Tuesday 8th April , 2014 5:33 pm
The Chief Executive Officer of DreamOval Limited Ghana, Derrydean Dadzie has encouraged young entrepreneurs to stay focused by setting their vision “to provide a certain value to society and not necessarily make money your initial focus.”
He advised that entrepreneurship should be viewed as “a journey and not a sudden flight” adding that “money will come after weathering the storm in the first few years.”
Mr. Dadzie made this know during an interview with Whoot Africa; a website aimed at promoting African businesses.
Below is the full interview
15 Questions with the CEO – Derrydean Dadzie, “Chief DOer” DreamOval Limited Ghana
Here on Whoot Africa, we not only showcase brands, but we also talk to the people behind those brands and have them share with us their back stories as well as give tips on how to successfully start and run a business.
Welcome to Whoot Africa’s – 15 Questions with the CEO.
Today, we will be talking with DerryDean Dadzie, CEO of DreamOval Limited Ghana
1. Can you tell us a little about yourself and DreamOval as a brand you represent?
I am quite an outgoing personality with a timbre of shyness. I like to reach out to challenges and embrace unchartered waters. I like to drive agenda and move a people to do things. I like to see the different sides of anything. I like adventure but mainly ones that involve the Doing of things that will create a better society. I love people and humanity in General.
DreamOval represents Doing. It’s a portrait of the spirit of applying one’s self to a novel ideal of realizing a Dream. DreamOval is about learning, thinking and action. It’s about a generation of young people who want to right-write conventions and live to make life simple and solve problems in the world using technology.
2. How did you get started in Business and what did it take you to get to where you are today?
How did I get started? DreamOval is a result of class projects and relationships. The founders had worked together on different class projects and also other school entrepreneurial endeavors whiles we were in Ashesi University in Ghana. In one class project, we built an intelligent traffic light to solve a worrying traffic situation in one of the major roads in Accra. That project caught the attention of a government incubation Programme. The project entered the incubation but due to lack of funding from the incubation authorities, persons running the project quit it and together we started DreamOval to harness our collective potential to build a world class technology company focusing on internet and mobile solutions.
What has brought us this far is the people who are in the Oval. The great bond we share in the team and the values we espouse. We don’t settle for what is known; we try to think to an n-th dimension to ensure that we are delivering solutions that are not clichésque in their function and features. We thrive on innovation. We don’t sleep until we have delivered the out-of-the-box.
3. What were you doing before DreamOval started and why did you decide to start DreamOval?
Before DreamOval, I was working for a software company whose core was providing media billing software. I was also running a software advocacy not-for-profit organization I started in school called Students In Software Development (SISD)
Doing DreamOval was really about the core people who were there in the beginning. Apart from their knowledge, I believed that they were good people with the right moral values and sense of loyalty so it was quite easy to quit everything and ride with them on the journey to excellence and technology revolution from Africa.
4. Did you know you were going to be an Entrepreneur all along, or did it happen by chance? Also, tell us about your leadership style?
In a sense I had been preparing myself to be on my own from a career perspective from a very tender age. Deep within I knew I was going to be an entrepreneur as to the exact moment, I can’t say I knew; however, every day was a moment to prepare for that journey.
My leadership style is thriving on perspective, context and relationship. I adopt an integrative approach to lead my team. I am not a boss, I am a Doer.
5. What do you love most about your business and your life as an Entrepreneur? What drives you?
I love the team and the creativity that we bring to the development of software solutions. Additionally, I am energized by the reward we get, which is not limited to money, from our happy customers.
What drives me? knowing that together with my team our endeavor is yielding positive results for the people we target both from a commercial perspective and a social responsibility dimension. Let me add that my favourite day of the week is Monday. This is because on Mondays I get to meet the entire team and also hold a session with them on different subject areas.
6. You are described as the face of an emerging class of young entrepreneurs who are presenting a serious challenge to western ideas of African economic development by the Guardian UK – What are your thoughts on this conclusion, and how does this impact your zeal to achieve more? Do you feel pressured?
Do I feel pressure? No! It makes me thrive. For me it is a motivation to do more. Like it is said, to him much is given, much is expected; so, for me it inclines me to live above the endorsement and apply myself to be more productive to my society and the vision I represent.
7. DreamOval specializes in the mobile and internet software services industry. How do you think the African continent is faring in terms of technological advancements and E-commerce; and do you think the next set of African billionaires will emerge via the e-commerce movement?
