“To me, my laptop was human.” – Lazerpay CEO, Njoku Emmanuel’s journey to blockchain stardom

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Published: 2022-06-09

The majority of students at a public university in Nigeria have nearly identical experiences during their time there. They might range from overcrowded lecture halls and constant strike actions to rallies and demonstrations, as well as a lack of basic amenities.

Some people are able to persevere through hardships of this nature and emerge victorious as a result. Some people aren't nearly as fortunate.

Not just due to the unfavorable learning environment, but also because he didn't feel like it was a good use of his time, Njoku Emmanuel, CEO and Co-founder of the cryptocurrency firm Lazerpay, falls into the latter category. He felt that it wasn't a good use of his time.

"When I arrived at school for the first time, every room was stifling since there were more than 200 individuals in one class. I was surprised to learn that students from all of the different engineering disciplines were in the same class at the 100 level. They don't have separate classrooms for computer, electrical, or mechanical work, so all 500 pupils are crammed into one space.

The first day that Emmanuel stepped into that overcrowded 100 level class wasn't the first day that he became disillusioned with the university; rather, it was the first day that his parents constantly badgered him about how vital it was to go to a university.

He had other goals in mind; he aspired to be the next Mark Zuckerberg and had a passion for constructing things and finding solutions to issues. On the other hand, his parents held very different conceptions of what it meant to live a successful and fulfilled life.

To them, achieving success meant obtaining a medical degree. However, Emmanuel swiftly knocked that proposal out of the hat.

“I didn’t like the idea of having to study medical before you become successful in life or studying an engineering course and then obtain a job in an oil firm.

“So one of the reasons I didn’t like school was that my parents always exalted the education system in Nigeria. They argue that medical doctors are the most skilled professionals, and that anyone who does not work in the medical field is a waste of time.

His defiance against what his parents viewed as the finest path in life produced tensions in the family. His choice was met with opposition from a wide variety of people, including his parents, members of the church, his extended family, and even friends of the family.

They were at a loss to comprehend why Emmanuel would not pursue a career in medicine, which is regarded as one of the most renowned fields in the world. They had never heard of Zuckerberg before Emmanuel mentioned it.

Emmanuel's defiance paid off, and his parents conceded that he could pursue an other field of study besides medicine; yet, he was still restricted in the choices he had. It was either engineering or medicine for him, but he would have been happy to study anything as long as it wasn't medicine. If he had his choice, he would have gone into computer science or software engineering.

Emmanuel was eager to put his engineering knowledge to use, as he had been looking forward to it. In light of this, he approached his studies in electrical engineering at Enugu State University in Enugu State, Nigeria, with excitement and enthusiasm despite the fact that it was not the course that he would have chosen.

"I was thinking, well, since it's engineering, I'll just go ahead and do it." When I started school, I did so with the mentality that all I knew then would be superseded by what I learn now. Consequently, I was getting ready for something exciting and engaging.

Unfortunately, the only thing “hot” about the university was the overcrowded class where he received lectures. His expectations on how advanced and difficult the field of electrical engineering would be were not met.

Due to the high level of education he had in his secondary school, he found the coursework in his university to be quite easy to understand.

"I attended Niger Delta Science School, which is widely regarded as being among the top secondary institutions in Port Harcourt. My teachers were actually lecturers from the University of Port Harcourt. They treated us like their own children and instilled in us a love for learning; furthermore, they were excellent teachers. I had a lot of classes on Saturday with my physics and electronics lecturer, and we performed more practical work."

Because he had gained such a significant amount of knowledge in secondary school, Emmanuel anticipated gaining even more knowledge in university.

"Back home, I had already completed calculus, differentiation, and integration by the time I was in the second year of high school, and I had also already built and assembled electronic components, IC transistors, and other such things.

"And now I'm coming to [learn] electrical engineering at the university, where I think it's going to be more advanced, and they're teaching me maths from JSS3," she said. It seemed more like the lecturers were trying to get me to return."

But other than that, having a conversation with his contemporaries was like having a conversation in French with a man from China; the future that he envisioned appeared foreign to them.

Emmanuel's only goal was to construct, whereas the majority of his classmates were focused on getting an A+ on their final exam. It didn't make a difference whether you fought for the attendance sheet, fought over your grades, or fought over your assignments.

It wasn't long before he began skipping courses, and it wasn't long after that when he met Kelvin, another student in electrical engineering who shared his enthusiasm for constructing things using technology.

"As I was seated at the front of the room, I overheard him having a conversation with another person about web development, and that got me quite enthusiastic. I thought to myself, "Oh my God, I've finally seen someone else who is into programming, someone with whom I can finally relate."

Those Zuckerberg ambitions Emmanuel mentioned, Kelvin had them too, and they wasted no time in drafting an action plan.

Making money is the initial priority.

The kinds of ideas Emmanuel and Kelvin chased were very capital intensive, and they needed a lot of money to fund their objectives.

The first strategy was dropshipping, which is a lucrative form of online company that includes the sale of products through an online platform rather than through a traditional storefront. The plan was easy to understand: first, amass a fortune through dropshipping, then launch a successful technology business, and finally, become a billionaire.

The only issue was that nothing is ever going to be so straightforward. The two computer aficionados who spent all their time creating programming didn’t know the first thing about selling, and dropshipping was eventually stopped.

It's interesting to note that they weren't scared at all. All they needed was a fresh plan, and the route to billionaire tech bros would still be on track. The new idea was to write emails to Instagram vendors and explain why they required a website.

If they could convince many businesses to establish a website for ₦50,000 ($83.33), they’ll be on their path to tech stardom. Emmanuel crafted a very detailed and thorough pitch that went into great detail on the ways in which a website may assist in increasing conversion.

They sent out their emails but received no reply from their recipients. It was a good pitch, after all, so they questioned, “why was no one getting back to them?” Well, time to go back to the drawing board.

"The pitch was very detailed, and nearly no one responded to us; as a result, we concluded that doing it online was ineffective." It was necessary for us to go out into the streets. If you ask our pals, they’ll tell you that we are totally nuts.

"We had the notion that we could convince twenty businesses to let us create them a website for a fee of 50,000 yen each. We were already calculating how much we would make, how we’ll distribute it and how we would create a company.”

Emmanuel and Kelvin explored the neighborhood in search of businesses that were willing to make the transition to digital. It was a better idea than waiting for people to respond to their emails; they could develop greater trust, and they could address any issues the business owners could have.

Emmanuel and Kelvin's goal of becoming rich tech bros was never any closer to being a reality, not even when they tried to sell digital transformation services to local businesses on the street.

Emmanuel was not going to give up without coming up with another strategy, despite the fact that no one was biting. This time, he came up with a solution to a genuine issue that the people of Enugu are facing.

"Enugu has a water crisis, and we thought, because we already have Uber, why don't we build Uber for water?" We referred to it as QAqua.

QAqua was another project that was never completed. The undertaking requires a significant amount of financial resources. But the response that Emmanuel and his friend got from the majority of the people they pitched the idea to was by far the most significant factor in its early demise.

Emmanuel was all too accustomed to the sensation of having his ideas mocked and rejected, and this was something that bothered him throughout his life.

Believing when no one did

Njoku EmmanuelNjoku Emmanuel

"'I may be the next Facebook founder,'" he said. When I say this, they can't help but crack up laughing. When I told my mother that I wanted to be Africa's version of Zuckerberg, she and the rest of my family laughed at me. Whenever I hear them laughing, I walk back inside and cry. On the other hand, that only served to fortify my resolve.

Because Emmanuel's ambitions mattered a lot to him, it was one of the most heartbreaking experiences of his life when his father discovered that he wasn't attending classes and took his laptop away from him as a consequence.

