HOW THREE YOUNG UNDERGRADUATES STARTED JOBBERMAN

How Jobberman Started

Jobberman – unlimited job opportunities for everyone.

With millions of able-bodied African youths without jobs, unemployment is by far the continent’s biggest problem after poverty. Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation, adds nearly one million new job seekers every year to its already large pool of nearly unemployed youths. It may be tempting to think that the problem is ‘lack of job’, until you realize that Africa’s economy has been growing steadily for over a decade and almost 50% of the 25 fastest growing economies in the world are in Africa.

So what’s the problem? Granted the jobs on ground might be insufficient partly because of the huge population. But maybe the bigger problem is Africa’s disorganized job market. Sometimes there are very good job openings but we hear the companies claim ‘there are no qualified persons to fill in those positions’.

This is only half true; the main issue is that for many years there was no meeting point for the employer and the ‘qualified’ job seeker. This was the situation in Nigeria till 2009 when three ambitious university undergraduates decided to act. They took on Nigeria’s disorganized job market by providing an easy way to match unemployed people with their dream jobs. Today, Jobberman is providing millions of people with the opportunity to find employment.

Have you read: HOW WAKANOW STARTED?

Synergizing of the ‘trio’- Meeting of great minds

Opeyemi Awoyemi, Olalekan Olude, and Ayodeji Adewunmi, are the three young men who have carefully harnessed their ideas and skills to bring the ‘Jobberman dream’ to reality. Graduates of the Obafemi Awolowo University, they met as undergraduates and sustained their friendship in school. That friendship has evolved into a profitable business relationship. While Opeyemi and Olalekan studied Computer Engineering, Ayodeji studied Medicine and surgery. But the Doctor says he is passionate about building, monetizing and engaging online contents, users and platforms.

As undergraduates, especially medical and engineering students, many would have been overwhelmed with lectures, assignments and tough deadlines. Some other students could have used their spare time for parties. These are examples that come to mind for young and energetic undergraduates in Nigeria more often than not. But as effective as these young men would do the necessary, they still reserved some energy to ponder on a very important solution to a generational problem-unemployment.

Frequently Asked Questions

Olalekan Olude, Ayodeji Adewunmi Opeyemi Awoyemi

Jobberman was founded in 2009

Jobberman is a job recruitment portal and career platform that helps connect job seekers to employers across different industries

Zero. Yes, the founders of Jobberman only started with their skills and not money

Though Jobberman offers it regular services for free, but it also have some premium services through which it makes money. Some of the ways of making money are through CV Consultancy Services, Job Openings by text messages,   advertising and others

Turning adversity to opportunity

In 2009 the Academic Staff Union of University (ASUU) embarked on a strike that eventually lasted six months. Many students did not see any opportunity in that. Very few embarked on some worthwhile and profitable ventures, others were left complaining and wasting the opportunity. But for these ‘young brains’ it was precisely the opportunity to launch Jobberman and they did that in August 2009.

According to Opeyemi, prior to gaining admission into the university he had always wanted to create social value. He also recalls that whenever he discussed his future plans with anyone he would often use statements like “If I don’t get a job, this is what I’ll do”. He made those statements because he wasn’t really sure how people went about securing good jobs. And by the time he was in third year in the university he had already made up his mind that entrepreneurship was what he was going to do. Of course he was well aware of the fact that the problem of unemployment and knowing where the right jobs are, needed to be solved as urgently as possible.

Every opportunity counts

Opeyemi explained that he couldn’t get a place for IT and had to resort to learning some programmes. Jobberman then became the product for his industrial attachment as a third year student. He discussed extensively with his friends about it and they immediately bought into it. Opeyemi said they created the website as if it was a joke. The trio were so convinced the idea will work that they moved quickly to purchase the domain jobberman.com and put up a first version online even when it was not yet working. In his final year of a five years course, during the ASUU strike, Opeyemi exchanged just four text messages with Deji on making the idea a real business and that automatically led to the formal launch of Jobberman.com on the 16th of August, 2009.

The market survey and feasibility study was made very easy because of the increasing unemployment rate in the country. Not just that, but also the difficulties graduates had in knowing about available job openings. That was a time that most graduates out there have to buy a copy of The Guardian newspaper to look for job vacancies. But so many people including Opeyemi, Deji and Lekan could not afford to pay for a copy of the newspaper then. This further reassured them that something had to be done to address it.