Africa is somewhat late in the ecommerce sector; that notwithstanding, better late than never. I believe there is enormous potential for Africa in ecommerce. We are not only looking at online sales but also the potential to explore and build vertical and lateral sectors that can complement the ecommerce business. We are looking at courier, insurance, payments, packaging, customer experience, analytics and much more potential value-add sectors which are very vital for ecommerce industry to thrive.
Can we have African billionaires coming from the ecommerce movement? Yes!
8. What do you think are the most important personal skills someone must have to be successful in business?
People skills are very fundamental and important for being a successful business owner. This is due to the fact that, success in business mainly hinges on valuable relationships. Relationships will lead you to customers, money, resources and all that is required to build a good business.
9. What keeps you and the DreamOval team motivated? How do you envision DreamOval in 5-10years from now?
The team is galvanized by the spirit of teamwork and the approach to solving problems. We have an open and agile framework for coming up with solutions to problems we solve.
DreamOval will consolidate its international appeal by expanding its operations beyond Ghana and Africa to other countries around the world in the next 5 to 10 years. We have a tech campus project we are also very passionate about.
10. What are the obstacles you encountered in your business journey, especially unique to operating in Ghana and how did you overcome them?
One of the key challenges we encountered was cultural limitation due to our age. People thought we were too young to run a business, so made it a bit hard to break into opportunities and make them deals. It also made it quite challenging for us to build a solid reference base to attract new businesses. Also from the onset, we faced regulation and policy challenges. Existing tax policies did not support young startups so you from the beginning have to deal with the real issues like companies who been in business many years before. You have to compete squarely with existing big giants plus international companies who had made inroads into our country. When we started our business, the thirst and desire for international software was more. There was not much faith in local software.
How did we deal with these challenges? We just had to consistently show that we were capable and focus on delivering solutions instead of the commercials. We literally had to just offer our services on terms that were not necessarily favorable to us in the beginning while we had the long term in mind. We had to stay optimistic and never stop Doing. Where we had stiff competition, we had to create a new category and redefine our market.
11. If you had to choose repeatedly, would you decide for or against doing business in Africa? Would you encourage your colleagues to come down to Africa to invest, especially those in the Diaspora? If you had to sell Ghana to an investor in a few words what would they be?
Would I encourage persons to do business in Africa especially my colleagues in the diaspora? Yes. I think there are more opportunities here in Africa though the terrain may not be that easy and straight forward. My advice to such colleagues in the Diaspora is they should bridge the context gap which sometimes hinders their ability to succeed with doing business and investing here. We can’t just import American style business models or models taught in Harvard to Africa and expect instant success. We need to learn to properly contextualize and build business models that optimize the potential of the unique attributes of Africa and its people.
Ghana in a few words? Whew! Ghana abounds with great talents and ideas looking for incubation. One law abiding and stable democracy, and a nation that has viable natural and intellectual resources to realize any investment goal.
12. Who was the most influential person or mentor in your life?
I have very important people who have been of great influence to my life and I would mention them as I remember, my teacher in Class 5, Mr Osika who expanded my horizon on the deeper things of this world by sharing interesting personal and other life stories with me. Also my friend in high school, Osei Bonsu Appiah-Gyasi, who constantly challenged my conventional thoughts and compelled me to think in many dimensions than one.
My mother, Abigail Gwira! who braved the odds in many ways than one and more importantly the late Dr Princess Awoonor-Williams who steered my ambition in the right direction. Dr Awoonor-Williams was a greater mentor and teacher to me. But by and large, there are people who I look forward to in many ways than one such as Bill Gates and Elon Musk of Tesla fame.
13. What was the BIGGEST risk you’ve taken?
I am not too sure which risk has been greater but I know every day poses a different challenge which requires a certain decision making and which in itself could be a risk.
14. What do you think about college education? Should kids go to college now or get into business if they feel it’s a better choice? Considering some of the world’s greatest never had college education, your thoughts?
Uhmm, my thoughts. I think education is important. Kids have to go to college if they can, but young people should explore different entrepreneurial and talent driven endeavors; right down from primary schools. A lot of these guys who quit school came from very wealthy homes and they were very intelligent children. These kids who quit had their priorities set on the right things. Now you see a lot of young people taking emotional risk rather than talent-driven or entrepreneurial risk. So I believe kids or young people should be encouraged to set the right priorities and build their talents and skills then it is easy to leave them to pursue other agenda, other than college education.
15. What would be the most important piece of advice you could give to young entrepreneurs and why?
Focus on the goal. Set your vision to provide a certain value to society and not necessarily make money your initial focus. Money will come after weathering the storm in the first few years. Build relationships because they are the springboards to propel you to your destination. Entrepreneurship is a journey and not a sudden flight. .