Interview with Derrydean Dadzie, Co-Founder and CEO at DreamOval Limited

  • March 9, 2017

SIMPLIFYING BUSINESS, MULTIPLYING GROWTH. Derrydean Dadzie is Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer of DreamOval Limited, a company whose single minded intent is to Innovate for the Good of the World and Humanity through technology. Derry is part of Africa’s entrepreneurs who are consistently right-defining the status quo while presenting a serious challenge to the narrative concerning Western ideas of Africa’s economic development. Derry has played a pioneering role in the emergence and development of Ghana’s tech start up sector through his entrepreneurial endeavours. After completing Ashesi University with a Computer Science Degree, Derry and three other classmates started DreamOval Limited. Over the years as the company’s CEO, Derry leads DreamOval’s growth and transformation. Derry is passionate about people development and utilizes his vast experiences in the tech startup sector, to mentor and inspire many young ladies and young men across Africa to explore business as alternative to economic and social empowerment. An avowed advocate of tech innovation as a viable pathway to Africa’s transformation, Derry takes time to speak at various conferences to drive home the message and inspire people all over the world especially with an Africa agenda to use technology innovation and entrepreneurship to deliver transformation and economic empowerment to the continent. Derrydean Dadzie is the recipient of many awards and recognitions, including 2015 Young ICT Entrepreneur of Year 2014 Emerging Entrepreneur of the Year, 2013 Google Innovation hero, 2012 recipient of the Gold Award for Innovation in ICT and also 2011 young entrepreneur of the year. Here are some of the excerpts from our meet with him.
Can you please tell us about DreamOval limited and its operations in Ghana?
Organized as a limited liability company incorporated in Accra, Ghana in 2007, DreamOval is a software development house that Makes Life Simple through tech-based innovations. We remain focused on leading the market through thought-leading and game-changing innovations. The goal is simple; to assist businesses to achieve growth and profitability by simplifying business while ensuring customer satisfaction. We believe the world needs innovative, people-centered technology that empowers both individuals and businesses to make smart, wealth generating decisions. We simplify life for people, organizations, and the world. At DreamOval, that is what we DO! What we do every day is found in a quest to innovate for the greater good of the world and humanity. We build solutions that enable us to provide enterprise-oriented VAS and Channel innovation platforms targeted at financial institutions and business that yearn to grow while providing seamless experiences for their customers. In Ghana, we have transformed the face of banking for Africa’s largest bank by providing them upstream fin-tech that elevates customers’ experiences across channels, takes away paper, and uncover actionable insights from data generated from customers’ interactions with the Bank. The bank leverages these insights from our platform’s analytics capabilities to deliver bespoke services to customers. From mobile health apps that reduce maternal mortality in rural Africa, to platforms that empower cocoa farmers in Ghana to become more productive and improve their livelihoods, we simply are in business to help your business push the frontiers in technology, make smart decisions and make you profitable. Ultimately, choosing DreamOval is a journey of extensive discovery of infinite dimensions in generating value for people and businesses through tech.
What is your view on the Ghanaian IT market?
Ghana’s ICT sector is one that has extraordinary entrepreneurial impetus. It is driven by the ingenuity of local entrepreneurs who find very creative ways to solve problems with technology. The market is quite open and awash with enormous opportunities. The recent rise in internet and mobile penetration has become an evident stimulant in the use of technology in various sectors of our economy. The fintech space is one area where there is a visible innovation by young upstarts who are finding solutions to a very critical local need for digital and financially inclusive payments and banking. The telecom companies have in the past years invested in a lot of technology infrastructure which has led to a natural gravitation towards the development of mobile apps and mobile first solutions which drive a lot of activities in the Ghanaian economy. The fintech space is a very viable niche ecosystem when it comes to the technology market. Additionally, the regulatory system for the fintech space, though it may have its own challenges still bodes well for innovation in our tech space.
Cybercrime has become an issue for few companies, especially the banks, how have your company been doing to secure the operations of its customers from cyber-attack?
