Students bring home Wharton Africa win


From left: Ocheme Saleh, E'16, Nnamdi Okeke, CS/AMD'15, and Oyihoma Saleh, DMSB'16.

Oyihoma Saleh, DMSB’16, and his co-founders of Kosavadeals.com, a Nigerian coupon website, recently beat out other finalists from the largest pool of applicants in Wharton Africa Business Forum (WABF) venture competition history.

Oyihoma and his twin brother Ocheme Saleh, E’16, met their fellow co-founder Nnamdi Okeke, CS/AMD’15, at Northeastern University. After exploring multiple business concepts with the help of IDEA, Northeastern’s student-led venture accelerator, they began developing Kosava in October 2014. The online marketplace connects Nigerian shoppers and retailers through digital coupons and offers. Their mission is consumer focused, sharing on their site that they seek “to help you save money on the things you love from the stores you love.” Kosava also increases the visibility of many businesses and helps drive their sales.

The team hopes to expand savings accessibility and introduce a coupon culture to Nigeria. “Customers have to keep up with too many channels that retailers are using to send promotional offers,” says Oyihoma. “We’re making saving simple.”

This innovative concept for Nigeria paired with an ambitious business plan and potential for significant growth impressed the judges. The victory won the company $5,000 to put toward venture development and a spot on the short-list to compete for placement in the African Leadership Network Ventures Accelerator.

The Kosava team cites their complementary fields of study and the variety of their co-op placements as a key to their success. “All of our co-op experiences have influenced what Kosava is today,” says Ocheme.

Combined, they bring business, engineering, computer science, and digital art to the company, creating a “complete loop,” as they like to call it. “We have a lot of chemistry here,” explains Okeke.

A common passion for entrepreneurship

Having gone through IDEA with business concepts that they ultimately decided not to pursue, the Kosava team wasn’t defeated, but rather optimistic and energized for their next venture.

“I honestly believe there are few college communities that are as entrepreneurial as what you find at Northeastern,” says Oyihoma. “There is a strong energy and belief that entrepreneurial success is not just for a select few but for anyone who is willing to seize it. And the school does a fantastic job at providing students with access to resources that will help them do just that.”

Guidance and inspiration didn’t stop with IDEA. Oyihoma found the team an important mentor in D’Amore-McKim Assistant Professor Oleksiy (Oleks) Osiyevskyy. After a Business Modeling for Entrepreneurship class, he approached Osiyevskyy for advice on Kosava, which was met with enthusiasm. Osiyevskyy then began communicating with the team regularly.

“I have been helping (Kosava) to clarify their business model and prepare the investor pitch, which ultimately won them the prestigious Wharton award,” says Osiyevskyy. “Kosava's team is set for a bright future, expanding both in terms of market segments within Nigeria and across the other countries on the continent.”

The co-founders grew up in Lagos, Nigeria, and value their time when they are back home where they can gather vital reactions and opinions from consumers and retailers currently using Kosava.

“This accomplishment brings significant attention to a segment in retail that has largely gone unnoticed in Nigeria,” says Oyihoma. “Our hope is that we can use this momentum to open up the enormous opportunity that exists and firmly maintain our position as leaders in this space.”