I first found out about Casey Bridgeford and his company, OnCast Media while watching a CNBC Africa video on YouTube. It was refreshing to see someone who at the time I thought was not African, talking about business in Africa. (I later found out that his father is actually from Nigeria.)
Since I’m all about having conversations about business in Africa and beyond, I reached out to Casey. This is what he had to say.
SB: What inspired you to create the OnCast app?
CB: I took my first trip ever to Nigeria in 2012. While I was there, I had an opportunity to speak to some entrepreneurs. After telling them my story and my journey, we ended the discussion with a Q&A portion.
During the Q&A, they began to rapid fire, drill questions and every single question they asked was, “Can you help me find financing? Can you help me expand my business? Can you help you begin to sell my products in the U.S.?” I didn’t have the answers to any of their questions.
I didn’t even know the first place to look to get the answers. It left a sour taste in my mouth because I felt like I wasn’t being of any benefit to them.
I made up in my mind that one, I will be back, and two, when I do come back, I will not come back empty-handed. My next trip to Nigeria was in July of this year. This time, I had the answers to every question they asked.
The inspiration behind OnCast really lies behind the fact that there are a million things that we should learn in business school and our local accelerator or incubator, but we don’t. We end up spending a lot of time doing research.
We want to take all of that information, put it in one place where it’s easy for an entrepreneur to answer these questions and get about their day of running their business.
SB: Do you think Black America is missing out on opportunities to learn more about the “real” Africa? Why so?
CB: I definitely think so. I think travel is a big part, and I think its because we would would rather go to Europe, Asia, or to the Caribbean. We never think, “I want to go vacation in Africa.” We never think, “I want to go see the people. I want to learn about what contemporary Africa is.”
The media also plays a part with their constant coverage of wars and their advertising of safaris and opportunities to go see the animals.
I’m passionate about wanting as many African-Americans as possible to feel what it feels like to be on the ground in the middle of Black Africa. I say that specifically because there is no feeling like the feeling of weightlessness that you have when you’re not being judged by the color of your skin.
Most Black people, even those who have traveled the world, still don’t know what that feels like. They’ve never gone to the place where everybody looks like them, and the people that look like them run every single thing in the country.
SB: What are your thoughts on the whole, “Africans don’t like Black Americans,” or “Black Americans don’t like Africans.”
CB: It’s an absolute lie. My experience has been the opposite. In my travels just over the summer to South Africa and Nigeria this year, I’ve had several South Africans and several Nigerians ask me directly, “If you’re treated so badly in America, why are you still there? Why don’t you come home?”
I think it’s a huge issue that we have here in America. We feel that we have to be reconciled with White America, but we don’t feel like we have to be reconciled with our African brothers and sisters.
SB: In terms of the businesses in Africa, what are the challenges that you’re seeing that most of the startups or businesses are having across-the-board?
CB: There’s two sides of it. There’s the entrepreneur side and then there is the investor side. Entrepreneurs are always going to tell you one of the biggest issues they’re having is funding. Secondly, how to find good mentors, and thirdly, how to just find information that they need to get their business going.
For investors, they would probably put access to reliable information number one. Then they would probably say access to mentors would be number two, and investment or finances would be number three.
SB: What are some of the most innovative and interesting businesses that you’ve come across so far?
CB: There’s a company that has both African-American and African people on the team. They’re launching their beta in Kenya and it’s called Magic Bus. Their technology allows someone in rural Kenya to be able to understand when the bus is coming, purchase their ticket, and know when it’s delayed and exactly where the bus is all through a cell phone without using any internet connection.
We see that as being one of those game changer technologies that really helps revolutionize and increase the efficiency of mass transit for people who are in rural areas as well as in city areas as transportation is one of the biggest issues.
SB: So what does success look like for OnCast Media?
CB: We want to become a meaningful resource for entrepreneurs to quickly find information to help them grow their businesses. In doing that, we want to help create 300,000 jobs on the continent through our mobile application. Thirdly, we want to amass the biggest real-time database of entrepreneurial information and statistics anywhere available.
SB: What advice do you have for somebody who’s in the US reading this interview and has just realized that there are business opportunities in Africa as an investor and as an entrepreneur?
CB: Go! Go! Go! I’ve been telling my friends, “If you want to go, I’m going. Let’s get together and I will show you what the business scene looks like, I’ll show you what the social scene looks like, I’ll show you where the opportunities are, and you’ll be connected directly.”
Find out more about OnCast media via their website.
-Tony Oluwatoyin Lawson