PASS.NG: The Story

As told by Imole Oluyemi

I met a man called Samson Abioye

One morning, in August 2014, in the cold Ogbomoso harmattan while I was still recovering from the rude shock of my father’s death, I received a call that would change my life forever.

I had encountered Samson Abioye about two years prior to that time, this was while we were interning at the ICT Centre of Ladoke Akintola University of Technology (our alma mater) in Ogbomoso. Samson was a young brilliant chap with a slim frame. But I took picked special interest in him when I noticed how this “small boy” was given bigger responsibilities than the rest of us which made him well-respected as though he was a permanent staff member of the Centre. I got close to him and we became casual friends.

Our internship ended and we settled into everyday academic activities; and being our final year, everyone had their plates full of different activities. However, Samson and I kept in touch, checking in on each other from time to time.

All thanks to the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) strike of about six months in that year of 2013, our graduation year got shifted to 2014 and some of us decided to make the best use of the downtime. I travelled to Lagos and got a job as a Designer while Samson, in the company of Joshua Adebagbo and Abayomi Akanji, decided to build Apps and submit them for a particular Apps contest at the time.

Although none of the Apps won in the contest, Abayomi, under Samson’s guidance decided to go ahead and develop one of the Apps into an actual product; called Mobile JAMB CBT. Computer-Based Testing (CBT) was at the time newly introduced into the Nigerian National pre-college exams at the time. And this was to check the various inefficiencies of the Paper-based exams. This was coupled with the fact that there was a prevalent failure rate in these national exams — up to 70% — which means a disturbing 3 out of every 10 candidates actually passed in these exams.

How it all Started

In our usual manner of catching up every now and then, I ran into Samson soon as I got back to campus, right after the strike was called off. This was January 2014 and had just resumed for the final semester of our final year. We shared updates of what we’ve both been up to in the past couple of months. He told me of the Mobile Jamb CBT project and I told him of how I had changed jobs twice within that space of time including how I had brought more to the table than being a designer, helping my bosses secure projects grossing millions of Naira before heading back to school. “Imole comes and handle our branding and App design’’, Samson said. These words coming from the young man that I deeply admire, respect, I immediately keyed into the vision, I took the offer without wasting time.

Initially, I wasn’t fully with the team as I was running my own design and print agency and I had to combine all that with my studies. We used a Professor’s office for our meetings and we meet mostly at nights. We discussed business, tech, sales and product design directions to the best of our knowledge at the time.

Fast forward a couple of months between February and April 2014, we had launched Mobile Jamb CBT on Android, Blackberry and Symbian OS. I handled the design while Samson, Joshua, and Abayomi wrote the code for the product. We decided to leverage the rapid adoption of mobile (Android, Blackberry and Symbian OS) to tackle examination failure in Nigeria by way of intensive electronic test preparation based on adaptive learning.

The product was an instant hit amongst Secondary and pre-college students across Nigeria. We recorded over a hundred thousand downloads in the first three months on all three app platforms. When the exam results were released, testimonies came pouring in from users all over the nation and we knew right then that we found a major point of impact and we had to dedicate more of our time, skills and resources to it. Samson led and we all supported with a lot of enthusiasm.

Getting into 440NG

We applied to 440.NG accelerator program and got in. The accelerator which was a joint venture between Kresten Buch’s 88MPH and Chika Nwobi’s L5Lab decided to take a chance on us despite our obvious lack of “experience”. We moved to Lagos as soon as the program commenced to work on the product full time and as Co-founders- Samson Abioye, Joshua Adebagbo, Abayomi Akanji, and Imole Oluyemi. Through the help of 440.NG, we incorporated the company and changed the name to PASS.NG. We also got funding and met potential partners, investors, and mentors.

The program ended in December 2014 and right after, we won the Airtel Catapult-A-Startup competition which came with a cash prize and a partnership opportunity with Airtel Nigeria. In a first of its kind deal with a startup company, the partnership meant that our users could subscribe to the product by dialling a USSD code (*727#) or by buying a recharge card and loading it directly on the App and they will get their preferred subscription. This solved the payment and remittance problems that our users had faced prior to this time. Our users before then have either had to make a long trip to the banking hall to make a money transfer or send us the equivalent value of their preferred subscription in recharge cards.

This partnership had a significant positive impact on our revenue, peaking at $50,000 in a month for the first few months of the deal. We also got a lot of publicity which we couldn’t have funded by ourselves at the time. It was massive; Radio, billboards, TV and Digital ads.

Other Partnerships

We crossed the five hundred thousand registered users milestone in 2018 and we recorded a 68% pass rate for users on the platform. We went into more partnerships with renowned companies like Facebook, Wechat, Union Bank, and all these help us to put the App into the hands of a lot more students in Nigeria.

Tragedy Struck

On Friday, July 28th, 2017, we lost Samson Abioye. He was until his death the Chief Executive Officer of PASS.NG. Samson was an intelligent, empathetic and charismatic leader; his death shook the company to its roots. However, we continued with the vision in his absence, ensuring that his legacy lives on. We wanted to ensure that failure is reduced to the barest minimum and learning is simplified for students in Nigeria.

We have won several awards and also featured in several publications across the world ever since.

Our timeline

February 2014

Launched as Mobile JAMB CBT on blackberry, Symbian and Android OS

April 2014

Recorded 100k downloads of the app across all the platforms

August 2014

Got Accepted and resumed 440NG Accelerator programme

November 2014

Name changed to PASS.NG

January 2015

New Android-only App was launched

February 2015

Secured Airtel partnership

July 2015

Moved to our own office space in Yaba Lagos

January 2016

Launched our offline desktop app

December 2016

Launched our Agent Network

July 2017

Samson Abioye went to be with the Lord

December 2017

We won the Future Africa Prize for Education (Endorsed by the University of Sussex)

March 2018

We launched Offline desktop apps for all exams on the platform and increased non-telco revenues to more than 50% of total revenue.

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