Every entrepreneur need inspiration

The trio also drew inspiration from what was happening in India at hugo.com. Hugo.com is an online job site providing job opportunities for over 1 billion people. They saw the similarity in Nigeria and felt it was the right thing to do and make something out of it. They saw a huge vacuum that could be filled with the tools provided by technology and that was it for them.

Their plan was to change the way people searched for and found jobs. But at the same time offering employers a simple but effective channel to advertise vacancies and find the right talents to fill them. This was not common at that time. In fact, Opeyeme has not seen it done anywhere in Nigeria. Would it work? They wouldn’t immediately conclude. However, they went ahead to build Nigeria’s largest job search portal. Today, that portal has over 1,600,000 job seekers and 42,300 companies registered!

Working as a team

Running a company in partnership with others is sometimes a difficult task and demands a clear understanding from all the parties involved. However, in this case, the trio were just the perfect fit. They always handled different roles in the business. Someone had strength where others had weakness and they respected each other’s opinion when it comes to that. Their arguments have always been very objective for the very best interest of the company.  And they all admitted that such has seriously helped each of them as individuals and Jobberman as an organization. Opeyemi concedes “We argue a lot, but we have always disagreed to agree.” Ayodeji sums it up this way. “We have complementary skills and complementary temperaments and respect one another’s viewpoints.”

Jobberman Founders
Jobberman Founders
Complementary skill-sets

For Opeyemi, his skills are in the technical aspect, design, and usability. “At Jobberman, I oversee marketing, product development and intrude into the technology team’s work once in a while. My core strengths are in graphics and web design, online marketing and product development. So I lend my technical and creative ideas to everything that happens at Jobberman.”

Olalekan on the other hand oversees the sales and operation teams. “My core strengths are more in processes and recently, B2B (business-to-business) sales. My finance skill has also helped Jobberman in planning and forecasting.”

Ayodeji has good networking and strategy skills, “I’m accountable for increasing shareholders’ value and ensuring we build the ultimate marketplace for job-seekers and employers in Nigeria. Much of what I do is focused on corporate strategy and business planning.”

Attracting investors

Opeyemi and his friends knew that no matter how wonderful your business idea may be, so far as it is still just on paper not many people will be eager to identify with you. So they had to depend hugely on their skills to start Jobberman. Any needed expenses were funded from the stipends that they got from personal savings. They never set out to pursue money. But as the site continued to grow in popularity investors naturally started looking for them.

First, in January 2010, the team entered into a strategic equity partnership with a Nigerian based startup incubator and venture capitalist-L5Lab led by Chika Nwobi who by then had come to believe so much in the great future ahead of Jobberman. The team thereafter moved to Lagos in April 2010. In Lagos they got a small office at 27, Kakawa Street, within the Central Business District of Lagos Island.

The major break

It was Aliko Dangote that said that every successful business in the world at one point or the other experienced a major breakthrough.

In August 2010, after about a year of starting the company they hit a mega bucks. It came from the popular USA venture capitalist; Tiger Global Management. Tiger Global Management has been a major investor with Facebook and Linkedin. They must have sensed the huge potential that Jobberman has and approached the team.  They agreed to lead the ‘Series A’ financing and investment in the business with an initial investment of One million dollars.

That was a major turning point for Jobberman and its founders. The investment was used to build the brand further, get territorial footprints in the country and scale the operations as well. According to Opeyemi, at that point they did not welcome the investment just because of the money; they were looking at the other value that they bring in. They later proved to be of great help with their vast network, advice and often bring invaluable ideas to help the business grow.

Remaining relevant

More than a decade after, Jobberman had grown from a student business to a 70 man team in Nigeria and Ghana. Also it boasts 2 million job seekers on the platform with over 90,000 unique visitors daily. It currently serves more than 60,000 companies ranging from multinationals to government institutions and SMEs in Nigeria and beyond. As high as 6,000 new jobs are posted on the website regularly and 5,000 people at the very least get job through Jobberman on a monthly basis.

But aside from advertising for job vacancies, Jobberman has a unique approach to helping people get their dream jobs by asking them to submit their CVs in order to link them up with prospective employers. They have a department that conducts free CV evaluation for Nigerian graduates. With this they are able to increase the employability of such graduates. All jobs advertised on Jobberman.com have a 60-day life span which helps to ensure that vacancies and opportunities on the site remain fresh and relevant!

