Ferdinand Ladi Adimefe, CEO of Imaginarium Creative, describes himself as a creative industrialist. This is because of his passion and vision for improving and scaling Africa’s creative industry. Adeimefe is also interested in changing things positively, which is why ten years ago he started an NGO called Creative Nigeria Project. He then went on to create Imaginarium Creative Global, a content factory that helps him to express his love for innovation and creativity.
In this exclusive interview, he tells us more about himself and his company. Enjoy the read.
Q: Tell us about your company and its products and services.
A: I started Imaginarium as a creative technology company. At that time, our focus was “how can we create products that will be useful in the African market?” We really wanted an opportunity to play in the global technology space. We worked with MTN, 9Mobile and Airtel, creating games. And then eventually we went into Animation.
Animation was a natural path for me because I have always loved storytelling. I grew up reading books from the African Writers’ Series, and that made me wonder what watching adaptations of those stories would be like. That has led to one of our projects, an animated adaptation of Cyprian Ekwensi’s Passport of Mallam Ilia, from 1966, which will be out next year. So, we work on games, animated movies, and series.
Q: How did you discover your vision or what led you to this line of business/career?
A: My first course of study was Human Anatomy, so my choice to move into this was not a conscious one. I grew up in a traditional family where the career choices were between law, medicine or engineering, and that led my choices. But by my second year in school, I was already publishing a magazine, so people who knew me, knew me more as an editor than as a medical student.
When I graduated, I decided to pursue that, and I realised that media and creativity were what I was really passionate about. So, my current path came out of a sense of heightened awareness and exploring my passion.
Q: What was the first step you took on your entrepreneurship journey?
A: Realising that the paycheck wasn’t all there was to life, oil and gas paid more, but it was not fulfilling and I wanted fulfillment to be part of my success story, not just the money. So, I took out the time to know what the market needed, what was I going to solve? Advertising seemed to be too saturated, so I decided to go with animation.
At the time, animation was how we distinguished ourselves, from the obtainable, to the market. So, first steps were identifying a need in the market, building capacity, and putting together a team that would create value.
Q: How did you raise funding for your venture?
A: We were a client-service company at first, so we didn’t need funding, because as we worked we created revenue, and we reinvested—so, we didn’t need funding. Where that need came in was where we decided to scale, at this point we had become a creative technology holding company, we had several products in production, a staff strength of about 50, and we needed to get our products into the market. That was when I started thinking seriously about finding.
Our journey to funding has been relatively successful, but not where we want it to be. One thing I have come to realize is that, for you to attract the sort of funding you need, you need to start thinking from a global perspective. The typical Nigerian investor is driven by short-term profit, and that doesn’t work in our industry. We are currently in our Series A stage, and it’s going well. But, acquiring an investor is like a marriage, you need someone who is aligned with the company’s vision, if there is disconnect funding could be a disaster —where you lose the war but win the battle.
Q: What’s the one thing you wish you’d known before you started in business?
A: Focus came late for us, I am an ideas person, thinking up ideas comes easy for me. And at that time, once that idea comes, I’m all about pursuing it, and that put a strain on our resources, trying to chase four or five different projects at once. If I meet my younger self, I would tell him that he doesn’t have to do all those things, not all the ideas are his to execute. Sometimes, they’re not ready yet, sometimes they’re not yours to own.
Another was identifying my team early enough—in the beginning, we couldn’t always afford the best people, so we took people who could do a good enough job. But right now, I know that skill is good, and so is character. So, if I see a skilled person who is willing to put in the work, I’d try to make them a good enough offer that’ll keep them. That is because, having a proper team takes the pressure off you as an entrepreneur…
Read the rest of the interview here.
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