Starting your own business can be scary. Really scary. But the ones who actually do are those who made a conscious effort to overcome the fear of the unknown. Today many young Africans are changing the status quo and rewriting the narrative. In a world that is fast advancing with technology, many futuristic young men and women alike are irrupting into daring ventures, looking for new and innovative ways to help their communities, countries and continent with technology as it evolves. Whether great or small, their efforts constitute a move to feed Africa’s avid tech ecosystem.
Such is the story of Yaw Sam, a young Ghanaian in the diaspora who started an IT firm in his first year in college with just 50GHS. Today his outfit employs 20 young techies. Yaw is also the founder of SPREADiT, a non-profit organization aimed at helping spread IT literacy to schools in deprived communities.
Techpreneur Magazine touched base with Yaw for an interview to find out more about this daring entrepreneur.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do?
My name is Yaw Sam. I’m an entrepreneur first and student second. I come from Sefwi Attronsu in the Western Region which makes me a proud Ghanaian. I had my primary education at Ave Maria School and later joined Risingsun Montessori School. From there, I took the BECE and gained admission into St. Augustine’s College where I studied General Science. In Augusco, I was known for acting since that is what I did and honestly I loved doing that. I then proceeded to Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) to pursue Computer Science. While in my second year, I had to leave to join my family in the United States and so I got enrolled in University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) where I’m currently majoring in Biology.
While at KNUST, I started an IT company called SOFTTECH, with the aim of providing affordable IT services to students. At the time, I got a few people together who actually helped me get this running. Our hallmark is to provide very affordable but quality services. Right now there are 20 staff in SOFTTECH which has 3 departments: Programming, Graphic Designs and Marketing Departments.
Later in October, 2017, SoftTECH launched SPREADiT, a non-profit organization aimed at helping spread IT literacy to schools in deprived communities. To help young people gain basic IT skills that would eventually help them in pursuing their higher education. SoftTECH is currently building various apps and websites that would aim at improving the education system in Ghana. We’re also working on establishing a branch in the United States.
At what age did your entrepreneurial instincts set in
My love and passion for entrepreneurship actually didn’t start until I got into KNUST at age 18. I started to do a lot of thinking and asked myself “how am I going to help make the world a better place”. I then started reading from top entrepreneurs and business men which got me inspired to get into entrepreneurship and also cause a little change in the lives of people.
A lot of young people have bright business ideas but their real challenge is starting. How did you get started?
When it comes to starting a business, company or even a project, the only thing that stops you from starting is not money or resources, it is yourself. I started SoftTECH when I literally had nothing. All I had to start with was 50 Cedis. We used all that money for printing flyers which turned out to help get a few customers to get us started and running. There is no process for starting a business, you only need to have the drive and passion. Yes, there are a lot of challenges, but the earlier you face those, the more experience you gain. Don’t wait or procrastinate when it comes to starting a business.
No matter how small you start, you’ll definitely not stay at the same place. Don’t wait with an excuse of getting enough money before you start. Money is never the answer! Be passionate about what you do and you’ll definitely get to the level you aspire to get to.
What motivates you?
What motivates me is my desire to make the world a better place than I came to meet it. I believe we all have a role to play in making this world a better place, and that is what drives me every day to achieve good results.
How do you generate new ideas for your line of work?
When it comes to generating new ideas, I would say I do it through researching from the internet. The internet is a powerful tool that we need to leverage to our advantage because it has a lot of resources that can help us get every information we need. I sacrifice about 3 hours of my sleep every night to look for information and also to learn things that I’m not taught in the classroom.
What are you most passionate about in your ‘techpreneurial’ journey?
When it comes to my techpreneurial journey, what I am most passionate about is the way the world is advancing in a more technological and robotic era. I have gained interest in the way robots are made and their intelligence. People fail to see that in almost every aspect of our lives, there are robots helping make things easy. In a supermarket, robots are used to help make our lives easy but going on with the self-checkout system which was not available some years ago. These are systems that are available through artificial intelligence to help make lives easier.
What change do you want see your business bring into people’s lives and how easy or difficult has it been for people to buy into your ideals.
In my journey, there has been a lot of people who think I’m too young to be thinking about owning a company while others encourage me and support me in my journey. My co-founder, Stephen Kweku Eshun is one of the people who have kept SoftTECH running. He believed in my vision the very moment I laid it out to him and he has been of tremendous support since then. There are also a few people who helped get SoftTECH started and have been of help since. There are a lot of challenges especially when it comes to getting people to buy into your vision because they don’t see things the same way you do.
Anytime someone disagrees with me on what I do, I listen to his or her reasons and do well to use it to make my business a better one, however, it cannot prevent me from proceeding or moving on with my vision. I want SOFTTECH to help in the advancement of IT in Ghana. As a developing country, we need to focus on educating our young people in the field of IT to be able to create innovative projects and products that would stand out in the world market. That is my aim for SoftTECH.
What technological advancement or innovation do you most want to see in Ghana?
In Ghana, one thing we need to focus on is using technology to help advance various sectors we have. Education, health, agriculture, transport and many more. When it comes to transport, we fail to use modern systems to help keep track of progress being made each day. Bus booking is something that would help Ghana get rid of some irregularities that are seen each day. Instead of customers standing in long queues and rushing to get into vehicles, we could build a system to curb that. There’s a lot of sectors that need improvement to make lives better and easier.
If you had the opportunity to advice a group of 15 year olds who wants to start their own tech firm, what would you say to them?
The best advice I would give to anyone who wants to start a tech firm is to actually put their ideas into reality by starting than waiting for a perfect time that would never come. Be consistent, keep your customers happy, and be innovative. The journey is a tough one, but with keeping to your values and vision, you will be able to make it to the top and in all NEVER GIVE UP!
Where can people find out more about you?
I can be contacted on social media through facebook, twitter and Instagram.
Facebook name: Yaw Sam
SoftTECH website: www.softtechghana.com
SPREADiT website: www.spreaditgh.org