Introducing: My First Million, our new series talking to some of our favorite entrepreneurs on their journeys through the lens of the milestone of making their first million. We also dig into the financial habits and philosophies that underpin their businesses.
Timi Ajiboye’s story is very fascinating owing to its success in what is essentially a novel industry in these climes. That captures the very essence of technology and its utility as a force for change. Its success is an added inspiration. Here is an insight into the philosophy that lies at the root of this success.
Did you always think you would get to where you are?
I guess I have always felt like I would be somewhat successful but I had no idea I would be working in cryptocurrency. I knew I would definitely be doing something with computers and that at the very least, I would be self sufficient by now.
When did you make your first million?
I’m assuming we’re talking about a million at once. In that case, it was either in 2015 or 2016. But I remember the 2016 story more clearly.
What did you do to make it?
In 2016, I signed a contract to build software for about $16,500 for a company abroad. The first payment was like $3,000 and at this point, the exchange rate was about 315 Naira to a dollar.
How did it feel?
When we agreed and I saw that the budget was $16,500, I went to sleep – my brain couldn’t handle it.
So when I woke up and checked Slack and saw that it was the same, I started telling people. I told my close friends and my family, then I raided Amazon.
What would you say are the secret(s) of your success?
It’s a bunch of different things really, but the truth is that I will not stop. I won’t stop learning, improving or trying. I might change my methods, but I just won’t stop. Also, I’m quite empathetic and I think this has helped as well.
What was your best preparation for business?
Suffering in Nigeria with Nigerian employers & clients.
What experience(s) would you say have shaped your financial attitude?
Truth be told, I tend to be financially irresponsible – I’m much better now. But most of the people around me who push me towards success have a great savings culture.
I’m the only person in my nuclear family who doesn’t save as much and I used to be the older brother who would borrow money from his younger sister. Being broke and having to borrow while being surrounded by people who didn’t have to do that even though they earned less than I did nudged me in the right direction.
Do you have time for personal financial planning?
I do have time. But do I do it often enough, no.
What is your basic business philosophy?
Make more so I can spend more.
More seriously though, I’m not someone who really thinks about business in a conventional sense. I think I just know that creating value will almost always result in revenue. And I just try to keep myself valuable in that way.
Also, the common sense things; trying not to spend more than I earn, trying to stash some money away and spending money on things that will bring more money.
What was the most challenging period of your career?
Recency bias is definitely at play here because I’m sure there were times that were more challenging than this when I didn’t have light, internet or food. Well, I would spend the money I was supposed to use for food on internet and that would run out.
Most recently, we were in YC and we had told a bunch of people in the program that we were going to launch BuyCoins version 1. A few days to launch, a third party service provider literally just kicked us out. I woke up and saw an email saying we wouldn’t be able to use the service and I put my phone down and went back to sleep.
Then I woke up and rebuilt the whole thing with another service provider – in like two days.
Do you believe in retirement?
I believe in not having to work – which is fantastic and great. I think this depends on the kind of person you are. For me, the less I have to work, the more creative I get.
Once there’s no pressure to work for food or basic amenities, I can think more creatively and limitlessly. For instance, there’s no way Timi of four or five years ago would have been thinking about bitcoin.
As long as I’m healthy (crossing my fingers for all the anti-aging and regeneration tech), I will probably always be working. Just maybe taking more vacations because I can afford to.
What would post retirement life be like for you?
Best case scenario, anti-aging & regeneration is a thing. If mankind is already going to Mars and I’m as rich as I want to be, I will be exploring space. I might as well go to Mars, maybe when I’m like 250/300.
But if anti-aging & regeneration isn’t a thing, I don’t know – I guess I’ll do what old people do. I will get moved around by kids.
But until I’m physically unable to, I probably will always work. Even the Mars I want to go to, it is to go and work.
Do you believe in giving back to the community?
I believe in making the world better, I don’t know if it’s so much “giving back” because I don’t think this place gave me shit. I mean, there are people who have been useful to my life – my family, friends, employees, co-workers – I guess doing right by them might be seen as some giving back.
However, I will definitely do social impact and infrastructural work for underserved people – I just don’t know if I’ll tag it as giving back. It’s more like giving because I am now in the position to and I know what it was like before I got here.
Do you believe in leaving everything to children?
I’m conflicted – my father is the kind of person who is like “you will make your own money” – but also, I have a decent amount of friends who are rich kids and it’s like “make my pikin flex too” – so I don’t know.
But I mean, Why not?
I’ll probably give my kids some and give the rest to charity.
Your favored form of investment?
Sitting in front of my computer and working – building something.
How do you save your money now?
I try to buy BTC, I use Piggvest and Cowrywise.
Did you have any mentors?
The only person that counts might be my Uncle who taught me how to code. My dad too, but he’s more of a more experienced friend. Maybe not business-wise mentorship but in terms of interpersonal relationships and life, yeah – my dad is definitely a mentor.
If yes, how did you find them and how much of an effect did they have on your decision making?
I don’t know if anybody has influenced my decision making. My parents are always surprised as to how both of them could have birthed such a child. But more seriously, I guess my dad. Just in how he has changed and how he listens and pays attention to you – as your own person. I try to inculcate that into how I live.
Do you indulge yourself? How?
Do I ever not indulge myself?
Some people would say that I am a functioning alcoholic – I drink a lot, I like to party, I like to play video games. Nobody indulges as much as I do. I like to play hard and work hard.
What one thing do you spend on most?
Apple shit. I’ve bought every single iPhone since the iPhone 5.
Your most prudent investment?
I’m really not a prudent person, but it’s something between buying Bitcoin and investing in a startup or an idea that I like.
What is the most you have ever paid for a meal?
I mean what’s a meal? Are you going to add three cocktails or a bottle of wine? Let’s say a cap of N30,000 on myself, but that mostly went to alcohol.
It’s very difficult to say – on just me. But, I have spent $200 dollars at once on a group meal.
Who are the five people you’ll love to see answer these questions?
Tomiwa Lasebikan, Jubril Olambiwonnu, Nadayar Enegesi and Tolu Ajiboye.