So last night this happened…

The last three weeks have been a bit crazy, filled with surprises and unplanned events that have resulted in unexpected results.

I’m a big believer in taking an opportunity when it’s presented to you whether you are prepared for it or not. Because of this, I generally get roped into things because the person asked and I never say no to friends.

Last month, Nzube Ufodike (a friend) sent me an email about a Fintech in Africa talk at London Business School. Now, I read the email but didn’t take real notice of what it was saying. I actually thought he was asking me to help find someone to sit on the panel. So, I replied with a yes. When he sent me an official email thanking me for agreeing to sit on a panel talk I thought, oh cool. And then an email came from the co-organisers, DLA Piper, with my fellow panellists on it and I swallowed hard.

WTF! I can’t sit on a panel with these people

My fellow entrepreneur panellists were Gbite Oduneye (a respected acquaintance) of A&O Acquisitions, Viola Llewelyn (part of my #sheroe crew) of Ovamba, Greg Cohen of Asoko Insights and Leslie-Ann Vaughan – ex-M-Kopa & ex-Vodafone (M-PESA Product Manager). Not to mention Tomi Davis was on the investor panel.

I spent the next few hours trying to find the right words to wriggle out of it. I mean what the hell did I have to contribute to this conversation? I woke up the next morning and still no joy on finding a wriggle out excuse. I was committed.

During the pre-event briefing call I raised the question about the limited definition of an African Fintech. This was a catalyst for a rather fiery conversation. It seemed that I had something of value to add afterall. Apart from the fact that Viola and I together are double trouble. Let’s just say we’re not afraid of bringing some controversy to the proceedings. We behaved (well, kinda) on the night. How glad was I that I hadn’t found that excuse. It’s the first time I was given a platform to talk about Bnkability and I was humbled.

Two days later I got a call from the Royal African Society (co-organisers of the previous event) asking if I’d fill in for a speaker drop out on the Can Tech Fix Nigeria talk at London School of Economics. I looked at my dirty white pumps and Jean shirt and said

What the hell, why not!

Now this talk was controversial. We were comprised of what Fumni Iyanda, the moderator, dubbed the policy guy, process guy and tech guy. Yes, I was the tech guy. This was a thought provoking conversation on the role of tech and technologist in solving some of the bigger infrastructure issues in Nigeria, do we collaborate with or even need government to get things done and what role do or should high net worth Nigerians, who’s money is stashed in the West, have to play in this.

Finally, this brings us to last night. Now, I knew this event was happening in August. Gary ushered some of us who went to the Acorn Aspirations demo day into a meeting room, telling us some basic information about the programme and how it’d come about. Well, there was mention of Lagos but certainly not Brussels and Abidjan. Not that I recall anyway.

So when I saw an email from ATBN with the event advertised, I thought, hold up, what happened to my invite. Anyway, I booked my ticket and that was that. Except it wasn’t. Two days later, I emailed Gary recollecting the conversation at Wayra, saying no invite came through, I’d like to wangle my way onto the Abdijan summit and though there was an opportunity to pitch I will not be doing so, we’re pre-traction it’s too early.

Now bear in mind when I was ushered into the meeting room back in August, I’d never met Gary before, he didn’t ask my name nor did he know that I had a start-up. I was there because I did some UX mentoring during the programme and I wanted to see if my gut instinct was right on the winning team (I’m happy to say it was). We spoke for about 10mins including addressing the Acorn Aspirations winners. He left a colleague to explain things and take our details.

He replied to my email a couple of days later with Harry cc’d in saying he’ll be able to address my questions. On Wednesday, I jumped on a call with Harry where I quickly reiterated that I think we’re too early to start pitching. He disagreed as there’d be other pre-traction start-ups pitching.

We have one pitch slot left, I think you should pitch

He said. A moment of silence followed, it literally was just a moment.

What the hell

I said

I’ll do it

Shock horror, I was one of the three winners

I had no idea what I’d pitched for because I just hit the link to attend the event when the email initially came through and happened to see some blurb inviting people to pitch.  I clicked, dragged the scroller down quickly then dismissed it and closed the page. Nor had I bothered to ask. Oh well, I guess I’ll find out soon enough.

Thank you @hrdavies for suggesting I do it.

Life is never filled with just things that you planned but peppered with unexpected stuff that was supposed to happen even if when you try your damnedest to avoid them. I continue to put one foot in front of other and see where it takes me.