How it all Started
Lolu and I met in year 1 in secondary school. We were one of the few students who spent their free time in the Introductory Technology Laboratory. We both offered Technical Drawing and we had a Ghanaian engineer as our technical drawing teacher who also doubled as the technical personnel of the laboratory. We studied a lot of engineering related projects and experimented with a lot of projects, especially from the encyclopaedia. We were given free and uncontrolled access to the laboratory due to our interest and creativity.
We were exposed to machines such as Lathe Machine, Furnace for melting metal, milling machines, shaping machine, drilling and welding machine, etc. Our knowledge of technical drawing helped us to communicate our design ideas before building them. Our experiences and engagements were far above the exposures other students had in the school. In year two, we started having some recognitions from the school. Lolu became the president of the Junior Engineer and Technologist (JET) club. We designed and produced a satellite dish that received TV signal from many African countries, Pin-hole camera, Grain Dryer for drying corn, and several other interesting designs. We represented the school in several quiz and engineering competitions having first place positions.
We both gained admission into the faculty of engineering in University of Ilorin in 1991. Lolu studied Electrical Electronics and I studied Mechanical Engineering. The new school environment exposed us the more to the realities of life. We saw so many opportunities and we were always innovating to solve problems around us. We designed and produced an affordable Yagi Huda antenna that students used in their various hostels to keep themselves up-to-date with TV programmes. While Lolu got busy with designing and building electronic circuits and programming microprocessors, I got tired of building mechanical systems and was looking for ways of automating the process and building a digital model before building the physical component.
One night, in year 3 of our study, Lolu and I evaluated our achievements and envisioned the future ahead of us. That night, the meeting was held on the roof top of Mechanical Engineering department (Block 7). We had a long prayer session before and after the meeting after which we came up with the name of the company as CAD Partners (Computer Aided Design) . We decided that it was going to be a research and development company with the primary objective of analysing and researching the problems in the society and developing solutions to solve the problems.
We were involved in several software development related projects in year four and the final year in the engineering school. Some of the solutions we delivered include, 3D Simulation and Animations of Mechanical vibration, small business applications, Machine logging and Data analysis etc. We got our first Software Development Contract in 1997 at (N 126,000) from The Centre for Advancement Studies in Ilorin, just as we concluded our dissertation. We went on National Youth service in 1999. Lolu served in Aba, in Abia state and I served in Port Harcourt in Rivers State, just 45 minutes away from Aba. Lolu served in Abitus computers as a systems engineer and developer and I served in Michelin as a Mechanical engineer, contrary to my desire. We were constantly in touch and we had more time to collaborate and deliver more solution. We officially registered CAD Consulting Limited in 2004 when we started having steady cash flow from the commercial version of our research works.
We opened the first office in Aba with Lolu working fulltime in CAD and later opened the second office in Port Harcourt. After youth service, I was retained in Michelin as a Mechanical supervisor, but I left for Multisoft Consulting, a Software development company. I was working in Multisoft Consulting as a fulltime software developer and part time developer with CAD. After 18 months I got an offer from Michelin as a senior web developer. I worked for about 3 years after delivering several successful projects. I resigned from Michelin in April 2004 and fully resumed in CAD Consulting Limited as a Software Architect and Engineer.
Due to scarcity of professional developers, we creates Softtellect Limited, a start-up focusing on training and mentoring developers and also preparing them for international certifications. For a sustainable implementation of this task, we setup a Technology incubator called Softtellect, now known as ICEHub (Innovation, Creativity and Entrepreneurship Hub) in 2005. The hub has been on full sponsorship by CAD Consulting Limited to date.
It has been a long and interesting journey to get to where we are today. The next few sections will explain how Lolu and I have successfully run CAD today.
CAD is a self-funded company. Our growth from start up to date has been purely organic. There were no funding opportunities available when we started this journey, and most of our ideas needed to be seen physically before customer could pay for them. We were caught up in a situation of many great ideas but no funding to bring them to reality. We spent all our salaries to create many of the solutions we have today. This is one of the reasons why I had work for 4 years before settling down in CAD. At that time, software solutions were of little or no value, especially from an Indigenous company. Lolu and I woke up to the realization that we had to be creative to solve the funding and financing challenge that faced us. We finally came up with the strategies detailed below. These strategies have been used by us for over 10 years of the existence of CAD.
Our Business Model
After running for 4 years, we came up with a new and more sustainable business model. This business model is what Lolu and I call "Build and Partner". CAD being a product research and development company have a wide range of product and services that is needed in the market. Branding and pushing them into the market was another major huddle to cross which we were not ready to do because of scarce resources and distraction.
The Build and Partner business model involves two stages. The first stage is to develop the solution, here CAD use its resources (Financial, Intellectual property asset, human resource, etc.) to research, develop or build a market ready solution. The second stage is the commercialization of the solution. Here CAD explores various partnership options with individuals or companies with passion for the particular solution. Usually, we create a new entity to manage the partnership and deliver the primary objectives which is to push the products or services to the market using the best suited channels. Some of the partnerships are with existing companies with good product marketing networks and experience. Some of the partnerships are fund induced, In this case, CAD partners with an individual or a company providing the funds under a new entity. Roles and responsibilities are clearly defined with Key Performance Indicators.
All the partnership arrangements are done on individual bases. Any of the director of CAD can facilitate and manage the partnership. The research owner usually owns the partnership. Some of the partnerships are product based while some are project based. The product based partnerships are more sustainable and that have proven to be profitable only when the partners play their roles well. One of our primary goal in CAD is to run the company purely as a product research and Development Company for the first 13 years of operation. This is the reason why all the partnerships we have today are indirect partnership and the co-founders are still presently the only two directors.
Professional certification is the most reliable means of maintaining development standard and enforcing compliance. This is why we encourage our core developers to get certified.
Microsoft certification offers a means of demonstrating expertise in Microsoft Technology Solutions. We have certification covering all the major platforms for application development, namely Windows desktop application development, Web application development, Mobile application development, IoT and Embedded systems. The certifications are as follows;
- Microsoft® Certified Professional
- Microsoft® Certified Solution Developer: Microsoft Visual Studio