Lessons from the Yabacon Valley

Sefik Bagdadioglu moved to Lagos, Nigeria in August 2015 to join Kaymu as the Managing Director. An avid economist, entrepreneur, and cyclist, Sefik has lived in Turkey, Canada, Tanzania, and Kenya and comes from a background in management consulting and start-ups. He is passionate about the outdoors and about disruptive technologies. Ayiba’s Eyitemi Popo speaks to him about the challenges and triumphs of doing business in the Yabacon Valley.


How did you end up joining Kaymu Nigeria?

I like to say I caught the Africa bug. I had lived and worked in start-ups in East Africa before moving back to Canada to work in consulting. I always knew I wanted to come back to the beauty, the opportunities, and the chaos that I so loved in Africa. When I found out about Kaymu, I could immediately relate to the mission, to build the largest online e-commerce community with a focus on entrepreneurship and social connectivity. I took it as a great opportunity to come back and be involved with a promising start-up in the region. Nigeria is the country to be in in Africa given the level of development in the ecosystem and the size of the market so given the opportunity, I chose Kaymu Nigeria.

Kaymu VillageWhat were your first impressions of Nigeria?

My experience in Nigeria is unfortunately limited to Lagos and Abuja although I’m planning some trips to Calabar and Kaduna soon. I think Lagos is a city on steroids – I’ve never been to a place as dynamic or fast-paced as this city. Everyone is so alert and set on finding the next big idea. I’ve met some very inspiring young people doing great work. Abuja was a little bit calmer and with more nature, which I really enjoyed. I have to admit, I’m not a big fan of the air pollution and traffic here.

How did your previous experience at Deloitte Canada prepare you for this position?

I worked for Deloitte Canada’s strategy consulting arm, Monitor Deloitte. The main difference between the consulting and start-up worlds is the level of execution. Consulting gives you a lot of exposure to a vast array of problems and industries and provides you with frameworks and structures to tackle these problems, however your level of involvement is surgical and more high level. Start-ups are where you get your hands dirty, face challenges, and come up with solutions every day, and see the fruits of your efforts immediately. So, working at Monitor Deloitte gave me the tools and mindset to be able to adapt and innovate at a start-up like Kaymu.

What has been the growth trajectory of Kaymu Nigeria so far? How do you plan on moving the company forward?

Kaymu’s growth has been very exciting – for example on Black Friday last year we did 20x more orders than our average day. As for going forward, we will be focusing more on entrepreneurship, partnerships, and community. We want our sellers to grow with us, and we’re dedicated to provide all the tools and support they need to make this possible. We want our buyers to come back to us for all their purchasing needs, and find in Kaymu a community of likeminded people, with similar tastes and interests.

What is the work culture like? Describe the team.

We have a dynamic and entrepreneurial culture. Our team is young and collaborative, we work in an open space and everyone is accessible no matter their level in the company. The management is very open to ideas, complaints, and praises and we work together to make the company better for everyone. From an organizational perspective, we are focused on mentorship and growth. We organize trainings frequently and enable our employees to develop their skills and expertise. People are encouraged to pursue internal opportunities across departments and pitch their ideas for growth projects.

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Big picture, what do you think Kaymu’s maximum potential is in the Nigerian marketplace? What challenges do you anticipate encountering along the way?

Kaymu’s potential is huge – the main focus right now is to show more and more people every day the convenience of shopping online and the utility of the Kaymu Mobile App as part of one’s everyday lifestyle since it’s so social and interactive. As internet and mobile penetration become more widespread, we can achieve these goals more easily. At the same time, the beauty of Nigeria is that you can never anticipate a challenge until it happens. We have the product, the drive, and the community to take us to the next level, so I think we’ll be ready for the challenges as they come.

Who do you think is Kaymu’s biggest competition in the Nigerian marketplace?

Ourselves – we are the only social marketplace, and that requires us to constantly improve our service to our community. Our community is our biggest asset and we constantly have to push ourselves to deliver a better product, faster service, and an overall impeccable experience. There is no ceiling.

What is your favorite thing about living and working in Lagos? Any after-hour or weekend traditions? 

My favorite thing about living and working in Lagos is the surprises that this city throws at you – it’s really never a dull moment. I love the entrepreneurial spirit and it’s been really interesting to see the city develop in the short time I’ve been here; new restaurants and new start-ups sprout every day and it keeps life interesting.

Work often consumes most of my time during the week. Office hours are usually followed by work dinners or events. However I try to spend at least an hour every day to do something that allows me to expand my knowledge outside of work related stuff – through watching documentaries or reading. I’ve recently gotten into squash; I play with some colleagues about twice a week, and then we go for a quick swim which is refreshing on weekdays.

I like going to the beach a couple of times a month on the weekend. It’s relaxing to watch the surfers, eat some good suya, and be away from the city bustle.

What is your advice for anyone looking to make the move to Lagos for career/business opportunities?

Get ready for the experience of a lifetime – your senses will always be on overdrive, you will be impressed by the dynamics of this city and the determination of the people. Welcome the challenges as they come, and they will come, whether in the form of fuel shortage, the devaluation of the naira, or any other form. Experiencing one month in Lagos is the equivalent of three months anywhere else.