A few weeks ago, I posted on Instagram about being in London Business School for a VC fellowship (so exciting right?!). You guys were so gracious and the congratulations poured in. But I know how social media can sort of be a highlight reel where you see the best parts of people’s lives and how well they’re doing. One thing I’m learning that I really value is authenticity. Being real, being myself. I was musing with God about my journey here and even though it hasn’t been the smoothest or easiest, it has definitely been interesting. So I thought I’d share.
“Before I formed you in your mother’s womb, I knew you. “
For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. How precious to me are your thoughts, God! How vast is the sum of them. Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand– Psalms 139: 13-18
This Psalm is so accurate. The Lord has had his eye on me since the day I was conceived, when I was barely a mass of cells. And even then his plans for me were beautiful.
When I was in primary 1 and we were about to go on long vacation, my classmates were talking about how they were going to London over the holidays. So when my daddy came to pick me up, I asked him if I was also going to London for the holidays, and he said yes. I think that he just indulged me and probably didn’t think too much about what his response was and just said yes. I was like 4/5 years old, so he probably didn’t think I’d remember anyway.
I got to school the next day and told everyone about how I was going to London too and how my daddy had told me I was going to London. I was really really excited, it didn’t even occur to me that my dad just gave a casual response. There’s a lesson here about child-like trust but I’d leave you to figure it out.
Anyway, I didn’t go to London that summer. In fact I never visited London until April this year when I started this fellowship. My family and I went to Jos, and Maiduguri and Kano I think? To see my mum’s family and spend time with them. I had a really great holiday, but the dream of London had been planted in my heart and I was really disappointed that I didn’t go to London to see the red buses and eat lots of chocolate.
When I got back to school in September, all my friends had their cool stationery, shoes, bags and accessories from London. And they all had stories about the things they saw and did in London. I completely forgot that I had told my classmates I was going to London, and I was also ashamed that I didn’t go to London over the summer. It’s so interesting how early we learn things like shame. Anyway when we had to talk about our holiday in class, I made up a whole story about going to London. It’s funny now, but I don’t know why I felt like I had to do that.
Going to London was a dream that 5 year old Raks had, and the Lord saw that dream.
Fast forward to 2014, it was a few days to my secondary school graduation and I was sitting on my bunk, thinking about what was next and trying to write my goals for the next phase of my life. I hadn’t made any concrete plans about what was next. I had written JAMB, and all the other exams and I did very well actually. The default was to just write Post UTME and go to the University.
However, as I sat on that bed and envisioned my life, it occurred to me that I didn’t want to go to University yet. I felt like it didn’t align with my personal goals at the time. I wanted really quality education because I really enjoy learning and I’ve always been an A student. I was still mostly undecided about what I wanted to study in the University and I wanted some time to grow up. So I decided I was not going to go to university until I was 18, and instead I would do my A levels.
I’ve always been really self aware and very independent minded. I jumped off my bed, went to call my daddy, told him everything. He was like why not, that sounds like a good idea. The only Sixth form college I knew of at the time was Bridgehouse College, and I decided that was where I was going to go. I did the application, wrote the entrance exams, and got like a 95% aggregate. They basically admitted me on the spot.
Throughout my secondary school journey, there were times where my parents had financial difficulty and couldn’t pay my fees on time. It used to cause me a lot of emotional distress and shame. Doing my A levels wasn’t going to be cheap. It wasn’t the most logical decision to take at the time, but it was the right one.
I was still a Muslim, and I spent months praying that God would provide for my parents to pay for my A levels and my foreign university education. In fact, during Ramadan in the Summer of 2014, I lived in the mosque for 10 days doing two things; seeking God and also praying that provision would come for the education I desired. I truly believed it was a done deal.
The first year of my A levels was great. God provided and I got all As in my Cambridge exams. The second year however, was brutal. I couldn’t resume school for my second year and missed the first term because my parents couldn’t afford the fees. So I stayed home for the term which was tough, as it was during that period that I was supposed to begin my application to different universities. I didn’t let it weigh me down too much though. I was doing my creative writing, I got my first proper job in tech that was not an internship, I was freelancing and making the best of life. Looking back now, I don’t know where the resilience came from to be honest.
