Based out of SugarLand, Texas, Lola Ishola is the creator of SoRo. SoRo is a video messaging app that uses new technologies to enhance communication amongst users through the provision of voice calls and video conferencing capabilities. Ishola earned a Bachelor’s degree from Texas Tech University and is looking to make an impact in Nigeria’s tech sector. She met with the AWP Network to discuss what inspired her to create this app and her plans for the future.
How did you come up with your business name?
Before settling on the name ‘SoRo,’ my team and I went through various name choices. We went from the names ‘threeway’ to ‘Chatbox’ then SoRo. My Uncle had the idea ‘Basoro’ however; I felt that this was too long so I shortened it to ‘SoRo.’
What inspired you to create this app?
The communication challenges my father had connecting with my uncle inspired the idea. This idea started about three (3) years ago and I thought about it way before the creation of the video call option on Whatsapp. My uncle who owned an android was frustrated because he had challenges connecting on the phone with my father, who used an iPhone. Therefore my solution was to create an app to help resolve these communication challenges regardless of where any member of my family was located.
Who is your target market?
We are most interested in the Africa market.
How have you financed the idea?
Bootstrapping. We also received our initial seed investment from family and friends. We hope to get more investment funds for the next stages of growth.
What is your competitive edge?
The first thing that sets us apart is that we are solely focused on the Africa market. Also, our app does not take up much space on your phone. SoRo is focused on providing quality service without consuming too much data.
What is the long-term plan for this idea?
We want to build tech-enabled products for businesses in Nigeria.
What five (5) things have you learned since starting this idea?
- Every business was once a startup. You have to start from somewhere and keep going. It will not be easy but remember that consistency is key.
- Write things down, it will give life to your ideas.
- You need people help you get to where you want to go. So, learn how to relate to people and learn how to accept criticism from the right people.
- Do not tell everybody your plans. People get jealous and if they feel like you can be better than them, they might not help you.
- Be frugal. Save more than you spend.
What five (5) things do startup entrepreneurs need to know?
- Always pray over your ideas. Whatever your faith may be, this will give you the strength needed to keep going.
- Entrepreneurship is not easy. There will be days where you have to choose between your business or yourself. Choose your business.
- If you are not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you have launched too late. It is okay to be embarrassed by what you have created but whatever you do, do not take it off the shelf. Everybody has to start from somewhere.
- Give your all to whatever it is you are doing or plan to do.
- A good leader knows how to take criticism. Learn how to be a good leader. Remember that you need people to get you to where you want to go. Learn how to talk to others and respect them. Learn how to put your feelings last because this isn’t personal; this is business.
What advice do you have for youths looking to start an idea but say ‘there is no money’?
All you need is a dollar and a dream. Also, have a solid plan. When it comes to building a startup with very little money, know that the important things will always find a way to settle themselves.
How do you think African youths can continue to support each other?
We need to understand that the future is in our hands. What Africa will become in the next 20 years is up to its young people. We need to invest in ourselves and in the country. Honestly, we have to be willing to see each other win.
How many jobs have you created so far?
We have created about four (4) jobs. Two developers, one marketing agent, and we recently brought a lawyer on board.
How has technology enhanced your business idea?
Technology is like a ball of opportunities. Working on SoRo has opened doors for my teammates and I to have meetings with potential clients on artificial intelligence. The idea of the SoRo app gets stronger everyday. The possibility of technology is endless and as we continue to build SoRo, the journey will be interesting as we grow from where we are, to what I know we can become.
How can we support and improve innovation in Africa?
We need to improve technology in Nigeria as a way to not only move the country forward but to provide jobs and opportunities for its young people.
App store: SoRo