Tobi from Nigeria, managing director of Vibe Web Solutions
Tobi Asehinde, from Nigeria, studied for a master’s (MEng) degree in Computer Engineering at the University of Portsmouth.
He graduated in 2012, and just two years later, he’s now the founder and Managing Director of Vibe Web Solutions, a web consultant for Lagos Eko Project and Assistant Honorary Secretary of the Nigeria-Britain Association.
Here, Tobi talks to us about studying in the UK, exploring the link between technology and business, and bringing those lessons back to build a successful career in Nigeria.
Was employability an important part of your decision to study in the UK?
‘Yes, coming to the UK to study was about exposure for me, as well as my future career.
‘My Dad studied at the University of Portsmouth too, but that wasn't the main reason I chose it! Thanks to my parents, I had the opportunity to travel to visit the universities of my choice. After visiting a couple, I chose Portsmouth as I saw it had some interesting programmes – such as their enterprise department – and also an opportunity to learn another language for free.
‘The enterprise and career support department, called Purple Door, did it for me. Looking back, I can say studying at the University of Portsmouth was the best decision I made for my university and study life. I enjoyed the multicultural educational environment, quality of study and entrepreneurial support.’
How did your degree prepare you for the working world?
‘My degree really prepared me for an entrepreneurial career. I started studying for a BEng in Computer Engineering, then was offered the chance to upgrade to an MEng in my second year. I remember my first lecture, called The Technology Context – it was about technology, business and the environment. At first I was really confused about how computer engineering related to business, but in the end it amazed me.
Tobi demonstrates his final year project at the University of Portsmouth (Photo ©Tobi Asehinde)
‘I was born into a family of business owners, and it was likely I would start my own business. Attending my university’s "enterprise bootcamp" and Pipeline programme got me started. The bootcamp was a competition where we were divided into groups to solve a real business problem, and the Pipeline programme was a training course covering every essential part of a business – from the marketing to the financials.
‘We were also taught teamwork, communication skills and other professional skills to get us ready for the working world and increase our employability.’
How did you get the idea for your business?
‘My business is Vibe Web Solutions Ltd, a digital marketing agency that helps businesses succeed online. After my first failed business (a hotel booking website) I started Vibe Web Solutions in my bedroom in the UK, with just a laptop, a sofa and an internet connection.
‘We now have a brilliant team of experts in Nigeria and India with experience working with various clients, both within Nigeria and internationally (Kenya, Ghana, the UK and the US). Since we arrived in Nigeria, we still remain true to the ethos on which the company was founded – namely a focus on customer service, business results for our clients and continuously living and breathing the web.
‘To get started, back in Portsmouth, I did a website development job for free for an outfit called English Direct, whose founder was an undergraduate student at the time. She was particularly unhappy about her £400 website because it wasn’t delivering the kind of results she wanted, so she approached me to redesign it. She was blown away by the results and this opened the door for our second job – for money this time! Ever since then we’ve had good referrals and phenomenal growth.
‘This taught me a very good lesson – when you are good and committed to quality, speed and results, it is like a candle which lights up a lot of other candles.’
What volunteering and internship experience did you get as a student?
‘I had experience as a student tour guide at the University of Portsmouth, and learnt how to communicate efficiently with prospective students from various cultural backgrounds. I also did a summer internship in Wales at GLT Exports, manufacturers of Zeta Alarm Products.
‘At that time, I never realised I was gaining communication skills for my future career, but now I need those skills to deal with clients and partners in various countries! I would advise students to take every opportunity to work or gain something new; it always has a way of being useful in the future.’
What tips do you have for students looking to improve their career prospects while studying?
‘When it comes to your career, standing out from the crowd is important, but first you have to discover your strengths and weakness. Exhibit your strengths to stand out, and work toward improving your weakness. For me, knowledge is power – whenever or wherever you can acquire knowledge, it is important to grab it. You never know when that knowledge may be required.
‘I knew what I wanted – to run a business – so I attended various enterprise programmes while I was at university.’
'Explaining my final year project!' (Photo ©Tobi Asehinde)
What are your ambitions for the future?
‘My ambition is endless, but pretty simple – I want to own many profitable and sustainable businesses, and help aspiring entrepreneurs achieve their goals. In summary, I would say I want to be a serial entrepreneur, an investor and advisor for other aspiring entrepreneurs. This is what I would enjoy doing.’
What’s your advice for graduates who want to develop a business?
‘I have said this before in an interview with Inside Watch Africa, and I’ll say it again: “Business is a win-win situation; be committed to delivering your best, and people will notice. The rest will follow." To be a business owner you need passion and purpose – a reason why you are doing what you are doing. This is what will drive you.
'However, starting a business requires you to be patient. When it is getting hard, it means you are doing the right things for that breakthrough. You need to equip yourself in all areas, from marketing and sales to accounting. Read a lot of business-related articles, and do not be afraid to seek advice.’