Nigeria’s Autochek is an African online marketplace for cars offering financing in the continent’s major cities, by bringing local car dealers, banks and auto maintenance workshops onto its platform. Etop Ikpe, who had previous senior e-commerce roles with Cars45, DealDey, and Konga, founded the company in 2020. Autochek has since raised over $16 million in pre-seed and seed funding. Those funds have been deployed on talent, proprietary technology and pan-African acquisitions including Cheki country sites in Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, and Uganda, and KIFAL Auto in Morocco in May. It has just announced its latest acquisition of CoinAfrique in Côte d’Ivoire and Senegal, as well as 10 other Francophone African countries.
What unique challenge of running a pan-African tech startup hadn’t you considered before you did it?
The uniqueness of each market cannot be overstated. It sounds like an obvious statement but empowering your local teams to build for their markets is a key learning that has helped us to succeed across various markets. Understanding that we had to make a mental adjustment where it’s not ‘product first’ but ‘customer first.”
What is your preferred approach to recruiting managers and team leaders?
The people factor is a very important one. I like people who have a culture of being deliberate about people development. It is important that the whole organization is aligned with the company vision and that can only happen with the managers’ buy-in. I also like people who are hungry to learn and adaptable as they come into a new role.
What concerns do you have about how the global economic slowdown might impact the African ecosystem?
Booms and busts are a natural part of economic cycles. We’re building for resilience, after all we started in the middle of the lockdown. The last few years have been challenging but it’s also been a good period. A lot of our startups in Africa are trying to solve real problems, many are in the less sexy sectors, like health and agriculture. The question for investors is whether the demand is still there for the startups’ services – and it is.
Which business or leadership books or text do you find yourself returning to as you grow your business?
Eleven Rings: The Soul of Success by Phil Jackson. Phil is very big on people and getting the best out of all his athletes so this book has many lessons on people management. It’s not so much about basketball but more about how he got the best from each player and adapted his leadership style to each athlete’s personality.