The humble beginning of Kobo360 co-founder Obi Uzor, DANIEL ESSIET reports
Freight logistics startup, Kobo360, is a success story. It is a tech-enabled logistics platform that aggregates haulage to help cargo owners, truck drivers and cargo recipients to achieve an efficient supply chain framework.
It marks the beginning of a new path in trucking – a path that is organised and makes trucking simple for every customer and trucker.
Dubbed the Uber for freight services, the startup is tipping the balance for cargo transportation by connecting truck owners with producers and distributors with long haul trips.
Founded in 2016, Kobo360 has been a pioneer in bringing the offline operations of trucking online, be it matching a producer with a trucker or reshaping the infrastructure around trucking to facilitate payments, insurance, and financial services.
Today, Kobo360 is Nigeria’s largest trucking network, and ‘Services’ technology platform that deliver reliability, efficiency and experience for producer and truckers. It has grown from a business with a few vehicles to a fleet of more 6000 trucks.
One of the best funded online freight start-ups in the country, Kobo 360 has everything that it takes to win the race. But it was not a smooth ride to the top.
Like any startup, Kobo 360 had its own journey, filled with many ups and downs, highs and lows, but what contributed to its triumphant position is the consistent efforts to adapt the changing factors, obsession to serve the customers, foreseeable sight into the logistics operations and the never back down attitude of its two founding members.
For instance, its Chief Executive and co-founder Obi Uzor was not born with a silver spoon. His mother was a village teacher in Enugu State. He grew up in a farming village called Abor in Enugu State and experienced serious health challenges as a child. He was admitted into Sacred Heart Seminary Nsude, for his secondary education. This was, however, interrupted when he was diagnosed with second stage kidney failure. His battle against this disease lasted four years. After surviving the protracted illness, Obi relocated to the United States where he completed his high school education.
Uzor was a toilet washer and careperson for the elderly while in the United States.
He was addressing a forum organised by UK Nigeria Tech Hub in Lagos. From his earning, he bought a truck at 19, which he sent to Nigeria.
He also went to the University of Pennsylvania where he bagged a Bachelor of Arts in International Relations and Finance.
He started work as an investment banker at JP Morgan in 2014 and quit a year later. He resumed operations at Uber Nigeria as the Director of Operations for the ride-sharing platform.
Uzor’s journey into Kobo360 is linked with Uber, where he played a prominent role in its expansion drive across Africa. He ventured into delivery logistics.
He and his co-founder and Chief Technology Officer, Kobo360, Ife Oyedele, saw the potential of the freight transport market. The company’s online platform enables truck owners to find jobs and bid for them. While other founders will look for funders outside, they approached their parents who saw a future in their dream.
Uzor’s mother supported him with her gratuity while Oyedele’s mother sold her land and gave the proceed to them. Uzor has come a long way from the inexperienced 23-year-old who thought “the cash would just roll in’’.
Initially, they faced the challenge of acceptance. Uzor had to move up North to mingle with truck owners. Eventually, he won their confidence when he explained what solution they were bringing into the market.
The start-up has grown to a business that employs hundreds of Nigerians. Things have stabilised. Since its launch in 2016, Kobo360 has continued to serve small businesses and e-commerce platforms, leveraging existing infrastructure in providing cost-effective logistics solutions for these Nigerian businesses. This has been made possible through partnerships with key logistics players in the country such as Chisco Transport Group, DHL, UPS, Air France, KLM, SA Airlines, and a network of drivers all over Nigeria and Ghana.
Kobo360 has developed a suite of driver-focused products to support the over 10,000 drivers on its platform. It has launched KoPAY, offering access of up to $5,000 monthly working capital; KoboSAFE, access to an insurance product; and Kobo CARE, access to discounted petrol, comprehensive health maintenance organisation (HMO) packages and an incentive-based education programme for drivers’ families.
Kobo360 has raised a $20 million Series A round led by Goldman Sachs and $10 million in working capital financing from the commercial banks.
Uzor is a role model for young entrepreneurs and icon in the world of trucking. He is seen as one of the boldest entrepreneurs changing the game. He represents the optimism, inventiveness and boldness of Nigeria’s millennial entrepreneurs.
His strategy is better service delivery.
He said starting a small business is exciting time but advised startups from sourcing funds through the bank. Instead, they should seek assistance from family or friends.
His words: “Talk to your family and friends about your business needs, decide if you want investment funds.’’
According to him, managing and growing a successful startup is replete with challenges from all sides – from keeping employees and investors happy, to raising money and improving bottom line.
He said getting money from an investor is not easy, but with perseverance, one is likely to get funding.
Amid strengthening its leadership, introducing multiple initiatives, undergoing a revamp has helped to boost increase in revenue. A bit of outsourcing by tying up with third-party logistics players had also started to further the efforts of building a sustainable network.
The Country Director UK-Nigeria Tech Hub, Honey Ogundeyi, said the organisation aims is to help develop the Nigerian tech ecosystem.
She said UK-Nigeria Tech Hub is ready to support entrepreneurs with opportunities to grow.