I also wrote my personal statement and did my University applications. I even applied to Cambridge. That’s how much I believed in myself. I applied to Cambridge, Durham, Bristol, Warwick and Hull. I got into Warwick and Hull. Again, to be honest, I don’t know where the audacity to do all this was coming from because there was no rational reason to believe I would still go to University abroad.\
In January, I got invited to come back to school, even without the fees, with the agreement that they would be paid in full by April. Remember that I had missed a term. My final exams were scheduled to hold in May and I was pretty behind. I wasn’t deterred though, I started to read and prepare for the exams.
April came and unfortunately my parents were unable to pay my fees in full, and so I was asked to leave school less than two months to my exams. I went back home and sank into a severe depression. I hated my life, hated myself, hated my parents, hated the situation I was in. I started hating God too. I felt like he had been really unfair to me. I knew he was capable of solving the problem so why didn’t he intervene? Why did he let me start the journey if it was going to end in shame after I had prayed and left it all in his hands?I would wake up, cry, read novels, spend time on my phone and not shower. I didn’t even bother to keep studying anymore. I had completely given up. I also stopped praying. In my mind, if God couldn’t keep to his end of the bargain, he didn’t deserve my devotion. I didn’t trust him anymore. So I stopped doing my five daily prayers and just wrote God off basically.
A few weeks later, some of my teachers approached management to plead my case because I was one of the best and most responsible students (I’m not even trying to hype myself, this was the fact). So they reached out, and basically I was allowed to write my exams despite the fact that my parents still hadn’t paid the fees on the condition that my results would not be released until the fees were paid.
All of this happened like a week to my exams that I had been too depressed to study for. I went back to school, wrote my exams and smashed all my papers. To this day, I don’t understand how I did it because I was out of school and barely studying for most of the year. I had one A star and two As. I could have had all A stars if I was in a more stable state of mind, I guess. But regardless, I had one of the best results in my year. In fact, on my graduation day, I was awarded “Best Student In Social Sciences”. Huge testimony, because again. I was barely in school.
Unfortunately my results weren’t released to me when they came out so I lost a whole year and couldn’t meet admission deadlines. My dream of studying abroad crumbled before my very eyes. I cried a lot. All my friends were in school. I had the best results, but I was at home, seemingly useless.
I had time on my hands so I just decided to continue working. I got a job as a content writer at an ecommerce company in Lekki that paid 50k. It wasn’t bad, but I very quickly realised that I hated the daily commute and an office job was definitely not for me. The job also didn’t let me express my creativity and I quickly got bored writing product descriptions and how-tos.
My friends have always been such an important part of my life! My friend Frank had recently started working for an interesting company that did similar content to a company I had worked at before, so it was right up my alley. It was also remote and they paid in USD. I asked him if there were any openings and he introduced me to the company’s founder. We had a conversation and they offered me the job. So I spent the year working, freelancing and doing other side projects. Basically, at this point my career started to take shape and I was just 18. Fun fact, I was still 17 when I got the job, so they had to give me a special contract cos I was a minor haha. I also started a business called bookgiftco, selling bookish accessories.
In 2018, it became clear that there was no going abroad for me. Buhari was President. The exchange rate had risen. The economy wasn’t so great either. Thankfully my parents were able to finally clear my pending fees and my results were released. So I applied to Unilag. The process was so stressful and unclear. I was MISERABLE. I had a really good result, but so much politics was going on that it was exhausting. I was going to Unilag to submit documents almost everyday. In fact, my dad had to fly to Abuja and take a copy of my results to submit at JAMB. It was a mess. I finally got admitted to study law. I wasn’t super enthusiastic about a law degree in the first place, but Unilag made it worse.
The first day I attended a class, there were about 500 people stuffed into a dimly lit hall, with broken chairs and a lecturer yelling without a microphone. Some people were standing, some were hanging around, everything was just a mess. I went back to my hostel and CRIED. I could not believe that this would be my life for the next 4 years. I quit my job to focus on school but mostly because I got depressed again, didn’t have the mental capacity to continue and the company had run into some issues.
