Seunla Osinowo: the 20 year-old who turned his University project into a tech business
Some seven weeks ago, Seunla Osinowo, a 20 year old recent graduate of Computer Science of Covenant University, Ota in Ogun State, Nigeria, launched his UniversityCompass.NG. This web app provides students seeking admission into Nigerian universities with information and resources which will help them make the right decisions about their choice of schools and courses.
Sometime in 2015, while Seunla was in his third year, one of his lecturers had come to address his class, telling the students to identify challenges in the society to which they could proffer solutions in their final year projects. The passion to solve some of the challenges usually encountered by students seeking admission into Nigerian universities consumed Seunla Osinowo so much that he opted to tackle them as the focus of final year project. Though Seunla has just graduated from Covenant, he is our featured campuspreneur of the week, because the seed which has grown to become UniversityCompass.NG was planted while Seunla was in school.
In this interview, Seunla tells Outrepreneurs how the idea for building UniversityCompass.NG started.
Tell us about yourself
I studied Computer science and graduated from Covenant University in 2016, where I had a strong 2.1. I chose Computer Science, because I had felt I could use computing and technology to help people.
How did the idea of building this Web App start?
It started in my 300 level before I went on SIWES [Students Industrial Work Experience Scheme] .We had this lecturer, Dr. Mrs. Senanu Okuboyejo [she is a recent Fulbright scholar], who gave us a pep talk. She said when we went for IT [Industrial Training], we should look at how we could solve challenges in the society and use that as our final year project and from that project, we could turn it into a business. Though a large number of people ignored it, I took it seriously. When I resumed in school as a 400 level student [after SIWES/IT], the idea I had then was not University Compass. The earlier idea I had was a multi-modal biometric system for security, like what we have in banks. I met my supervisor, Azubuike Ezenwoke and he liked the whole idea of turning a final year project into a business. The problem was the multi-modal biometric system was hardware and cost intensive. He felt I should come up with something that would just be software. Brainstorming together, that was how University Compass came about.
Can you code very well?
To some extent, I can, but I won’t regard myself as a first-class expert.
So, how did you manage to build the app?
Programming for me is about personal interest. I watched tutorial videos. There is this website, Stack Overflow, where programmers can check for errors and learn from others. If you have any challenge, chances are there is somebody somewhere in the world that had also met with such challenge in the past and was able to solve it. I have some prior knowledge in PHP, but I don’t consider myself an expert. Maybe as a result of my own standards, what I consider as rookie level might be someone else’s expert level.
What specific challenges will University Compass help solve in the society?
UniversityCompass.NG is solving two challenges. First is the University selection process. I attended a private secondary school, Faith Academy. The year I graduated from secondary school, a number of my classmates didn’t do well at their UTME [Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examinations]. Most of them wanted to get admitted into Covenant University and the admission process was very competitive. With the low UTME scores, some were already crying [that] they would not be able to get admitted that year. So, someone told them to apply to Landmark, a university which had just been founded two years before then and almost all of them were admitted. When I say low UTME scores, I mean they scored like between 200 and 210 points. The problem is many people just know about a few universities. An average person knows about 20 and these universities have different criteria. People need to know what to search for, when seeking admission.
How did you get funds to build the App?
I used my pocket money. I was in school and Covenant gave us access to WIFI Internet and power was not a problem. I had my laptop. It was just me and my mind.
The App was your project in school. Why did it take you almost one year to launch the website?
I just had a prototype. I took a break, went into making handmade cards and didn’t go back to it until September 2016.
How do you plan to expand in the future?
Like I said, it started first as a university search engine, but we have added course selection to it. Most people don’t know the reason they are applying for a course. Perhaps their brother, or uncle just tells them to study Computer Science. There was this lady who was very good in the secondary school, but her parents told her to go study Engineering. Unfortunately, they sent the lady overseas. While she was in her 400 level with first class grade, she called her parents on phone, to tell them she wasn’t interested in Engineering again. She thereafter went back to start all over as a 100 level student of Economics and still graduated with a first class. I have a four-phase plan and what is on ground is just the phase one. I am trying not to release every plan, but the goal is to guide people through their career path. Career development has series of phases. The first phase is picking the right course to study and the right university to go study it, while the next phase is how get a job.
How does the course selection system on the site work?
You go to the course selection page to respond to a questionnaire. Afterwards, the app will recommend the top 5 courses that meet your personality types.
What are the things you learnt in Covenant University for which you will forever remain grateful?
An average Covenant University student is not even interested in being an employee. They are interested in becoming entrepreneurs, because Bishop Oyedepo [the chancellor] and every other person in the university’s management kept telling us they were challenges in the society and we were meant to solve them. They put you through a process of spirituality, inspiration and hard work. Bishop Oyedepo would say “if there is falling standard of education in Nigeria, I want to see the students of Covenant University solving it. If there is a problem of corruption in Nigeria, I want to see the students of Covenant University solving it.”
What drives you on a daily basis to pursue your personal goals?
I think it can be summarized in a quote attributed to Mahatma Ghandi: “Be the change you want to see in the world.” There are lots of things that need to be corrected and the reason they have not been corrected is because somebody has not stood to correct them.
How many visits have you had since you launched the site?
I have had about 7 thousands visits.
How did people get to know about it?
I put word on my twitter, Facebook and I also communicate by word of mouth. That’s how marketing has been done so far.
How do you intend to monetize the App?
I have started making money, but it is small. The first income stream is the Google Adsense platform. And I have made some decent income from it, so far.
Do you have competition in Nigeria?
Nobody has a university search and course selection system. Though there are blogs that write about universities, we [universitycompass.ng] have more information and the university search, which people can use to decide whether to pick a particular university or course.
What do you do to develop yourself?
I read books and study my mentors. There was a particular holiday in my 100 level in 2013 when I said I was going to read books. In three months, I ended up reading 70 books. My mentality and mindset just changed.
Where do you want to take University Compass in the next five years?
The dream is this: if a clueless SS3 [third year, senior secondary/high school] student who doesn’t know what to do with his life visits our platform and uses a series of features, University Compass should be able to help him pick a course and university and probably guide him into getting his dream job.
Are there other Campuspreneurs out there (anywhere in Africa), whose efforts are worthy of emulation? Let’s celebrate them. Who is your favorite Campuspreneur? Let us know, now.
Deji Aroloye75 Posts
a graduate of Linguistics and a staff writer at Outrepreneurs, Deji's forte includes tech, startups and innovations. Years back, Deji wrote on Entertainment and Lifestyle for a tabloid. If he wasn't a writer, Deji would be a photographer or teacher.