Oji Udezue is looking for businesses which can become “the mother lode of opportunity, if done right”.
The angel investor, startup mentor and head of communications products at Atlassian is in Australia for the first time to work with Melbourne edutech startup Quitch, a platform which uses a games format for uni students by delivering course information via a mobile app.
Quitch is one operation where Udezue sees big opportunities.
The entrepreneur joined the company's board after first meeting the team through “serendipity” last year, when he headed up a pitch competition at the South by Southwest festival last year.
“I picked them as the best and here’s why: I immediately recognised it [Quitch] was a solution that was much bigger than the initial market it was targeted at. It’s expanding and will keep expanding for a very long time,” Udezue says.
The startup, founded by senior lecturer in accounting at Swinburne University, Gráinne Oates, has 8000 users across 18 university campuses, including the University of Melbourne and University of Sydney.
Udezue hasn't invested in Quitch at this stage but says he may in the future.
Aside from his role at tech giant Atlassian, Udezue wants to deliver mentorship and angel investment to a range of startups solving big problems, with a particular focus on African businesses.
He is a managing partner at investment fund Kernel, which invests in early stage companies across sub-Saharan Africa, with a focus on Nigeria.
Previous investments include Nigerian online fashion startup Heels.com.ng.
Udezue says the types of businesses coming out of Australia and the US are quite different to those launching in Africa. While Australian startups and their US counterparts are fixated with solving “lifestyle problems”, the entrepreneurs he speaks with in countries like Nigeria are creating social solutions or brand new sectors.
These entrepreneurs are creating products to help with things like renting, or making gift cards or e-commerce work in their region, rather than convenience-focused projects.
Udezue says there can be room for all sorts of businesses, but he gets excited about companies creating brand new solutions to problems.
“I find what I call voids, things that don’t already exist, and I find young local founders working [on solutions],” he says.
Meanwhile, “disruptor” businesses that don’t actually disrupt don’t interest him.
“Food delivery apps is a pet peeve of mind - everyone thinks they’re ‘on-demand’, but they’re not. It’s about the efficiency of the use of a resource,” he says.
Udezue will address Swinburne's Australian Graduate School of Entrepreneurship on Friday on the topic of culture and high-performance teams.
With so many “innovators” emerging from startup scenes daily, the types of companies that catch his eye are areas “where people dig deeper” to solve big problems.
The size of the opportunity is important too - that is, how many users or different markets an idea can reach.
“What I look at is the team, the market opportunity and the validation they’ve gotten.
“At heart, I’m a technologist - and I’m big into building something.”
Emma is a Fairfax Media's small business reporter based in Melbourne.