I was pretty much suicidal. It felt like my life was a wreck and I had nothing going on for me. Of course I blamed God. Oh, I blamed him A LOT.
A few months later, in March 2018, at the age of 19, I gave my life to Christ. I’ll write about what led me to Christ in a subsequent post. That’s a story for another day.
When I gave my life to Christ, I surrendered all my dreams and aspirations to him. I stopped trying to figure things out by myself and told him that all I wanted was his will for me. I didn’t want to do anything outside of him. I stopped defining myself by my grades, my dreams, goals and aspirations. In fact, I gave him all the goals. He became my full satisfaction.
All the dreams I had for myself had to die. God took me through a healing process. He helped me heal from the pain and hurt of the past few years and forgive everybody who needed forgiving.
He told me he would make me a star. He didn’t say when or how, but he gave me many promises.
I basically spent my time in class, and then with Jesus. At a point, he asked me to resume freelance writing which I did. In this period I learned to recognise his voice and obey his leading.
In 2019, Binjo told me about a publication he was starting with Iyin Aboyeji (Co-founder of Andela and Flutterwave). It was supposed to be a publication about building and scaling tech companies in Africa, called Future Africa. We met, and talked about the plans for the publication. It was so exciting and I came on board as a co-founder, to basically oversee the editorial process.
When I joined, God would speak to me almost everyday about how Future Africa was not just a publication, but it was going to become a global company and a fund. I thought this was something that would happen years down the line. I didn’t even think I’d be involved in that part because I didn’t have a finance background.
Fast forward a few months, it became clear that what companies in our network needed the most was not advice, but funding to scale their ideas. God began to show me creative ways that this money could be raised. From having no background in venture capital and knowing nothing about venture capital, I began to read, learn and serve. I basically did anything and everything that required to be done, and learned to structure companies and funds, deploy funds, build companies. It stretched me. The Lord taught me and encouraged me. This process wasn’t easy and many times I wanted to give up, however I had the unique opportunity to learn and grow even though I didn’t have the relevant qualifications on paper.
In January 2021, God asked me to leave Unilag. This one was a bit tough, but I did it. He told me, he needed me to be flexible because I was going to be travelling a lot, so I should opt for an online degree instead.
I kept learning, working and growing and led our investments in over 50 companies, sourcing and deploying funds into them. I spearheaded the founding of the Future Africa Collective, our community of co-investors (in the thick of covid, story for another day) and I’ve had the privilege of deploying almost 10 million dollars into different companies and working with them to scale.
I’ve learned on the job and it has taken a lot of grit and resilience. I could never have forseen a future in VC but the Lord led me here and is leading me everyday. God gives me marvellous ideas for my work. He helps me learn and understand things. He has given me favour and visibility. I could NEVER have planned this. If you’re reading this maybe you need to surrender your plans and become flexible enough for the Lord to lead you where he wants you to be. I know the world says you should have a 10 year plan, but Jesus wants you to be content with walking with him day by day.
Fast forward to 2022, the opportunity to apply for the Newton VC Fellowship, holding at London Business School came up. I almost didn’t apply. I had a thousand reasons why not. It was expensive, It was in London, I wasn’t in the mood etc. The Holy Spirit did not let me rest. I basically ended up applying 30 minutes before the deadline (I don’t recommend doing this, don’t be like me). Just as the Lord promised, I got in. I even got a scholarship that took 70% of the cost off, and my organisation covered the rest. I got my visa in record time and came to London for the first time ever in April 2022.
In my hotel room, I cried when the Lord reminded me of the dream my 5 year old self had. He told me that he saw that dream, and he nurtured it to manifestation.
It may seem like I’ve done a lot, yet I know this is just the beginning and the Lord has a lot in store for me.
God can be trusted with everything. I walk in step with the Lord and he leads me. I NEVER feel like I have to figure anything out by myself. I ask the Lord and wait patiently for his response. He has always responded and never let me hanging. This is your cue to surrender it ALL to him.
I have been marvellously helped by God. The first word I ever heard God say to me was “Ebenezer”, and true to his word, he has indeed been my helper.
He also gave me this dream, and he has kept his promise. God can be trusted!