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SISTEM one-on-one with Felix Tetteh, Co-Founder of Tickiair.com and TickiBus.com

Felix Tetteh

Felix is a recent graduate from Ashesi University. During his studies, he was selected to attend a summer school at the world's foremost entrepreneurial school, Babson College, in the US. In 2008, he was awarded $40,000 scholarship to attend the world-class high school in South Africa, African Leadership Academy. While at Ashesi, Felix started a real estate brokerage firm with deals over $100,000. As an active Ashesi community member, he has organized several events, some with sponsorship from prestigious firms such as Guinness. Felix is the inaugural recipient of Ashesi's Young Entrepreneur Award and has been admitted as an associate of Harambe Entrepreneur Alliance (HAE), a network of elite entrepreneurs around the world. Felix has interned with competitive firms such as Google, IC Securities and First Atlantic Bank in Ghana. At Google he was the first intern to be awarded Peer Bonus, a performance based reward. At First Atlantic Bank, he built a bank product which was widely acknowledged by the CEO. He also briefly served as an advising member to the Ashesi Dalai Lama Fellows team who were awarded $10,000 to implement an adult literacy project in Ghana. Felix is undoubtedly one of the emerging African
entrepreneurs who will lead the continent towards prosperity. Currently, Felix is working on an online ticketing agency for airlines called TickiAir.com and another for buses called TickiBus.com. Both platforms want to be a comprehensive platform for African travel. Felix received admission into Draper University in Silicon Valley in 2014 for his startup. He was featured on two radio stations in Ghana, his university's homepage and on an African-wide online tech magazine.

Q: Please tell us about yourself, what prompted you to create Tickiair.com and TickiBus.com?

Tetteh: I am Felix Tetteh, co-founder of TickiAir.com and TickiBus.com. I am a graduate of Ashesi University in Ghana and African Leadership Academy in South Africa. I did summer school at Babson College in Boston and I just got admission to Silicon Valley's Draper University of Heroes. While in university, I started several businesses including a real estate agency that sold $100,000 worth of rural land. I ended up as the inaugural recipient of my university's Young Entrepreneur Award.

I made a bus trip to Nigeria a couple times. For each of my travels, I had to go all the way to the bus station to buy a ticket, come back home before travelling the next day. That trip to the station just for a ticket was really annoying for me. As a result, my team and I started TickiBus.com. We went round pitching this idea and an investor told us he faces the same problem with booking some airlines in Africa. So we set off to add TickiAir.com right there and then.

Q: In a few words, tell us about Tickiair.com and TickiBus.com?

Tetteh: TickiAir helps travelers access air tickets for domestic and regional flights in Africa. We want to start with Ghana and get the African trips that you can't find on Expedia and the big names. TickiBus on the other hand sells bus tickets and makes it easy for you to plan your travels on land.

Q: What are the current challenges facing Tickiair.com and TickiBus.com?

Tetteh: One major challenge that we have is integrating fully with airlines. We have started with Ghana and we realize that not all of them have the travel integration systems that the West has easy access to. Africa is lagging behind in some basic innovations but that is why we are fixing it as leaders of the continent. Another issue we face is limited funding. We are currently raising funds to help us move with speed but avenues on the continent is limited and finding a foreign investor can be challenging given that a lot of investors won't understand how to operate in Africa, hence skepticism.

Q: Where do you see Tickiair.com and TickiBus.com in the near future?

Tetteh: We intend to play in the growing African travel space. We want to expand to as many African countries as possible. The big picture is to be a one-stop shop for you to find all the solutions you need to travel by air or bus within the African continent. Our big picture is to occupy seven (7) African countries in five (5) years and 30 countries in 15 years. We realize operating on the continent is difficult but that's what we are up for!

Q: Technology is obviously the centerpiece of your business, please first tell us, in your opinion about the intersection of technology (in general or specifically) and entrepreneurship in the African context; and secondly, how can this junction possibly improve the daily life of Africans? Do you have any relevant examples you would like to share with us?

Tetteh: Africa lags behind in technological innovation. There are however very smart Africans who are making amazing discoveries in the tech space. So what happens is sometimes these discoveries happen to be a need in society and creating a business out of this discovery is a way to scale it and share it with a wider group of people. This is where entrepreneurship comes in and marries technology. This will definitely improve our daily lives because as the business solves a need, it gets rewarded through sales for its efforts. A good example is mobile money. It is great technological invention that looks very simple on the surface. It has however gone on to help us a great deal.

Q: What is the place and importance of entrepreneurship in developing Africa. In your estimation, what primary obstacles do African entrepreneurs commonly encounter?

Tetteh: Entrepreneurship has the potential of creating innovations that makes our lives better and easier. Even though Africa is glorified in the media as the hopeful continent, the truth is we have a long way to go in terms of development. Entrepreneurship looks like one way to bridge this gap.

African entrepreneurs find it difficult to find the information that sometimes they badly need. Also, those who want to operate across the continent don't have a smooth way of moving within the continent, besides its huge bureaucratic challenges. There is also the issue of access to capital. I understand there is more money than good ideas but the reality is there are good ideas who equally don't know who to contact for the money. This is not because they are not entrepreneurial enough but they live in a world where they just don't have that network.

Q: What advice do you have for future entrepreneurs who aspire to emulate you and others?

Tetteh: Follow your heart! I am still starting off life and I have a lot to learn as well as achieve. What I however find helpful is the ability to follow your heart and ignore the noise. I have critics from everywhere, from close friends to complete strangers, but I am still fighting. This does not mean of course that you ignore sane advice. Sometimes it helps. If it is toxic however, ignore it. Following your heart also comes with planning. Have a Plan A, B and Z. Even though it looks like entrepreneurs just dive in and swim, truth is they always have some back up plan if the worse comes to worst. So follow your heart but plan.

Q: Do you have any specific academic tips for students, young and old, who wish to follow your footsteps?

Tetteh: In school there are certain things you might not understand why you study them. Don't just ignore them for that matter. Find what the reasons are for studying them. Maybe, just maybe, it might be helpful one way or another even if it's not on your career path. This however does not mean spend your youthful years in a field you don't enjoy especially if you discover what you really want.

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2011 The Innovative Science & Technology Group (ISTGTM)