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Meet The Nigerian Entrepreneur Who Turned NairaBET Into An Overnight Success Story

Otunba Akin Alabi lounging at an event
Until five years ago, he has no inkling that he was going to
become one of the owners of Nigeria’s biggest sports betting outfits. In fact,
the name Akin Alabi was synonymous with publishing, book writing, public speaking, life coaching and
anything that has to do with small online businesses. That was the old vintage
Akin Alabi, one of the protégés of the great Sunny Ojeagbase, a small businesses and investment coach. For the
record, Ojeagbase is also the publisher of Success
Digest
and Complete Sports.
 In 2003, Alabi launched
his own seminar and training company which specialised in teaching and
consulting for other young people who dream of starting small businesses. The
enterprising young man also published a business opportunity newspaper with the
masthead titled “Income” (now
defunct) which was a sort of bible for young entrepreneurs. To add to his fledgling
media empire, Alabi launched, World
Soccer News
, a coloured weekly sports newspaper. All those were in the past
now.
A man of great ideas and vision, Alabi is always in tune with
innovative business trends across the globe. He has since gone on to build a
handful of other businesses from the scratch. One of such massive investments
which have since turned into an overnight success is NairaBET, Nigeria’s first online sports betting portal, with
outlets across the country.  
A cross section of sports betting buffs in one of NairaBET centres
With its
headquarters strategically located in Lagos, NairaBET was licensed by the Lagos State Lotteries Board as part of
legal proceedings. As expected of every new venture, the idea of “Putting your money where your mouth is”
was floated among soccer crazy Nigerians, especially among EPL, La Liga, Lique 1 and
Serie
A
to test the water. The
response was amazing! The turnover was so great that even Akin Alabi himself
couldn’t believe it. In 2015, he entered into a business partnership with ColossusBETS, a company owned by Zeljko Ranogajec, to reinforce his
capital base and further accommodate the growing demands of his followers.
Today, NairaBET has several sports betting outlets that cut across viewing centres and independent agents all over the country and Alabi has become one of the most sought-after business
moguls. Virtually everybody wants to hear him talk about his success story. Seminar
organisers, aspiring entrepreneurs armed with business plans and charitable
organisations have turned his Cherub Mall office in Lekki into a Mecca of sort.
Hear him…
“Most of the time, I
get asked questions all the time like: How
did you conceive the idea of NairaBET? What made you start it? What were the
challenges you faced?
I think it is normal people are interested in knowing
the story behind building Africa’s most visited sports betting website and one
of the top 10 in the world. It is a pretty “normal” story but I am sure you
will learn one or two things or at least get motivated.

The interior of NairaBET model centre

Before I give you the
full details, let me digress a bit. Bear with me. My digression will make a lot
of sense later. I never thought I would own a sports betting website until 6
months to owning one. And I can sell it any time if I get a great offer. I don’t
have a preference for any kind of business. I am not addicted to any kind of
business. I go to where there is money.

I know there are some
people who will say all they know how to do is import cars to sell. If for a
reason that becomes unprofitable (maybe due to government policies or bad
exchange rate) they moan and give up and blame everyone but themselves for
their woes. I am not like that. I am not emotionally attached to any kind of
business. If I am selling cars today and it becomes unprofitable, I can become
a chef tomorrow. If I hear and do my research that producing baby toys will
make me serious money, tomorrow, you will see me in the toy business.

What’s my point?

One of the few mistakes
people make is when they want to start a business, they think of the product
they want to sell. For me, it is the other way round. I will rather research a
market than a product. The late Gary
Halbert
will say ‘Be a student of
markets. When you find a market where people are willing to spend money,
getting a product or service is not hard to do.’

I used to do a lot of
writing before I got very busy. I used to write ebooks for sale. I wrote ebooks
on different topics from “How to register
a business name with the CAC without a lawyer”
to “How to design a mini website using Front page”. I was doing quite
well with it.

Anyway, I was in the UK
at a time and my brother told me about sports betting. I went to the nearest
betting shop in Central Milton Keynes
and asked the cashier there how to place bets. I found it interesting. I placed
some bets and won. Placed more and lost. Won again. Lost again. And so on. I
loved it. I said to myself that Nigerians were going to love it. I started
researching how it could be done online. I looked for the sports betting
websites that were accepting Nigerian residents and the ones with relatively
easy payment methods.

So I wrote an ebook how
it is done. I placed an ad in the papers in Nigeria and there was a mad rush for
it. I made some money and I was happy. I didn’t know I had not done anything
yet. After about a month, some of those who bought the ebook called me to ask
me if I could help them transfer money to these foreign sports betting companies. I was like, boy, are you guys
really taking this thing seriously?

Customers waiting patiently to collect their winnings

Then my “eyes opened!”

This is a market
waiting to be tapped. We need an online sports betting portal for Nigerians.
The market was waiting with money. I didn’t think of the product/business
first. I saw the market first. Then I created the product. That is how every
serious entrepreneur and those hoping to be successful in business should
think!

Interesting analysis, isn’t it?
Meanwhile questions are sometimes raised as to how profitable
sports betting business is in the country.
According to a recent report compiled by News Agency of
Nigeria (NAN), about 60 million Nigerians between 18 and 40 years of age spend
up to N1.8 billion on sports betting daily. A survey revealed that they commit
on the average N3,000 on sports betting daily. The research also shows that
most unemployed youths have taken to online and other forms of sports betting
to make a living. In the words of Mr. Lanre Gbajabiamila, Chief Executive
Officer of Lagos State Lottery Board, the industry is risky but also lucrative.
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Gbajabiamila said that the board generated about N1 million
in 2013 from 11 sports betting companies in the state. He added that more
revenue could be generated with more investments.

“The state government
has been making efforts to provide an enabling environment for the lottery
industry but only 40 per cent of the industry had been tapped into. The major
needs of the operators are improved electricity and internet provision to boost
the business,” he said. He restated the commitment of the board to rid the
state of illegal lottery operators.
NairaBET Ambassadors: Music duo, Skuki (standing 1st & 4th), Akin Alabi and Phyno
Now back to Akin Alabi story.
Before you rush into conclusion of any sort, it is noteworthy
to point out here that NairaBET is not his only investment at the moment.
Akin Alabi is also the founder of Over The Top Entertainment, an entertainment company which manages the
award winning Afro hip-hop duo of SKUKI. The outfit boasts of state of the art
recording and rehearsal studio among others.
A philanthropist by nature, the NairaBET boss is the founder
of Akin Alabi Foundation, a not for profit outfit, aimed at improving the well
being of indigent students and the average Nigerian.
In recognition of his good work, he was honoured with the
chieftancy title of Otunba Atunlushe of
Igbole Ekiti
by the Olugbole of
Igbole Ekiti
, HRM Oba Emmanuel.O.
Ajayi Adetiloye II.
A staunch member of the People’s Democratic Party (Nigeria) at
the grassroots level, Alabi contested for a seat in the Federal House Of
Representatives on 28 March 2015. He hoped to represent Egbeda/Ona Ara Federal Constituency in Oyo State but lost to his
counterpart in the All Progressives Congress (APC).

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