Paul Miller Owusu is the Founder of SIKA, a personal finance app that seeks to replace your bank with a smarter financial experience, using your mobile phone. Proudly born and raised in Ghana yet spent most of his adult life in the diaspora, Paul is bent on making an impact in the financial sector back home with regards to technology.
Paul has worked with several startups in the San Francisco Bay Area or Silicon Valley as most call it, with extensive experience in customer-focused management. He’s worked with the likes of Gbox, Chime, DoctorBase, Egnyte, Sparkcentral but to name a few. Paul is beyond question, a dynamic leader and a great advocate for African innovation with a sense of humor.
Tell us a bit about yourself?
I suck at talking about myself really. I was born and raised in Ghana of course. My dad was a Seventh Day Adventist pastor and Mom was a serial entrepreneur, operating several bakeries in Kumasi. But the important part about me is that, I’m a dad. That’s one thing I always want people to know about me. My kids keep me grounded.
When did your entrepreneurial instinct set in, in life?
It started when I was 7. My siblings and I would go door to door selling books or trying to get people to visit our church. Objection is something we experienced and I loved the thrill of convincing people to buy books and or come to church. So I guess you could say it came natural. I spent a lot of time with my mom in Kejetia market, learning from her.
Tell us about this app SIKA that is seeking to revolutionize the way we send and receive money and the team behind this innovation?
Great question. SIKA is looking beyond payments. We’re aiming to educate both prospective and existing customers about personal finance. Not just sending or receiving, but how you’re managing your finances. Importantly, we want to contribute to moving Ghana toward a cashless economy.
The team behind SIKA is very seasoned. Klenam, has tremendous experience and clout in the startup scene in Ghana. Ama, has worked in fintech and is currently heading another startup. I’ve worked and consulted for some successful Silicon Valley based startups and VC firms. Collectively, our experience puts us at an advantage, beyond our product.
When is SIKA finally coming to the market and are you in any way pressured by the high expectation of the public?
Yes, definitely! But rightfully so. I think a lot of people have seen many apps come and go. Some were great and some didn’t measure up. We get the sentiment here and it is another reason we were very excited to build SIKA.
Currently, there are several payment platforms and mobile money services in Ghana that are not making the impact they should, what do you plan to do differently to ensure that SIKA appeals to the masses?
There some pretty impressive solutions in the market. I’ve used some of them. But as always, some of them leaves you wanting more. For SIKA however, user experience, design, service offerings and over all user engagement is very core. Everybody can use an app to send money etc — but its the overall service that keeps users coming back.
What is it like working in Silicon Valley, and what can Ghanaian startups learn from the culture?
Silicon Valley is the new Hollywood. Entrepreneurs are celebrated like rockstars, so there’s a constant high of hearing who just made a billion dollars in annual recurring revenue, who has a bowling alley in their office, fully stocked bar etc. However, working in the valley is beyond hype or TechCrunch blogs. It’s getting up at 4am and going to work. It’s working 10-12hr days without excuses or saying “I’ve never done this before.” It is all about enjoying what you do without looking for accolades.
What Ghanaian startups can learn from Silicon Valley is to drink their own champagne — live and breathe your product, talk to users, push your product team to conduct customer interviews and submit business plans for different service offerings, at least once a quarter. You have to push and work harder and stop chasing hype
In your opinion, what’s the best way to raise funds as an entrepreneur looking to startup?
Build it, and they’ll come. Outside of that, network. Ask investors out for coffee to pick their brains and don’t be afraid to hear a no.
Given the opportunity to mentor young entrepreneurs in the tech space, what would be your top tip for them?
Tune out the noise. Focus on your craft and stop trying to be perfect.
How many hours do you work a day on average?
My day typically starts at 4am and I sleep around 10pm (that’s if I can) — I take breaks to walk or chat with my kids. Fatherhood is a huge part of my life.
What drives you in life as a young man looking to make an impact?
What drives me is to see SIKA succeed. To see my co-founders happy in all avenues. Importantly though, is to give my kids something to look forward to.
If you could talk to one person from history, who would it be and why?
My parents. I didn’t get all the time to share with them my struggles and success.
In one word, characterize yourself as an entrepreneur?
If you were given a million dollars to invest in any business apart from yours, what organization would it be?
It’ll be envoy.com — visitor management as a service is something that lacks in Africa. I work at Envoy currently so I’m a bit biased too.
Where do you see SIKA in the next three years?
I see SIKA as Ghana’s first mobile bank. That’s our goal. I’d love to go into details one day.
Lastly, where can people find out more about you?
LinkedIn @Paul Miller Owusu