Cybercrime is undoubtedly, every bank’s nightmare as it erodes consumers’ confidence in the banking system. The associated risks include losses in profits and diminished banking activity by bank customers; both by products of customer churn. Obviously, this hurts the global drive for financial inclusion, especially in Africa. Considering we are a banking sector software vendor, we do treat the security of our products and platforms with utmost seriousness. From the conceptualization, requirements gathering, use case development to project implementation and deployment, we consider security across all the process flow. I believe the key is critically considering all the loose ends and potential loopholes that could be encountered while the product is in use. We do that introspection in our technology deployment in a very guarded manner, utilizing world-class security standards and tests tools. Our platforms are penetration tested and apparently so, as banks in all intents required military grade security. One other approach we have apart from the fundamentals of for example deploying EVSSL for all our web fronts is, we always use the technology for specific business needs. For example, we choose our database technology based on different security, data size and use case considerations. We also run various security tools and services that scan our deployed and hosted platforms by the second to intercept any attempted security breaches.
What can the banks do to protect themselves from cyber-attacks?
Banks quests to protect themselves from cyber attacks can not be a one trick pony approach. It is a continuous learning, and mitigation process as the cyber attackers are always finding ways to overcome threat blockers. Banks must mostly do the fundamentals. Naturally, they need to secure their environment, they need ensure they have policies that regulate the activities of team members especially those with direct access to their core banking systems. They need have a standardized security framework that all third party platforms and services can tunnel through before accessing core banking systems in the bank. Banks should demystify security and drive their security agenda with well-documented activities that can easily be learned and executed by all stakeholders in the bank especially those with access to bank technology. I also believe another area banks need to work on is deepening their collaboration on the matter of security. Banks should collectively implement a shared security framework which allows participants in the banking sector to share knowledge and insight to enable them deal effectively with threats both existing and potential. For example, what stops banks from having a shared Fraud Brokerage, to ensure banking sector players do not get hit by attacks in a merry-go-round sequence?
What will be your advice to government to strengthen the IT industry to involve more youth?
Ghana is making some great strides in the adoption of IT in different sectors of our economy. We have a lot of government desire to deploy technology for a lot of its citizen services. Also, there is a drive to implement policies that will inculcate technology in everyday activities and reduce instances of corruption, provide enough data to design and implement social policies et al. This inclination by our government is creating a lot of space for IT innovation and entrepreneurship. The youth, especially in this era, are the core players who will materialize all government aspirations when it comes to technology. Considering the government is the biggest procurer of big ticket IT services, one of the key things it can do to stimulate youth involvement in IT is sourcing local IT expertise and services when it comes to IT procurement. Additionally, a lot of investment should be put towards IT education to ensure there is an adequate supply of the needed skills to meet the demands of IT services. Incentives like lower to no taxes to young IT startups can push prices down for the IT services of young entrepreneurs. This can consequently reduce price barriers to entry and also improve their ability to find markets for their products. I have unyielding confidence in the technical skill set of our young ones, especially as DreamOval works with a lot of very smart guys in the industry.
Apart from business, what other activities have DreamOval been involved to serve the community in which it operates?
As a business, we have an adamant commitment to the spirit of community. Subsequently, we set up the DreamOval Foundation that is mandated to manage all corporate social responsibility initiatives by DreamOval Limited. The vision is to bridge the knowledge gap through the creation, sharing, and utilization of knowledge with Education and Technology as our primary focus. We have initiatives like iTeach which provides teachers with free ICT training to enable them to utilize ICT tools to transform education in the classrooms across very removed communities in Ghana. We believe in promoting a better understanding of how internet usage can improve teaching and learning and encourage teachers to make use of the web. This will ensure more involvement and ownership and greater integration of ICT within the teaching and learning process in our education system in Ghana. Since its inception in 2010, iTeach has transformed the lives of over eight hundred (800) teachers across the country. We are also working with SAP to bridge the digital skills gap in Africa. In 2016 we trained about fifty thousand school pupils on how to write their own computer programs. We are very excited about this initiative as it directly impacts the future of African working class, who are expected to double in the next 25 years to about one billion. This figure will exceed that of China and India by the way.
