Female Tech Entrepreneur Addressing Nigeria’s Software Development Skills Gap
Ommo Clark never intended to be a tech entrepreneur, but once she got into the Nigerian tech sector she noticed the need for a full-service business software company.
Clark responded to that need by founding iBez Nigeria. iBez not only provides software development and training services, but also owns the online platform Handy-Jacks, which connects homeowners with tradespeople and handymen in their area.
Clark attended London Guildhall University in the U.K., where she earned a bachelor of arts degree in business administration, and Brunel University, where she got her master of science degree in information systems.
Prior to launching iBez, Clark worked as an application support consultant in the U.K. with Real Asset Management, while she also had a position as a team leader in the mortgage capital division at the British arm of former investment bank Lehman Brothers.
After leaving Lehman, she joined Icelandic Investment Bank, where she worked as an IT project manager. In 2008, Clark left the U.K. and returned home to Nigeria, working with a software solutions company as head of project delivery and support.
In 2012, she took a position at International Development Company as chief operating officer. But in 2013, the tech entrepreneur was ready to go out on her own and she launched iBez Nigeria.
Some of the products that iBez has developed include Handy-Jacks; Schools Network Integrated Program (SNIP); Project Management Information System (PMIS); Hotel Motel Solution; Lets-Share; and Exchange BBP.
Clark told Moguldom how she started her ICT business initiative from her laptop, and what she is planning to do next.
Moguldom: How did you get into tech?
Ommo Clark: I got into tech accidentally. I originally wanted to go into HR but during my final year of university I needed to do a final year project, but didn’t know what to do, so a friend suggested that I did something that involved technology. But I wasn’t too keen. Eventually I settled on doing my project on employment staffing trends in the IT industry, which was HR but touched on IT. After spending an academic year researching into IT, I fell in love with it and decided that this was where I wanted to build my career. I went on to do a masters degree in IT, and have been working in IT (specifically software development) ever since.
Moguldom: What challenges did you face being a woman in tech?
Ommo Clark: I think because of the way I got into IT, I have never really been particular about whether I was a solo woman in IT. Instead I have been very tunnel-visioned on learning as much as I could and being the very best that I can possibly be. Also, whenever I encounter a challenge my first instinct is never to think that it’s because I am female but on overcoming it, thus I am somewhat gender-blind in that regard. I think people will respect you if you are good at what you do and deliver the right results. Also, my passion for what I do and determination always keep me going.
Moguldom: What prompted you to start your own tech business?
Ommo Clark: There is a digital and software development skills gap in Nigeria. This means that a lot of people do not yet understand the benefit and importance of digital technologies, nor can they use them. Also, Nigerian software developers didn’t seem to build robust and functional software solutions and as a result they had a negative reputation in the marketplace and Nigerian businesses did not patronize them. I saw that the key elements of the software development process were being missed out, and I wanted to address that and close the gap. I am also keen to promote digital inclusion.
Moguldom: How did you raise money for your business?
Ommo Clark: I boot-strapped and haven’t had any funding.
Moguldom: Does Nigeria offer many resources to tech startups?
Ommo Clark: Starting up and running a business in Nigeria is very challenging. There are pockets of private and government agencies trying to offer support to tech startups to varying degrees but much more needs to be done. I have an informal network of small companies, NGOs, and individuals that offer me support from time to time. But this is very ad hoc and not formalized.
Moguldom: What is the small business environment like in Nigeria’s tech sector?
Ommo Clark: Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa, she also has the largest economy and internet penetration in Africa. There are over 37 million micro, small and medium-enterprises (MSMEs) in Nigeria, however, the tech sector is still relatively small, possibly because the innovative use of technology to drive business growth and save costs is a relatively new concept in Nigeria. This is rapidly changing though, as more companies become more aware and get on board, and as the Nigerian middle-class expands. This presents huge opportunities for tech companies that can both build innovative solutions and offer disruptive services to start up.
Moguldom: What do you like the most about doing business in Nigeria?
Ommo Clark: There are lots of daily problems in Nigeria that can be easily solved using digital or software technologies, and also opportunities to make a difference and positive impact in the community. And Nigeria’s large youthful population makes technology adoption fast, so this is what I like most.
Moguldom: What would you like to see changed about doing business in Nigeria?
Ommo Clark: We need an enabling, safe and secure environment, i.e., good infrastructure, security, stable power and the right government policies to drive business growth. Also, lack of information and skilled manpower and political instability need to be tackled.
Moguldom: Is tech in Nigeria getting more diverse?
Ommo Clark: Tech in Nigeria is getting more diverse. The device market is huge as many people now use and want the latest smartphones, companies and individuals are adopting cloud and internet technologies both for transacting business and entertainment, and tech services are now being outsourced to Nigeria. So there are a variety of things happening in the tech space.
Moguldom: What are your goals for 2018?
Ommo Clark: By the end of 2018 we want to have launched our next online platform, Lets-Share, that enables people to find spare bedrooms to rent in a house or flatshare, trained approximately 1000 people on various digital and software development skills, and built international standard software applications for small businesses that would not otherwise be able to afford them.