Meet the Nigerian founders behind the exciting global travel app

About Fatu
By Fatu Ogwuche

Top of Mind. Happy Sunday!

I’m a big advocate for building products for the heck of it. Sure, building products to tackle global problems is excellent, but a travel app is just as great.

I had a delightful time interviewing tech titans and founders of Backdrop, which was created to help people “find pretty places”.

I hope you enjoy reading this story as much as I enjoyed writing it 🙂

3 big things:

Top of Mind. Happy Sunday!

I’m a big advocate for building products for the heck of it. Sure, building products to tackle global problems is excellent, but a travel app is just as great.

I had a delightful time interviewing tech titans and founders of Backdrop, which was created to help people “find pretty places”.

I hope you enjoy reading this story as much as I enjoyed writing it 🙂

3 big things:

  • The next big photo app
  • Africa bags another unicorn
  • Squid Game crypto hustle

Meet the Nigerian founders behind the exciting global travel app

Dami Odufuwa (CEO) | Timi Ajiboye (CTO) | Odun Eweniyi (COO)

Light bulb moment: The founders of Backdrop give the phrase “a problem shared is half solved” new meaning. Legend has it that Timi Ajiboye (the only missing piece from this interview) called up Dami Odufuwa and Odun Eweniyi to create a travel app after conversations with friends revealed the difficulty in finding aesthetically pleasing places to visit while travelling.

A year+ after the first conversation between the founders, Backdrop was born.

Why Backdrop matters: It’s easy to compare Backdrop to existing apps like Pinterest and Instagram. But, Backdrop’s differentiator is that it was created to solve the problem of discovery. The beauty of the app is its utility for not only tourists but residents.

The app is packed with features that surface stunning restaurants, art galleries, hotels, museums, malls, etc. If it’s pretty, it’s on Backdrop.

Two months in… I spoke to 2/3 of the co-founders about the product and their vision for the next big global travel app.

The toplines from our interview, distilled for brevity:

On building Backdrop’s features:

Dami: We optimized for discoverability. Finding pretty places on any social media or travel apps is difficult. You know when you’re studying for something, you open 10 different books to find a solution to one problem – that’s how it feels when planning a trip and trying to find information about a city. I’m very impatient, and Backdrop solves the immediacy for me. So, we built features that solved these pain points.

Odun: I don’t like touristy places. If there are places everyone goes to, I go the opposite. Apps like Google or Instagram offer popular places based on where everyone else has visited, not necessarily places tailored to what you like. For instance, I went shopping the other day and wanted to find a nice place to eat with good wifi, inexpensive and less crowded. I opened up Backdrop, and it suggested some great spots.

On Backdrop’s Explore feed:

Odun: We built the Explore feed to help users discover what they are looking for, down to specific requirements like outdoor seating, accessibility, pet friendly, etc. It surfaces details about locations which gives users more information on where to visit. This, I think is the middle point Backdrop strikes, which makes it, unlike any other app. It’s very niche and looks different to every user.

Dami: We got the inspiration for the backdrops near you feature – which is my favourite feature on the Explore feed, after beta test users told us they loved Backdrop because it helped them find places in their neighbourhood they didn’t know existed. We added the key details feature to create the ultimate experience if you decide you want to visit a place. I’m COVID conscious so I like to visit restaurants with outdoor seating, which the key details feature shows you.

On their favourite features:

Odun: My favourite feature is the collections feature. I only have pockets of time when I’m visiting a city so being able to curate spaces down to different locations saves me time. It’s fascinating to me to discover interesting, hidden places within a city and create a collection based on different areas. It’s overwhelming exploring a city, so the collections feature finds all the backdrops near an area I’m interested in, I put them in a collection and go visit. I have quite the collection.

Dami: What Odun describes is what separates the experiences of users on Backdrop. You can tailor what you want to experience. And that is the point of travel, being able to create the experiences you want, not just suggestions about the hottest places.

On building new features:

Dami: Video is a big part of our next move. We are figuring out how to incorporate video into Backdrop because finding pretty places doesn’t have to be static. We are also exploring ways to engage the community a bit more. Backdrop gets its travel ethos very well, but we are working on the social media network part of it so users can interact with each other and share experiences through travel.

