i3 | March 27, 2017

ScholarX CEO, Co-Founder Abolade Lawal

Jeremy Snow

Thanks to the rise of smartphones, launching an app can transform a startup into a million-dollar company. Some of the most successful apps such as Lyft, Facebook and Airbnb are now part of our daily lives.

ScholarX CEO and Co-founder Abolade Lawal (above, center) hopes his higher education app will become a household name for Africans, and eventually, people all over the world. The app helps Nigerian students find and apply for scholarship opportunities specifically tailored for them from local universities and international schools, ensuring young Africans have an easier time accessing quality education. Immigration has also played a major part in the business, since many of the app’s creators work in Nigeria. Lawal is working to expand the app for students in other African countries while also adding more academic features such as courses or textbooks.

What are your goals for the ScholarX app?

Our main goal is to help the growing youth population of Africa access quality higher education. We chose Nigeria as our pilot country because of its huge population growth. Nigeria has close to 200 million people and more than 50 percent are over 18 years old. The problem is the gap between available opportunities for them to go to university – at home or abroad – is very limited due to a lot of the decisions that have to do with government spending. We are trying to provide a solution to that by building a platform where these individuals can easily come onto the mobile app or the website and access this information.

How did the idea for ScholarX develop?

While in the U.S., I was looking for ways to give back and help, and also ways to invest in some kind of enterprise with an African connection. I was approached by Co-founders Maxwell Ogunfuyi and Abayomi Johnson, and the initial idea was for groups studying in Nigerian universities to use the app for local scholarships.

But let’s say five million people a year a re trying to get into local universities in Nigeria – not even 10 percent of them will actually get in. So we thought, “Let’s create an app focused on both local and global scholarships.” We started operations in May 2016, and we launched the iOS app in July 2016. It’s only been a few months since we launched, but one thing we learned from the app market is that adoption of new technology is not that straightforward. Even if you have developed a strong product and you’ve identified a large target base, it still takes a lot of preparation to get people on board.

How can the U.S. government be friendlier to tech companies that depend on high-skilled immigrants?

Currently, there is a program for African companies that have received investment from the U.S., where you can get immigrant status and travel back and forth between the two countries. This initiative is very good but could be further expanded. It’s something that makes more sense considering the large mass of talent coming out of the region. And with Fortune 500 companies in the U.S., creating an environment where people can easily come into the country to get immigrant status, it will continue to lead to great developments.

What is ScholarX working on now?

Our next step is to grow what we have right now. We have about 10,000 users but we want to grow into a multi-million platform. Hence, we launched our Web app earlier this month where users can use every single function from the mobile app. As ScholarX evolves, we want to build an innovative scholarship management platform/portal that external parties can use to track their scholarship programs. We’d like to expand our innovation to fields like agriculture, healthcare and transportation.

March/April 2017 i3 Cover Issue

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