When Apple announced in 2014 that they were buying Beats by Dre from Dr. Dre the African American rapper and businessman in a billion dollar deal the world was stunned. Little was reported on the 2013 billion dollar business deal with HopStop.com founder Chinedu Echeruo. All black billionaires in America have made their money in entertainment so this is change from the tale of the wealthy black entertainer. Children can see that there is more than one way to the road to billion dollar status that does not involve entertainment. The remarkable thing about the HopStop deal is that it is based on intellectual property which is not tied to entertainment.
HopStop is a navigation tool that is active in more than 300 cities worldwide. It provides information on bus and subway routes from point A to point B. Google’s entry into the mapping environment created a market for his product because Apple needed game changing technology to challenge Google in the mapping landscape.
Echeruo believes that business is an art with its own creative expression. This art form has to solve problems in a profitable manner. He believes that each person must unleash their own inner creativity. Echeruo distinguished his company from competitors by offering systems to people and products. He believes that being first to market provides the creator with a competitive advantage over later entrants because pioneers provide thought leadership in a market space. Echeruo believes being first to market allows for a company to borrow ideas from other industries to create value.
The secret sauce in his view is the combination of idea, a functional team, product with traction and working capital in a profitable system. Echeruo has had his own fair share of failed business which drained him of all his finances and forced him to go back and look for a job until he could develop another idea into a business. However, his story is reflective of the adage that discovering and utilizing transferable skills can enable one to gain from emerging prospects. In his former job he worked on a project that required extensive use of excel and he used Microsoft Excel to explain to the computer scientist his idea so that they could team up on the app. Echeruo’s story shows that in a connected world collaboration is possible with anyone around the world. He met his Russian developer 4 years after working together and used the online staffing platform formerly Elance to hire developers and consultants for Hotpot.
He is a serial entrepreneur who started another venture called Tripology which he sold for another undisclosed amount. Tripology.com was acquired in 2010 is now owned by USA Today. HopStop was acquired by Apple in 2013. At present he is a partner, and head of Principal Investing at Constant Capital (Constantcap.com), a West-Africa based investment bank. In the ongoing debate of jobs and entrepreneurs the newly minted billionaire favors entrepreneurship as Africa’s way forward. He has worked in the consulting world and knows more about Africa than the ‘experts’ who just travel to Africa but do not live there.
Echeruo’s dream is to develop a business in a box that any budding African entrepreneur can customize to suit their needs. The idea is not to reinvent the wheel but to have the basics and cut down the time needed to start a business. The business in a box will streamline operations and help entrepreneurs without business experience to navigate the landscape and become profitable.
Chinedu Echeruo was born and bred in the Eastern part of Nigeria. He then left after boarding school to study at Syracuse University and Harvard Business School in the United States before landing a job as a hedge fund manager on Wall Street. He has also worked for JP Morgan Chase in Mergers & Acquisitions which gave him insight into businesses and processes and profitability models plus accto ess game changing networks and cutting edge ideas.
**Neither Echeruo nor Apple have disclosed the value of their deal.
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