Timi is personally interested in users being able to book hotels through the app. We’ll continue to monitor how users interact on the app and create features based on user activity.

On monetizing Backdrop:

Dami: Backdrop is still early stages but advertising would be part of our revenue. Long term, I’ll love to have partnerships with countries like Barbados and Dubai. I can see the impact that Backdrop could have on a lot of countries tourism.

On Safety:

Odun: We would work on integrating a reporting feature to keep users safe on the app and give them the power to report content that shouldn’t be on the app.

On Backdrop’s future:

Dami: I want Backdrop to be the go-to travel companion and to fundamentally change how people discover the beauty of the world. I want Backdrop to make a whole lot of money. I want people to talk about Backdrop how they talk about Google. I want Backdrop to become a verb like Uber is a verb.Odun: I want Backdrop to be a very valuable company. I want Backdrop to become the SI Unit for pretty places. I want Backdrop to be the first thing people think about when you see a pretty place. I want people to go “I took this photo, I should upload it on Backdrop”. I want Backdrop to be an outlet for people to share their artistic endeavours.

Chipper Cash becomes a unicorn

Co-founders Maijid Moujaled & Ham Serunjogi | Credit: Chipper Cash

The Short: African payments company Chipper Cash became a unicorn in a $150 million Series C extension round, valuing the company at over $2 billion. FTX, a cryptocurrency platform, led the round.

Why it matters: This is FTX’s first investment on the continent, and the play for its partnership with Chipper Cash is to expand the adoption of crypto in Africa – an industry that has generated $105 billion in peer to peer payments.

Big partnerships: Chipper Cash partnered with Twitter as the exclusive payments partners for its Tip Jar feature in Africa. This partnership gives creators on the continent the ability to receive money through Twitter.

Twitter currently does not get a cut of revenue from Tip Jar. PayPal and Cash App also do not retain processing fees. The jury’s out on Chipper Cash’s fees model – retain a cut or go $0 like its counterparts.

The rise of the unicorns: The fintech sector remains the most funded in Africa, and it’s no surprise that it has minted the most unicorns. Companies like Flutterwave, Wave, OPay and Chipper Cash all attained the coveted status this year. Interswitch in 2019. 

Andela is the only non-fintech unicorn on the continent, giving some hope to other tech industries.

Final thoughts: Africa’s tech companies are creating funnels for FDI’s faster than most industries on the continent. These unicorns create tremendous value globally, and it’s validating that their bottom line matches the value they create.

Squid Game gets a cryptocurrency scam

Photo credit: Guardian

The Short: ‘Squid Game’ cryptocurrency turns out to be a scam as creators run off with millions. 

What it means: Well, if you purchased the cryptocurrency SQUID on the back of the show’s popularity, chances are your money has gone the way of Satoshi Nakamoto. While SQUID is not affiliated with the Netflix series Squid Game, a cryptocurrency scheme was born with media outlets carelessly promoting it.

How it went down: The founders pulled what is popularly known as a rug pull, which happens when developers pump up a coin with the intent to cash in as soon as a lot of people invest. Experts predicted this was the way SQUID would go, but people bought a lot of coins despite red flags and warnings. 

By the numbers: On October 20, SQUID launched a pre-sale priced at just over a penny. The coins prices went ballistic and closed at $40 one weekend and peaked at $2,800 during the week. After the rug pull, it landed at $0.005, and everyone but the founders lost money. 

Final Thoughts: Crypto scams like this are not unusual. This coin just got a lot of mainstream press coverage when it launched, leading investors to believe it was legit. Unfortunately, it’s human nature to pursue quick money, even in apparent schemes — thoughts and prayers to all who lost money.

New feature spotlight!

Twitter Card Preview | Credit: Instagram

New Feature Alert: Twitter Card previews are back. Instagram announced this rollout on Wednesday. If you’ve been on Twitter long enough and have friends that tweet links to their Instagram posts, you’d be familiar with the feature. 

How this works: It’s simple! Tweet the link from your Instagram photo and see what it does.  

Baller: We have sausages and wine to thank for this feature coming back to Twitter. According to Casey Newton, over some good libation, Twitter’s Head of Product Kayvon Beykpour nicely asked Head of Instagram Adam Mosseri to bring back this feature, and he did. 


That’s it for the week. See you next Sunday!

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