According to alexa.com, Jobberman was ranked the fifth most visited Nigerian website in 2015. It was in 2014 rated the 8th tech start-up to watch in Africa by Forbes magazine and is acclaimed as West Africa’s most popular job search engine. It was the top choice for employers seeking to put information of vacant positions on the internet and for job seekers searching for new jobs for many years.

Positive Reviews

Judging by the performance and rankings of the site, it is obvious that the three have been doing their job very well. As one of the most popular and most visited job website in West Africa, Opeyemi attests that they receive “loads of appreciation messages from people who have used the site and got jobs from it.” In terms of their clients, Olalekan claims the site has had a high retention rate because clients are very happy with their services. “We court some of the biggest companies in the industry.”

Dealing with challenges

Nevertheless, this brings its own set of challenges. As traffic on the site is constantly on the increase, it is faced with the challenge of meeting up with server capacity. And this means they has had to upgrade the server on a very regular basis. But for once that is problem worth having.

Another challenge for the team has been the Nigerian economy and its peculiarity. But Opeyemi is dogged in the face of these challenges. “This is Nigeria, it’s not easy. But frankly, these are exciting times to live and build a business in Nigeria. I would do it over and over again. Nigeria is what the economists will call a frontier market”. He confesses that at the beginning they were frustrated by epileptic power supply. Not just that, but also inadequate payment system. But he also added that such days are almost behind them. “There is no better place to do business than in Nigeria,” he reaffirmed.

Opeyemi also recalls how difficult it was to get companies to believe in the project when they first started. Even for no charge several companies were reluctant to place their job opportunities on Jobberman. But the trio never contemplated giving up. They persisted and refused to faint because of the joy that was set ahead of them.

Where are they now?

But despite all these challenges and sometimes criticism, they forged ahead.  And now they sit among the list of most visited websites in the country. Opeyemi is very modest and attributes their success to God.  “We understood the internet, we knew what people wanted, we tried not to be mediocre, we had clear goals and we had God who was on our side and answered our prayers as students.”

The company has also made an instant impact in the Ghanaian market. Within two years of entering Ghana it became the second most visited website and the number one job site in Ghana. “We achieved this by going local, understanding the Ghanaian market and job seeking culture and this helped a lot” Opeyemi concludes.

In 2016 Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg named Jobberman founders “as examples of young Nigerians using digital technology to make impact across Africa”.

Jobberman remains the single largest job placement website in sub-Saharan Africa.

The company is now worth over $15 million dollars, but the trio is not resting on their oars. They have set their sight on becoming the number one job site in the entire Africa in no distant time and standing among the very best in the world.

Though the original founders of Jobberman are pursuing other interests today, the company is growing even stronger. In 2021, the board appointed Rolake Rosiji as the new CEO of the company.

Jobberman major clients today

  • Access Bank
  • Dangote Group
  • Mckinsey & Company
  • Main One
  •  Enugu State Government
  • Lagos State Goverment
  • Mastercard Foundation
  • USAID and
  • UNICEF
  • NYSC etc

Jobberman CEO
Jobberman CEO

Advice to would-be entrepreneurs

Having passed through the challenges of starting a business when literally you don’t know anyone at the top on whose shoulder you can stand on, but having to brave through by sheer determination, the Jobberman team are in a very good position to advise Nigerian youths. And Opeyemi puts it this way:

“ Let me start by saying that Nigerian youths are not dull and the whites are not better than us. Most of the things we cannot do (including writing a very good CV) is because the school system failed to teach us”. He however insists that all who know well enough to perform in any field of their choice go out of their way and make sacrifices to learn. “Some paid to attend seminars, training, workshops and conferences while others bought books and spent time to read. “It is true we didn’t choose where we were born. We didn’t choose our parents. And we didn’t choose the colour of our skins but we certainly can choose what we become tomorrow. I think we are ultimately responsible for our lives.”

He also advised Nigerian youths to be focused on what problem they can solve and the things that people need and the value they can add to people’s life. He said money should never be the prime focus, when we do the right thing, money will follow.

Also read: UNEMPLOYMENT DROVE ME INTO ENTREPRENEURSHIP – SLOT FOUNDER

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