2011 set off Victor’s journey of building solutions that help make lives better for people. From designing in the university to becoming a brand consultant and business leader, he tells us the in-depth story of his journey, building Fullgap and his relationship with money on this episode of #MoneyRise.
Can you tell us a little about yourself?
My name is Victor Fatanmi, and I’m a brand consultant or a brand thinker and a business leader. My work is mostly around advising business leaders and helping to consult on growth, culture, people, and leadership. I’m primarily focused on building out the solutions to help visionaries and ambitious people advance their work. That’s what we are doing with Fullgap too. And that’s pretty much who I am.
Oh, I’d have thought you were a designer!
I’m actually a designer too. It’s just that designers become relegated so much in the grand scheme of things and I wanted to change that and ensure we have more impact in the big picture. I started out my journey as a graphic designer, which led to building a design outfit with Bolaji, my roommate in university. Then it evolved more into brand consultancy, and graphic design became one of the bases. To grow the business, I inevitably had to focus on coaching other designers while I gradually stopped designing and became more of a business leader. It was a personal struggle, which I resisted for a while but it was a sacrifice I had to make. Today, I’m more of a brand or sales person than a designer. But I try to design once in a while too, especially on my personal projects like my books.
What exactly inspired your brand consulting journey?
Although I was doing design, I realised that our clients needed more. Graphics design is always the last part of the entire process; decisions have been made and all of the thinking and strategic work have been done. We saw that we could not make enough impact if we were not helping businesses to make the right decisions, so we offered that. In a more mature economy, if businesses first spoke to strategists before speaking to us, it would be great. But they either couldn’t afford the ‘luxury’ or didn’t understand the need. So, we needed to start serving these clients from an earlier stage for us to deliver impactful work. That’s what influenced our evolution.
That’s really great. So what does brand consultancy mean to you?
It means being able to take that external perspective and deep interest in what business leaders are trying to do, and then helping them to see what they are unable to see about themselves, helping them to craft a narrative for how they want their brands to stand out.
Really interesting. So you mentioned Fullgap; can you tell us about it?
To start with, Fullgap is like an operating system for freelancers or anyone getting work done. It’s business management, project management, or client management, depending on how you choose to use it more. It’s an organiser. It’s how you organise your one-man, one-woman enterprise as a service provider in the work-from-home new normal.
It’s like any designer, photographer, software engineer, fashion designer, or lawyer who is working individually but with many clients. Fullgap helps them to deliver and manage those works like professionals. They’re able to act like an enterprise (or carry themselves like an institution, like we said in a recent campaign), because there’s a whole lot of administrative work that nobody likes but we all need to do. There is the work itself that you love to do — your skill, talent and passion, but there are all of the boring parts like invoicing, legal contracts, timeline management, and payment reminders. For someone who loves fashion, they just want to do fashion. A designer just wants to design. However, the boring parts are important too. That’s what Fullgap really is — the organiser and operating system to simplify all those other moving parts.
Oh, that’s brilliant. How did it come to be?
I was an individual graphic designer in the shoes of the people who we are serving right now with Fullgap. I was in that shoe in 2011, and Bolaji was my roommate. He was a structured-minded guy, who loved invoicing and the other boring processes I mentioned earlier, so he started to help with that. He would remind me to take calls, apologise to our clients for delays, and do other admin duties, including the dirty work like fixing the gen, queuing to buy fuel in scarcity times, etc. In 2015, we took things more seriously, and founded a new design agency called FourthCanvas. Bolaji was my co-founder, and the entire company’s structure l. I was the creative guy, mentoring our other employees and being the face out there. And a few years in, we thought, “what if we could help other people use technology to establish this structure?”
Not everybody will have their own Bolaji. It was more like, “What if we could build Bolaji but for everyone?” It’s like automating Bolaji for other people. That was what gave birth to the whole idea of Fullgap. While Bolaji started bringing structure, he started doing it manually. When there was an invoice that needed to be made, he’d go on Microsoft or PDF to make it. He started to think about how he could make his work faster, checking out tools online that could help achieve that. But then we realised we had so many tools that we were paying subscription for. It was too much technology for us. If we, as a company, started to feel overwhelmed by the number of tools, it would be even more frustrating for individuals. That was when we decided to build a product that can simplify everything.
To get to where we are now, however, it had taken a whole lot more. The story of the idea is a sweet one but building is a whole different game altogether. It has taken so much, including realising at some point that we had to restart all over again and reaching out to two of our very experienced friends from uni to co-found Fullgap with their expertise in engineering and product design, respectively. What has brought us this far is the combination of four different people leading from different areas of strengths and having the privilege to use the committed contribution of an amazing team of employees across the different components of the startup.
Oh, like an aggregator?
No. I like to emphasise that we’re a simplifier, and not an aggregator. We are not adding several tools together in one place; we are bringing the most important parts of each of those tools together in one place. For instance, if a time management tool could do 10 things, we’re identifying the 2 or 3 things most important to today’s ambitious freelancer and adding it to Fullgap.
We are focused on what the average freelancer needs to keep things running smoothly and excel. This is because we’ve been in that shoe ourselves before switching to managing freelancers (and we continue to listen and learn from them), so we know what A to Z looks like in the overall flow of a freelancer’s life. We have worked for several months now and launched our beta officially on 21st April, 2023, and it’s been beautiful so far.
So what are some of the biggest lessons you’ve learned so far building Full Gap?