In the next five years, where do you want to see DreamOval Limited?
DreamOval has an unyielding appetite for Africa. In the next five years, we are going to be in about 15 African countries at the minimum providing services around payments and delivering business tools that can drive profitability and efficiency in small businesses. Our goal is to be the company that small business will love and partner. We hope to be listed on the Ghana Stock Exchange and another Stock Exchange in the next 5 years. As a business, we believe our biggest social responsibility is our ability to create jobs and generate profits for our shareholders. We hope that within the next 5 years we can create over ten thousand jobs across Africa. Additionally, there are a lot of initiatives we will pursue in our quest to give value to the members of our communities whose opportunities in learning are limited. We hope to continue to bridge the gap by investing a lot of money in education and learning.
What has been the primary challenge facing the IT sector in Ghana and what can be done to address it?
One of the key challenges the industry faces is a low investment in big-ticket IT projects. Over the years, we had some issues with connectivity from a cost and access point of view, but the country is seriously becoming a worthy contender for having good data penetration at a somewhat good price. Obviously, we can do better on pricing and access, and I hope the authorities and stakeholders will put in place the necessary policies and investment to establish a viable tech infrastructure to drive the technology ecosystem. From a tax point of view, I believe a lot can be done to boost growth and adoption of IT services. Currently, the one size fits all approach to taxing, principally at the retail level, such as charging of VAT can be prohibitive to the IT industry. I reckon for some IT services, to drive adoption, and widen IT inclusion across different strata of the Ghana economic and social sphere, the country needs to adopt very smart tax policies.
What will be your advice to local IT companies who wants to compete internationally?
First of all Ghana IT companies should think and desire to go global. That is fundamental. It is fixing the mindset first. They should build world-class products. They should develop solutions that meet the needs of consumers. The approach here is design thinking and products that have very viable global use cases. The customer experience should simply be frictionless. Another way is to secure partnerships that will leverage either others’ strength to meet the needs of global clients.
What has been the achievement of DreamOval in the last two years?
The company is on an upward trajectory. We see very consistent growth across different units in the business. One area we have seen massive incursion is in the payment space. In the last two years, we entered into a partnership with Stanbic Ghana to drive mobile payments in Africa. This partnership has driven up the innovation value chain within the payment space. It has enabled many businesses to give e-commerce impetus to their business. Now hitherto brick only businesses are using our payment APIs and plugs to deliver click offerings to their customers. This is having a very positive impact on the growth of e-commerce in our part of the world. Our business has over the past two years, redefined mobile money in Ghana by offering high-end payment app called Slydepay, which offers app users a very astounding user experience to drive mobile money transactions. As a business, we are one of the purveyors of top-notch customer experience and engagement systems that large organizations with high customer volumes can use. Our offering has seen some very significant upgrades over the past two years. We have built a platform that large banks, some with millions of customers are using as the go-to platform to manage their entire customer experience stream. This is immense for us, particularly since we see many banks gradually using our solutions more and more as compared to their core banking system. We have also seen traction around the global brands that desire to align with us to drive their interest in Ghana and Africa at large. We have an ongoing relationship with SAP to drive the adoption and the transfer of technology skills to a different segment of the Ghanaian society. That project is going on really well. We have also developed a very mutually beneficial relationship with Microsoft around some of their offerings.
What is your view on India & Africa relation, how joining hand together can benefit IT sector for Ghana
I believe Africa has a natural ally in India when it comes to our relationship with IT and trade in general. Many IT companies use tech solutions from India to run some of their very critical systems and infrastructure. I believe that over time, there has been a lot of knowledge shared and gained across both divides. This offers an opportunity for massive leverage. Ghana and India should definitely continue to pursue very mutually beneficial engagements that provide win-win results for both countries. Ghana can really benefit from India huge number of IT human resources by tapping into the Indian market to bridge some of the existing skills gaps. Over time Ghana would have picked up valuable experience from the India IT journey.

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