Etop Ikpe’s Early life
Etop had an educational background that gave him an edge in mathematics. Therefore, he dreamed of becoming an engineer. To him, this was the best way to put his mathematical skills into good use. However, fate had other plans for him as he ended up studying Actuarial Science at the University of Lagos. He would later describe this course as “a combination of mathematics and business”. He graduated in 2004.
He took his first shot at entrepreneurship as a student, when he co-founded clickmobile; an IT solution for companies to build business apps based on htmls. ClickMobile was intended to aid field users to access critical information, view their tasks, shifts, report their attendance and access customer information among others. The idea occurred to him at the time he was working as the manager of a cinema in Benin city. His lecture schedules usually left his Fridays free, so he spent his weekends in Benin working. As a manager of the cinema, Etop reasoned that there had to be a way of getting the organization to function seamlessly.
After about eight months working in Konga, Etop felt an itch to leave. He had always thought of technology for solving critical life problems and at this point in his life, he had spotted another which he needed to address. His personal experiences while trying to sell or buy a car had exposed him to two of the biggest problems of car dealers. Not only was it difficult to sell a car at a good price, the car sometimes developed more problems just sitting in the garage and waiting for a buyer. “Time na money” is a song we all grew up singing, but no one understands the importance of time like a businessman.
Etop realised that there was a need to build a platform that would connect car buyers and sellers in the shortest possible time, as well as enable them to conclude a satisfactory deal. This is how Cars45 came to the rescue, with the mission to sell every vehicle within 45 minutes after inspection. Etop Ikpe came together with co-founders, Iyamu Mohammed, Sujay Tyle, and Peter Lindholm, and Cars45 was established in 2016.
Some milestones actualised
Within the first year of operation, the business recorded a high success rate, earning millions of dollars in profit. Also, Cars45 raised $5 million Series A round in funding from Frontier Cars Group within one year of its establishment. The capital raised was channeled into scaling the business in Nigeria, improving the online platform, and building other revenue sources within the used-cars market, including the used-vehicle space.
Cars45 also effected its international expansion plans in 2019, widening its operations to include Ghana and Kenya, after the Frontiers Car Group raised $400 million in a Series D funding round.
Etop Ikpe insists that the easiest path to success is focusing on the customers. After its commencement of operation, Cars45 did not just focus on making profit but on building customer trust through transparency. This is because Etop understood that business could not thrive where customers do not trust the dealer.
“If you are too desperate to make money and take your market share, you will end up doing things that will make it difficult for you to ever earn money. Focus on amazing service delivery and be as transparent as possible” he advises.
Being very strict on budget management is also another factor he considered key to the success of Cars45, especially since the profits did not start rolling in immediately.
Etop hails from Akwa Ibom State and is the third of four children. He is married with a child, and leisure time for him is spent with family, reading biographies, or watching documentaries.