There is no way for me to leave the house without bringing my laptop with me; it is an extremely important component of who I am. When my father took away my computer, my life became a living hell. I remember going to bed crying because I didn’t have my laptop. It felt as though a piece of my heart had been torn away.

Eventually, he got his laptop back, but he’s had just one thing on his mind since then – proving everyone wrong. Going to school was not an option, and given the amount of time that had been invested in IT, failing was not an option either.

He put his all effort into it and spent every second of his time learning and coding. He even switched to computer science and gave school another chance, but he was moving faster than school.

He was the type of person who always made plans, but this time he went beyond just coding to widen his horizons. He started developing connections and new friends, both of which enlightened him about what he needed to know about the business world of technology. He went to every tech event he could find, during which he made new connections and gained new knowledge.

He was further inspired after meeting some well-known figures in the field of technology. He reasoned with himself, "If these guys can do it, then I can do it as well."

At one of these tech events, Emmanuel made the decision to make a presentation about himself to a company that might hire him in the future. He had been putting a lot of effort into the technology and believed that landing this contract would be simple. However, the fact that he excelled in technology at Enugu State University does not guarantee that he is prepared to compete in Nigeria's technology environment.

After coming to the conclusion that he had a long way to go in his education, he went back to the drawing board.

Finding blockchain

(L-R) Oluchi Enebeli, Hillary Omitogun, Njoku Emmanuel and Ayodeji Awosika at TABS 22(L-R) Oluchi Enebeli, Hillary Omitogun, Njoku Emmanuel and Ayodeji Awosika at Techpoint Africa Blockchain Summit (TAB22)

Emmanuel and Kelvin were aware that they needed to take the initiative, and they did so.

"Once we became aware of how competitive Nigeria's web development ecosystem is, we made the decision to approach things in a new manner. He went in the direction of artificial intelligence, whereas I went in the direction of blockchain engineering.

Because Emmanuel was so interested in blockchain technology, he dove headfirst into studying as much as he could about it. He began his education with the book Mastering Bitcoin: Programming the Open Blockchain by Andreas M. Antonopoulos.

TABS 22 included Njoku Emmanuel and a number of other panelists.Njoku Emmanuel and other panellists at TABS 22.

Before writing his first line of Ethereum code in 2019, at the age of 17, he read as much as he possibly could. Despite his youth, Emmanuel felt positive that he was moving forward in the correct direction. Even if everyone in his immediate environment tried to convince him otherwise, he was ready to hand over everything to blockchain.

His first position in the blockchain industry was with Hydro Blockchain, and it didn't take him long to land it. From that point on, the only direction to go was up, and he quickly became a blockchain engineer who was in high demand.

His goals were coming into focus, and he was ready to start proving his naysayers wrong. Those individuals who had previously made fun of him expressed a desire to become his pals. Before he made the decision to launch Lazerpay, he was a blockchain engineer who brought in up to $20,000 every month.

Now that he was in this position, he had two choices: either he could continue working for corporations as a blockchain engineer and make money, or he could try to become the next Mark Zuckerberg and develop a global firm. It was a no-brainer; he was always going with the second.

“It’s not about the money. This is what I'm working on right now, and I feel a deep sense of responsibility toward it since it has an impact on Africa, which is where I was born and raised. Even if we travel everywhere, like you are still African, Nigeria is still your nation.

When I was a Nigerian living in Dubai and seeking to create a bank account, it was a living hell. These are the problems I encountered while traveling outside the nation. This served as an additional impetus toward the development of a solution.

Even though he was being offered jobs with annual salaries of up to $500,000, he was not going to change his mind about starting Lazerpay.

"This is a challenge that I want to overcome, and I want to make sure that this comes to pass. My goal is to be at the forefront of the adoption of cryptocurrencies in Africa. I want to make cryptocurrency more useful and come up with more applications for it, thus I'm designing a platform called Lazerpay.

Njoku Emmanuel is well on his way to becoming a tech billionaire on the African continent after receiving an investment of $1.1 million shortly after the launch of Lazerpay.