Sunday Joseph

Series V

Founder Diaries with Thrive Agric

One Farmer at a time, Thrive Agric is providing access to finance, premium markets, data-driven advisory and all things in between to make Agriculture profitable.

Founders – Ayodeji Arikawe and Uka Eje

  • 28 full-time employees and 300+ contract employees.
  • 20+ circles of farms funded.
  • 22,000+ farmers supported.
  • Earliest backers -Ventures Platform, Ycombinator & others.

Let’s Dig in!

What important truth do you believe, that very few people agree with you on?

Ayo: Team over Product, the right people will eventually get the product right.
Uka: Media, many times, is a waste of time. If your excel sheet is green, investors will chase you even to your village in Zaria to give you money. The smartest investors do not look at shallow things to make their decisions.

What do you wish you had known when you started out?

Ayo: To fail fast. Now, we are very keen on using a very short sprint to build, experiment and move on if that’s what the results say.
Uka: No regrets really, I am not sure I have missed out on anything. However, I keep reminding myself that the life of an entrepreneur is an endless marathon not always a sprint.

What is the biggest mistake you’ve made and what did you learn from it?

Ayo: Recruiting, we got someone who could deliver but had the wrong culture fit, their attitude began to infect everyone else.
Uka: When building our first startup we were too fast to launch. The euphoria of a beautiful idea did not make us think of processes and outcomes. We gathered no data and did a little market survey; it wasn’t surprising why we failed. This taught me to be a little more pessimistic about building an idea especially when pessimism makes me ask some of the relevant questions before launching. (Again, I said “some”, because you will never have all the answers before you launch).

As your company grows, how do you maintain your organization, keep track and stay accountable for targets and deadlines throughout the company?

Ayo: We are big on transparency, so we have OKRs setup which is public to everyone in the organization and everyone in the company can hold the founders accountable to their own deliverables.
Uka: Leverage on available data and make fast decisions then move on. Many times you win because you were able to act fast. A wrong decision is usually better than no decision at all.

What’s an experience that’s been particularly important to you?

Uka and Ayo: We ran Thrive Agric offline before deciding what the product will look like, Uka Slept in huts in Villages training farmers, Ayo rode with truck drivers carrying our goods from the farms to our off-takers, for us that experience has been critical in terms of what Thrive Agric looks like today. When we want to define operational excellence we learned this from the early days.

What do you hate the most about building a company?

Ayo: Its a constant high and low, wins then challenges. We always have to figure out how to stay calm when it all gets crazy.
Uka: The road gets bumpy and lonely at times, few people understand how you think. Sometimes you miss a dear friends’ birthday or wedding, you forget you have parents to call, you wake up to 100 missed calls and messages from someone dear and all that, but the consolation is; you are building a great company!

What’s one thing you’ve failed at and one thing you’ve succeeded at that have had a lasting impact on you?

Uka: The failure for us in our first year was how ambiguous it was for us to define who our real customers were. This limited our abilities to build the right product to serve their needs. In summary, we focused on the wrong set of people. Our success is the opposite of that, over the last one year and months we have been able to properly prime our attention on the customers that really matter; the farmer. This has helped productivity and revenue growth on a large scale.

Being an entrepreneur is stressful and uncertain, what keeps you going back to the office every day?

Ayo: Our vision to build an Africa that feeds herself and the world. We are sure we will get there.
Uka: When I think of the over 500M African farmers and how, everyday, my position is vital in solving access to capital, data-driven advisory, and Market, it gives me some sense of duty.

Who were your first investors and how’d you convince them to invest in you?

Ayo: Ventures Platform; We came to the meeting from the farm.
Uka: Ventures Platform was not just investors but first believers. Honestly, it is hard to know why exactly they believed in us because we never knew how to pitch a startup then but I guess one thing stood out; we were doing the work and they saw it.

If you had all the money in the world, and you didn’t have to work, what would you be doing?

Ayo: I will keep building Thrive Agric because I believe in the vision and then do a lot of angel investments. 
Uka: I think I will always have to work, the goal is beyond the money so I will invest a lot in Agriculture, African’s Health sector and I will also invest in Education.

What’s one thing you and your co-founder disagree on?

Ayo: Probably hiring. Lol
Uka: Hah, many things oh! But I will mention the most recent; When to hire and how to go about it.

iOS or Android and why?

Ayo:  iOS because it’s smooth, Android because most of our users live there.
Uka: Android biko; peer pressure made me buy an iPhone. Android is just simple, I think I hate the fact that I have to unravel an iPhone and its features (I know I sound like an old man) by the way, I have a bias for Google. 🙂

When coding, tabs or spaces?

Ayo: Tabs.
Uka: I really wish I know the difference, I am a Farmer, remember? Lol.

What’s the most expensive item, you’ve ever bought?

Ayo: Lol, does server space count?

Uka: I have a massive Skill headset I bought for a ridiculous amount of money; it shields me from the noise in the world.

About Thrive Agric

Thrive Agric provides microloans, agricultural best practices and a premium market for Nigerian farmers to sell their produces. It also offers an investment platform where they can access funds for either livestock or crop farming. Crowd-sourced individual investors can fund a single farm for about ₦85,000 ($236) to earn interests as high as 15% in 6 months and longer durations of 9 months command higher interest rates of 20%. Thrive Agric’s returns are more lucrative when compared to other investment vehicles like treasury bills, mutual funds and online savings FinTechs with an average annual rate of 13%.

Follow Thrive Agric on Twitter, Facebook, Medium and Instagram and visit their website to keep up with their activities.

That’s all folks! If there’s any particular founder from our portfolio companies (please see a list here) you would like us to talk to next, please, drop a comment on our Twitter page or shoot us an email [email protected]


Office for ICT Innovation and Entrepreneurship (OIIE)


European Union


International Centre for Migration Policy Development (ICMPD)


The Rockefeller Foundation


World Bank


Goethe Institut


National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA)