Ola Bayoji, in his late 20s, is a Nigerian immigrant to the UK, based in Lambeth. He is a co-founder of Gyre, an innovative online buying, selling, and swapping platform, which he describes as “a marriage between Gumtree and Tinder.”
Where did the business idea come from?
Back in 2017 a friend and I were considering putting all the stuff we had bought at university into storage but it was going to cost a lot. And we thought, wouldn’t it be better to get to rid of it by sharing with other university students who may need those things? We built a beta app and ran a test for seven months until April 2019. The response and adoption rate was great. So we were encouraged to build a full version that was released at the beginning of 2020.
The name and logo Gyre is the Greek for the counterclockwise swirl in the sea. Our purpose is to avoid landfill and plastics in the ocean by having people re-use items they might otherwise store or throw out.
What is your target market?
The target audience is people aged 18-35 who wish to sell and exchange items that are still usable and valuable. People in that age group are very much in that fast-fashion world and go through things very quickly. They buy a new phone and next year Apple has made a new one so they upgrade but are probably not going to use the old phone and it’s just going to stay there gathering dust. So the idea is to allow someone else to get some value and swap it with them.
We want to add a selling perspective so if users can’t swap items they can pay for them. The app does not currently have in-app purchasing or transaction functionality. The team is working on app development to make that possible in the near future.
How has COVID 19 affected your business?
COVID19 has caused some challenges. Social distancing and lockdown means that the expectation for users to meet to purchase and exchange their goods is now less attractive. But the overall premise of the business – to swap and sell usable goods in order to de-clutter, generate income, and live more sustainably – is still a key source of value. There is a lot of talks now of being sustainable and keeping your space free of junk.
How did you hear about OneTech? How has OneTech supported you?
We connected with OneTech through YSYS. We were still testing the beta and we were looking for different ways to make sure that we were on the right path.
OneTech offered a key source of basic entrepreneurship education. At that time I had no clue about stuff like funding. No clue about the difference between product fit, product-market fit and market share. OneTech was able to help us understand what those different things mean for your business. Because this is no longer a small project. This is actually a business.
I think what the FastForward programme has done really well for me as a founder is to tailor my message to my target audience, whether it’s an investor, whether it’s a customer, whether it is someone I’m trying to bring on board in the team. I have become a better strategic thinker and communicator. When I do want to have a conversation, I know exactly how to structure my message, I know exactly what I’m asking for, and I’m very open to taking feedback and understanding their perspective as someone who’s looking in from outside. The programme has helped me to think more critically and adopt a user-centric perspective. I’m a user that wants this product, so what do I expect from it? How do I think it should function? What are the values I think it should help me gain? This has facilitated both product development and creative thinking. Once you understand those aspects, it makes everything else easier. You become more creative, definitely. Which is why now in the Gyre team, I am responsible for strategy, marketing and product design as well as user interface and experience (UI/UX
How does OneTech support underrepresented founders?
I am a pro-Black person, first of all, and I am very fond of seeing other people just like I come up with new solutions and ideas and work towards them and actually execute these ideas, not just talk about them. And we can all share resources, we can all talk about it, we can all reach out to each other and say ‘hey, I need help with this, what do you think?’ That, for me, is a motivation. I’m happy to know there are other people just like me, it’s not just me. The more people we have in that ecosystem, the better it is for all of us to feel more comfortable and actually execute the goals we have in our minds.