How online food delivery startup Food-i-like is making it outside of Lagos [Q&A]

The last time I was at the offices of African Internet Group (AIG) in Nigeria’s tech capital city of Lagos, I noticed that there were more members of staff manning Kaymu Nigeria and Jovago Travel sections. The startup that had the least number of employees was the group’s online food ordering platform, Hellofood. This observation made me think about the likelihood of such a surviving outside of Lagos without the support of AIG.

I found out there that there is actually a similar service outside Lagos — in Abuja to be specific. It is called Food I Like and users are liking the service being offered by the startup. I chatted with Biebele Somiari, the co-founder of Food-i-like, about the startup’s prospects and the general Abuja startup ecosystem.

Ventureburn: What informed the decision to launch Food I Like in Abuja?

Biebele Somiari: First of all, the founders were all living in the city, so the pain point was obvious in our daily lives.

Secondly, we feel Abuja as a city with its peculiarities supports our operations vis-à-vis issues like address and mapping for delivery, and the profile of people living in the city. Hence Food-i-Like — an end-to-end online food ordering and delivery solution in Abuja.

VB: How has the platform faired in the market?

BS: Very Well! User adoption is increasing, repeat orders are increasing.

It’s been very interesting. I and my co-founders are students of the lean startup as it were, so we started out as an experiment to see if restaurants want our services; if anybody will order food online? So we developed our MVP which was basically a blog site, with menu of some of the restaurants that agreed to sign with us and our phone number. That’s when we started receiving orders by phone.

Read more The West African startup landscape: it’s not just about Nigeria

Now we have a more robust and intuitive online platform to accept online orders, and coordinate delivery logistics, so food can be delivered to our customer on time and hot!

VB: Who are your regular customers?

BS: Everyday people who are hungry and most times busy, and will like their food to be delivered to their homes or offices on time, [and] from their favourite restaurants.

VB: What can you say of the current status of the startup ecosystem in the city?

BS: The startup ecosystem in Abuja is very nascent. Thanks to incubators in the city such as Enspire Hub, entrepreneurs are becoming aware of the opportunities and resources available to them to implement their ideas into successful business.

VB: What are the advantages of Abuja over Lagos for startups? What are the disadvantages?

BS: I don’t see them as advantages and disadvantages. I just see them as differences. There are many instances, one of it being the population of Lagos and how it influences your total addressable market. The population in itself might not be a direct factor for success, but the possibilities it brings can be a factor in whether a startup fails or succeeds.

Startups [in Abuja] should implement on the go, test the idea in the market and keep implementing. There usually is no perfect product or solution. While testing, the customer helps to define the product or service better.

Read more: Gingerbox: Why Nigeria’s clever niche startup is selling fruit online

Funding in the startup ecosystem is limited. This can be attributed to the lack of information available to potential investors about the technology space and its offerings. It can also be attributed to the lack of proper structure or nonexistence of angel investors & VC’s in the city. This has made lots of startups look to Lagos for funding.

VB: What is the prospect of startups in the city?

BS: I think it’s a case by case basis. As it is in any city, once there is a palpable pain point, and critical mass of market, the prospects are good.

VB: What needs to be done to boost the startup ecosystem in Abuja?

BS: Proper advice and mentoring for teams and their startups, proper information between founders, investors and potential investors on the tech space, access to funding and more support for existing or upcoming technology hubs, and of course more tech media attention.

Startups fail irrespective of their location. We cannot say that it is harder or easier to succeed in Abuja or Lagos rather the determination of the team to succeed and the presence or lack of market for their offering will make the difference in the success or failure of the startup whether in Abuja or Lagos.

Paul Adepoju


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