African Women in Tech: Temie Giwa-Tubosun

Temie Giwa-Tubosun, Founder, LifeBank – Nigeria

Temie is the Founder and CEO of LifeBank, a platform which enables timely delivery of blood to hospitals and patients who need it. She was named one of BBC’s 100 Women in 2014 and has been featured as a TEDx speaker. Mark Zuckerberg highlighted her as one of the most inspiring entrepreneurs he met during his visit to Nigeria in 2016. Here she speaks about becoming an entrepreneur out of necessity and her experience building a health-tech startup as a non-tech founder.

Excerpts below are from her interview with Eunice Baguma Ball, author of the book, Founding Women.

You say you didn’t plan on becoming a tech entrepreneur. How did you end up on this path?

Becoming an entrepreneur was never something I aspired to. In fact, I didn’t have any particular interest in technology either. I started LifeBank out of sheer necessity because the problem of people dying from lack of access to blood in Nigeria was worsening every day and no one was focusing on solving it. I had a good job in health management which I really loved and didn’t want to give up, but I kept seeing people around me dying unnecessarily. For years I tried to find different ways to solve this problem while remaining comfortable in my job, but these solutions didn’t have the level of impact needed. At some point I realised I needed to quit my job and focus on solving this problem if I really wanted to make a difference. The catalyst was when someone very close to me lost their dad who bled to death in a small town in eastern Nigeria. When she told me her story, I knew I just couldn’t look away any longer. I believed the most sustainable way to solve this problem would be to set up a venture rather than a non-profit. And I also knew that I would need technology to overcome many of the inefficiencies relating to cost and infrastructure. That’s how I ended up setting up a health-tech company. It wasn’t something I had initially planned in terms of my career path.

How do you balance family life with the demands of running a startup?

It’s definitely challenging because I basically work round the clock. The only day I try not to work is on Sunday. Although, unfortunately, this is also sometimes not possible. Recently I had to leave my family while we were at church because we got a large order which was rather tough to fulfill. My team called me and I had to go because at the end of the day this is the nature of our business. We are in the health space and people do not have specific times when they fall sick. So we can’t say we only work on such and such days or times. My way of managing it is by giving myself permission to be flexible with my life and make sure I set aside time to spend with my family.

I’m blessed to have great teams both at work and at home. I have an incredibly supportive husband who loves what I do and is proud of me. As women, we have to realise that we are human an we do’t always have to chase perfection by trying to do it all. Work-life balance is about allowing yourself that flexibility and having a strong support system. My view is that I am a member of the family and this means the family has to support me as well. In my case, we have invested in help in the form of our amazing nanny and housekeeper. But even if you are at a stage in your life where you cannot afford to have them, find ways for other members of your family to support you.

There was a time when my husband and I couldn’t afford to have the help we have today an we had to work as a team. He would wash the clothes while I cleaned the house or do the dishes while I did the ironing. When our lives became busier and as we advanced in our careers, we decided to find someone we could trust to help us. For a long time we’ve had patriarchal systems that make women feel like they cannot be committed to their families as well as their careers. Especially in Nigeria, and Africa in general, where there is the perception that women should handle the domestic duties while men handle all the bills. I actually don’t think that’s fair on men either. I want my little boy to see the example his father and I are setting, so he can marry someone who is his equal and have a less stressful life.

Founding Women shares the inspiring entrepreneurship stories of 20 African women and how they deal with the challenges that can often come with navigating the male-dominated world of tech. Filled with practical advice as well as words of encouragement, this book speaks to anyone who has a dream but fears the odds might be stacked up too high against them.

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