away the secret sauce, how do you intend to approach the finals?

We intend to approach it with an open mind. We know we will meet many quality startups, and this represents an amazing opportunity to learn. We will tell our story, and with the help of our mentors and advisers at MEST, we should be adequately prepared for the finals.

What does the future hold for Dropque, and where do you see yourselves in the next five years?

Currently, we are laser-focused on improving our product and expanding into other markets. We will need amazing talent to do this and we intend to recruit some awesome people to join us on what should be an exciting journey.

We are hopeful that in the next five years we would have generated a lot of unique data and a large valuable client base to attract large investments and an eventual acquisition by one of the leading global technology companies.

Finally, what would you say is the future of AI on the African continent?

I honestly feel that the future of AI is very bright on this continent. I believe that AI will have an even bigger impact on the continent than mobile and communications technology did. Africa has a huge appetite for technology, an appetite that even exceeds many parts of the world. AI will play a huge part in the near future. It is a technology with exponential potential, and ethical use of AI will lead to developments in infrastructure, healthcare, law enforcement and many facets of everyday life. What is most important, however, is that there is significant investment in nurturing the talent that will harness the power of this technology.

We wish Dropque all the best as they prepare for the finals in Switzerland, and we will be sure to share the next part of their journey through the competition.

Interested in applying to join next year’s cohort? We’re now accepting applications for the MEST class of 2020! Apply here.