01 Oct 2014

The last six months

I remember laying there on the bed waiting for the call. It was the call that would change everything - change our lives forever. We’ve worked for it. We’ve fought for it. All we could do at that point was wait.

I have experimented with telephony a while ago so when the Fonenode idea came up, it easily got my attention. It wasn’t supposed to be a full commitment at first. I had moved to Lagos from my quiet life in Ibadan to focus on Prowork under the Tech Launchpad incubation program. Things got interesting for a bit. Then somewhere along the line I lost it. And after three years, it was time for me to move on to something different. Later in October, I picked what was left and returned to Ibadan.

With Fonenode out, it was a matter of time before people started asking for something elaborate. That was how Callbase came about. From the end of the year till February, I worked on it. Building has never been a problem. Development is like art to me. It is art actually. I enjoy every bit of it.

My new Co on the other was busy with the business development side of things. One fateful morning, not even 6am yet, he came screaming from the next room that we have been invited for an interview by a renowned incubator in the US. From that moment till I was sitting next to him, there in Silicon Valley, in front of a four-man judge, everything was like magic. Everything happened fast. I even got my visa in a week.

My rent in Ibadan was to end May. There was no point planning a renewal. I sold everything I had; went minimal that all that was left could fit in my brown barrel bag. That, my laptop and laptop bag and I was ready for the next journey; wherever it would lead.

Our first home for the first few days was Hacklantis - a “hacker hostel” we found on Airbnb. There we met like minds from different parts of the world - India, Russia, Asia, Africa. The mornings allowed me long walks to clear my brain and enjoy the new atmosphere. I’d walk Fairchild Drive to Hacker dojo. And then back in the evening. And some days we’d ride Google employee bicycles to get groceries.

It was an interesting experience. We moved around a lot and met lots of people. We stayed at 6 Airbnb places in all. And yes, people are inherently good. We spent a month with Vicky, a lovely performer and meditation instructor and her dog Jambo. She cared about us. She was always keen on how we were doing.

We spent two weeks with Tuyen and Tom and the place was like home. They enjoyed our rice and stew. And we’d ask them who is the better cook between both of us. A section in the living room was like a mini studio - a piano, an electric drum set, an electric guitar, a classical guitar, an ukulele, and one other guitar. I did Soul Take on the electric guitar. Some evenings, Tuyen and I would talk music and he’d teach me new things. Tuyen was the outdoor guy. Had we stayed longer, he promised taking us mountain climbing, hiking or camping.

We spent two weeks with Julia, a radio presenter/producer. She was like a sister. We’d spend the evenings talking about everything. And I’d end up leaving Co and her still talking. When Co was sick, she drove us all the way to the clinic. She was like a superwoman. She’d go for long bike rides every morning. And on weekends, if it’s not camping, it is swimming or some other interesting activity.

We made friends at Stanford and met interesting Nigerians working at awesome places - Mozilla, Facebook, Intel. We were at Facebook and met awesome engineers at Twitter. We met Edwin during one of our Airbnb moves and he invited us to his African Mix program on KALW.

We were in Las Vegas for two days for another interview and it was a different world entirely. That’s one place I’d love to go back anytime soon. The city, the lights, the people, the machines. For a moment, everything was simply black and white.

The call never came. After four months, we had to return. But we made valuable contacts, relationships and partnerships. I returned to Ghana later in July and back to Nigeria a week after. It was mixed feelings. I missed the people I care for. But it was like coming back to chaos. And to no home I can be naked all day or play guitar at 3am in the morning.

It’s been 2 months and I am used to the system once again. The first one, two weeks were crazy though. Everything felt wrong. But now I even know when to expect electricity and not.

The walk to making this work continues. It is what we wake up to. It’s a long walk (it always is) and someday it will be worth it.

Some people I can’t mention their names were angels in the last few months. They made a lot of impossibilities possible. I pray they find fulfillment in all their endeavors.


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My name is Opeyemi Obembe. I build things for web and mobile and write about my experiments. Follow me on Twitter–@kehers.


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