“A lot of people optimise for skill, but I optimise for character”, Sola Akindolu shares on Code Black #WithChude.

“A lot of people optimise for skill, but I optimise for character”, Sola Akindolu shares on Code Black #WithChude.
October 16, 2023 Dorcas

Founder of Brass, Sola Akindolu sits with the host of #WithChude, Chude Jideonwo to share about getting into product management, his first business and how it crashed, and his decision to start Brass on a new episode of Code Black.  

Sola Akindolu shares on why he chose to solve the problem he is currently solving with Brass. For me it’s quite personal. A few years ago, I was trying to go for my MBA, and there’s this question you get asked. ‘What is most important to you and why? For the first time, I wanted to be honest with that question, and I thought to myself- I’m going to answer this question very honestly. It took me about three to four months to come up with an answer. The answer became that I wanted to spend a decade or two of my time figuring out how to make economic prosperity possible. That was going to be the thing I was going to work on for the next ten to twenty years. I thought to myself, after writing the entire essay, ‘maybe I don’t need to go for my MBA’. I can actually do that right here. That became a problem I was obsessed with for three years. I became very obsessed with that problem and started figuring out what it will look like to work on this problem? That was how I came up with these solutions of things that can enable prosperity.” 

Speaking about his tweet saying, ‘Our day will come’, he shared, ‘You know sometimes when you work hard you just hope for a better day or hope that all of these will make sense at some point. So, I was just playing some songs on my Spotify and that song came up. And I was like yeah, the day will come. 

On one of the experiences that defined his life, Sola shared about investing all his savings, taking on a dirty business, having to shut down the business and learning his partners had a different plan. “I put a lot of my sweat in that company.  And it was a big deal for me then, because I had a lot of big plans for that business. I did so much to see it become successful and I had to just shut it down. It gave me a lot of setbacks. It felt like I could have been doing so much with my life at the time when I had this great plan on how I wanted to build this interesting company and I was working with people who I thought were with me and it just didn’t work. I invested so much of my energy, time and capital – the money I had gotten from my previous job, to start a business, and it was all for nothing. The people that I thought were with me were not, and when I realized that it broke my heart.  

I always tell people that when you are about to set up a business, friendship is very important. When I look back, now I think I place character over skill. There are a lot of intelligent people out there and people typically optimize on these, but now I think I optimize on character. If I don’t like you, and I don’t think you are in the right space with me, no matter how skillful you are, I let you go.   

Sola also shared on the success of Paystack as a company. “I think Sola and Ezra are good people. Also, I think that they have built a kind of culture where the kind of people they work with are also entrepreneurs. It is not only the CEO, people that have worked in company can also act in that capacity and I think that is what they have in Paystack. They have a lot of initiatives that have helped in grooming people that work in the tech company to become starters and go on to big things. 

Speaking about his role as a product person, he shared, it means the design, strategy, and how to figure out ways to build product that delights users. That has been my entire experience since 2012. Since I’ve been working in tech, I have just been working in the product capacity the entire time. Right now, I run Brass and it’s a product company in itself. What we do very well is build great products. That’s one of the things our customers love about us”. On his journey to becoming a product ‘person’, he shared, “I got into product accidentally. I would have loved to say it was strategic but it wasn’t. I read Electrical engineering in school and before school my entire goal was to go work in oil and gas like electrical engineering. So, I stumbled upon this essay a friend sent to me. I became very interested in the technology industry. So, I started reading a lot of Paul Graham’s essays. When I came out of school, I started figuring out what to do with technology. Then my friend and I started playing with a few things. We built an event ticketing product at that time. It was our first product, and it didn’t work out.  

Watch the excerpt, here.


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