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Failure is an inevitable part of career growth, especially in tech. It’s a learning experience that builds character and gives room for growth, innovation, and eventual success.
In our recent Limitless podcast, we spoke with Scott Eneje, a tech founder and entrepreneur. He shared how he broke into the tech industry, navigated the challenges and failures of his first startup, and eventually turned everything around.
It was in 2011 when I dropped out of school after 11 years of trying to get in. I didn’t want to waste time feeling bad for myself, and because of my upbringing, I couldn’t get addicted to any vices, so work became my addiction. I had already started learning web development while in university, so I took to it full-time and learned different programming languages.
Next, I tried to convince people to give me web gigs; I even offered to work for free just to build my portfolio. But convincing people to trust a dropout was difficult. While pursuing gigs, I met a guy at my friend’s store who offered to pay me ₦30,000 to build a website. I was excited because I’d be getting my first pay, but it took another four months before he got back to me.
At this point, it began to look like website development would never start for me, so I took a teaching gig from one of my mentors, Mrs. Okereke, to teach and prepare students for different examinations. The fact that she trusted me to educate people helped my confidence; while I was doing that, I got a call from the guy saying he still wanted me to work on the website, but I had to come to his office. I told my brother to go and make pitch instead because I didn’t really believe he’d give me the gig. But they loved my brother’s pitch, and although we charged an outrageous amount of money, they agreed. Next thing I knew, a couple of years later, the same guy called me and asked, “Hey, do you want to start a company together?” That’s how Yandi, an e-commerce company, was born with my brother, and this person became our first investor.
Yandi taught me one of the biggest lessons in my life because it showed me what not being prepared for certain heights can do to you. When we started, I only considered the technology behind retail tech. We put much of our energy into improving the tech, but we knew nothing about business or what it took to run a tech company in Nigeria. And because we didn’t have a proper business strategy, the vendors didn’t trust us. We decided to buy from the vendors and get the money back from customers when they paid for an order. And since we were trying to run a pay-on-delivery system, we’d need a large budget to pull this off.
However, unfortunately, we had several instances where people would place large orders, and we’d take money from operations and people’s salaries to buy and deliver these items only to discover that these people and the delivery addresses were non-existent. This made me realize that business is more than buying and selling; there’s a process and a lot of education, which I didn’t have, which crushed me.
But one of my biggest lessons from Yandi is what happens when you employ the wrong people. Then, I gave everyone jobs, family members, or strangers from church who were job hunting. I remember one incident where the customer service agent was shouting at a customer, and one thing we’ve come to see, especially in retail tech, is that customer retention is the most challenging thing to do. And interestingly, customer retention is also the best thing to do as it’s cheaper than trying to get new customers.
Honestly, my family and my then-girlfriend turned wife. Everything was crumbling; I remember people from the tax office calling me daily; we discovered our accountant never paid taxes and showed us fake receipts. That experience taught me the tax laws and policies guiding businesses in the country. But anyway, we were going under; I called my investor, and long story short, we were on our own.
During this period, I was working on AI before it became a thing, and we were driven by the idea that if we could sell it, it’d be a game changer. So I took out a loan, under my name, not the company’s, and put together my money to fund the AI project. We were almost six months in, and it looked like we had a bank willing to buy our AI. I was excited because, finally, my investment would pay off. The bank confirmed their interest in buying but said they wanted to look at the codes to make sure it made sense. And because I was desperate and gullible, I sent them the codes, and we didn’t hear back from them. We called them several weeks later, and they said the market wasn’t ready for that kind of tech, but three months later, they released an AI model similar to what we built.
By this time, we had gone under, I had lost all my money, and I had to let people go even though they were competent. I fell into depression; I would stay weeks without showering. I didn’t die because I didn’t want to face the stress of dying, but at the same time, I didn’t want to live.
I started offering freelance digital services again. I set up a company to provide tech solutions and decided to look at the global market rather than just build for only Nigerians. I reached out to people and lowered my prices when they gave me projects. When they see the quality of the result, I’d then upscale my prices. I kept doing that until one of my former employees, who had a freelance gig with a US company, told me they were looking for someone to manage their Nigerian branch. The role was in retail tech, which I had experience in, and during the interview, when they asked why I thought I’d be a good fit, I told them, “I know how to lose money. That’s the one thing no one can take from me,” and that was my major selling point.
I got the job and then worked for another company in the US, where we built analysis solutions and created analytical data for clients and marketing in retail and innovation tech. Now, I’m building CX (Customer Experience) tech solutions. I’ve also played around with augmented technology and NFTs.
This started last year when I realized that many people, especially in tech, have low to medium-level skills. Because of this, they are offered meager salaries when they apply for jobs, but they take it due to desperation. I thought then that if I could train 100 people, the same thing I spent the last 15 years learning, they could get foreign jobs and pull foreign currency into our economy. And currently, we’ve trained close to 1000 people. We teach them product management, software engineering, QA automation, business development, and finance management. We want people with zero knowledge and get them to the level where they can get global jobs.
Morpheus Academy is a practical one that teaches primarily tech skills, and the ideology is that one person teaches ten, and the ten teach a hundred, and so on. It’s completely free, and at the end, we give laptops to the best graduates, along with other incentives. The one vital lesson we teach the students is never to forget that someone gave you time, so you should always do the same for others.
I think I would steal the one from Winston Churchill. He said, “Success is not final, failure is not fatal, it’s what we do afterward that matters.”
Having a fulfilling tech career isn’t a walk in the park. It’s filled with moments of self-doubts, challenges, and failure. But if you keep trying, learning, and growing, these setbacks will one day be a part of your success story.
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