Ridwan Egbeyemi is the CEO of Unboxd, a wishlist and crowdfunding platform that allows people looking to receive gifts for special occasions such as birthdays, weddings, graduations, etc, to create a wishlist of desired items and share with their loved ones who can also make cash contributions for each item on the list. His co-founder, Tolu Adesina, leads product and technology on the team.
The first user of the Unboxd MVP in September 2020 received 450,000 Nigerian Naira [US$1000+] as contributions to their wedding wishlist. After the success of this, the team spent 12 months refining the MVP before officially launching the app for public use in September 2021. Since then, the company has seen a month on month growth in birthday, wedding and Christmas wish lists. 20% of the wish lists in Unboxd are active with an average of N25,000 [$60+] in contributions which has led to over N2 million [$4,800+] in total cash gifts. To date, Unboxd has processed 50+ cash payouts.
Egbeyemi was inspired to build the company after he and his fiancee had experienced the awkwardness and economic waste of giving and receiving unwanted gifts. Coincidentally, two of Egbeyemi’s friends who are software engineers were already working on a wishlist app idea so he joined them to refine the idea, design the interface and launch a scrappy MVP within a few days. Shortly after, the friends and family who used the app began asking about it for their own events. This was when it became even more evident that this would become a business. Today, Unboxd is helping hundreds of people avoid unwanted gifts and collect cash gifts from across the globe.
In Nigeria, startups like Unboxd have many struggles.
For Unboxd, the first is hiring software engineers. More and more boot camps and institutes are jumping in to train African software engineers in order to outsource them to foreign clients who can pay top dollar. This makes it extremely difficult for bootstrapped startups like Unboxd to find and hire engineers. This is definitely a need for a lot of startup founders who need software engineers and cannot afford the ones even in their local ecosystem.
The second struggle is access to funding. Having been in conversations with several startup founders from other countries, Egbeyemi found that some countries outside Nigeria, provide grants for early-stage startups to fund their startup operations in the early days. Such grants are few and hard to come by in Nigeria.
“Many problems we will encounter as we grow Unboxd will likely be a problem that another start-up has experienced and already solved. Networking and having a relationship with other startup leaders will help us bounce ideas and learn from each other”, says Egbeyemi.
Adapting to change
Whilst building the MVP in 2020, a nationwide lockdown imposed by the Nigerian government due to COVID-19, kept the team apart. They had to learn how to collaborate and keep the energy alive virtually. This was a major challenge for the team who had just begun working together, but they were able to adapt by using different project management tools that helped to align the team. Since then, the core team building Unboxd have remained remote from different parts of the world.
It is clear that technology has infiltrated nearly all sectors of the world, including gifting, thereby changing the social norms and practices that underpin how we manage the gifting process on the side of the receiver and the sender. Thanks to Unboxd, Nigeria’s gifting ecosystem and practises are changing.
Egbeyemi dreams of a united, connected and self-sustained Africa where Africans don’t have to leave their countries searching for greener pastures.
Connect with Ridwan Egbeyemi and Unboxd on LinkedIn.