One lesson — something I’ve read about and agreed with, and have seen directly work out right before my eyes— is that branding is driven by impact. You can say nice things, but it only has an effect if people believe it. And people believe it if there are pointers to make them believe it. We had built a very strong brand for our product, even before it launched. We built it around the rallying call of “Power to the creative ones.” People know us as those who have impacted young people or those trying to come up across different fields. That’s really my number one lesson — how we successfully built a community around our product even before it was launched, thanks to our branding expertise, but greatly because of our impact over the past 10 years.
Love it. So, where do you see Fullgap in the next five years?
In the next 10 years, Fullgap will be on the level of Google (at least, today’s Google). I know that Google will still exist by then because there are very brilliant people over there. A company like Apple will also still exist. But we will be like that company that is labelled as the new age versions of these companies. The older companies may still be above us because they’ve been here for longer and are still doing the right things. However, we will be the new ones that will give them a fight for their money. Such a company, at that level, would have already tried to acquire us.
There is a generational shift. People are switching their dreams from 9-to-5 and embracing the idea of taking their own individual gigs, which means that the market we’re trying to play in is a continuously expanding market. We’re not just fighting for an existing market; we’re fighting for a market that keeps growing and will grow even more in this part of the world where more people have tools, access to knowledge from across the world and can learn any of these skills from Youtube.
So at what point did you realise that your life had really changed since you began your career journey?
For Fourth Canvas, it was the moment I could start affording conveniences. I didn’t have to get money from home. I felt I was in control of my fortune and fate in some way.
For Fullgap, I think the major moment for me was when we were trying to raise funds from family and friends. We first wanted to raise $30,000, then immediately realised that the cost of building a company is a lot. You will never understand it, until you start building. We also realised how many people we had to hire, the quality of the people, and how many resources we had to pay for, like servers. So we decided to raise $100k. The moment we got oversubscribed, we turned down many people trying to invest. But we eventually raised about $115,000 from people. That was a moment of realisation for me— we had just done something big. It’s small in the grand scheme of fundraising but to have people believe in your idea and put their money in it was a big moment for me.
But the biggest one then came when we launched about 2 months ago, and now have close to 4500 users signed up. It then dawned on us that we were now responsible and have an actual product that people are using. It’s still in the Beta phase version, but it just feels real. I remember looking in the mirror and feeling “your product now has actual users — real human beings banking on your promise of a solution… wow”. The pressure, the inspiration, the motivation…
Well done, Victor. Let’s talk about money. Do you invest and what’s your relationship with money?
My relationship with money is not great. I started investing with Rise recently. I’ve lost money in the past from investments that were supposed to bring higher yields. Although it took me time, I’ve eventually come to realise that you need to have both high risk investments that could bring bigger returns, as well as low risk ones that could guarantee results. And this was further inspired by a conversation I had with your CEO, Eke, a few months back. I started doing it gradually. I opened an account with Rise recently, and put some money there. It’s not a lot of money, but I’ll do more. I think my history with money or investment has been focusing on earning more. I’ve done less of saving. I focus more on increasing my earnings, but I need to do both now.
I’m currently trying to implement some new learnings and Rise has been one tool that I have set up that looks good and is a potential partner with me on the journey that I’m trying to get on now. I’m particularly impressed by the overall user experience on the digital product. From the visual design of the UI to the overall flow to the colours, it all feels right and easy. The experience so far has also been great. It’s been very smooth, even though I’ve not done much. But I will.
What advice would you give to people who are looking to build their own company?
First, I would say that there are some ideas you need to dump. You need to unlearn many things. I will go ahead and give some examples, but these examples cannot be exhaustive. The only way to unlearn is to expose yourself to new things, so you want to be in new gatherings, read new books, and speak to new people.
Now, for people trying to build, it is important to get over the feeling of not wanting to work for someone else. The idea of working for someone else is part of how the world moves. It is part of how you learn how to even be your own boss in the first place. The KFC franchise, which is now a global chain, was started by a 65-year old man, who worked for people in his earlier life, including as an insurance salesman and a filling station operator before starting ‘his own business’.
Another advice would be the idea of you wanting to own stuff 100%. You need to remember that 1% of Facebook is bigger than 100% of that tiny idea that you have not made any revenue from or have started making some small revenue from. Collaboration is the way. Find people who have strengths in your weak areas, share ideas and co-build businesses with them. You can share the ownership of what you’re trying to build. Don’t be stingy with it.
Also, some people would say, “oh, I don’t want to share these ideas so that they don’t steal it.” How can you even be sure you have a great, workable idea in the first place? If your idea gets stolen, it tells how good it is in the first place. So put it out, let someone steal it. That’s what will confirm to you that you’re thinking clearly, then go back to the creative mind that came up with that idea and come up with new things.
By opening up about our ideas or what we’re trying to build, we find validation and feedback and reviews. Sometimes, you even attract the right partners or sponsors because you are openly speaking about your ideas. In other situations, you may attract job opportunities (or internships) because an established entrepreneur who is observing from afar takes notes and goes “that person has a brilliant mind”. There are so many possibilities when you put things out there. I know people who have had proposal ideas for years, they never shared with anyone and then they got shocked that somebody in China (or even Enugu) is building the same thing. That’s all I can say.
Sometimes, we come up with an idea in the bedroom or toilet, and we think we’re that special person some angel brought it to. That’s probably not true. Someone else has gone through a similar experience like you because ideas are simply products of things mixing actively in your head. Same idea has mixed in their head. So, get to it, act, tell people about it, and begin something fast. Try to do something with someone. Make a prototype. Learn, improve the idea, or dump it and move to the next one. That’s it all from me.