Oladosu Teyibo built a software development and recruiting company that operated in eight countries, five of them in Africa. From the outset, he experienced a “pain point” of not being able to hire people in Africa because they didn’t have the right computer equipment to work for him.
His latest venture aims to help solve that problem.
Teyibo is founder and CEO of YouWork.ai, a Phoenix-based startup that purchases refurbished laptops in the U.S. and rents them to individuals and businesses in three African countries. The company provides laptops and phones through a low monthly subscription, making technology affordable for people who can’t otherwise afford to buy.
“The reason for the rental model is the access over ownership. That’s really what we’re trying to do,” he told E-Scrap News in an interview. “We’re trying to enhance the digital infrastructure of Africa.”
Founded earlier this year and soft-launched only about three months ago, YouWork.ai is currently providing equipment in Kenya, South Africa and Nigeria, where Teyibo has family. Monthly rates range from about $40 to $100.
“That really just opens the door to thousands of people who would not normally be able to play in the game,” Teyibo said.
The service also keeps equipment in use longer, yielding environmental benefits, and it enhances the digital infrastructure of Africa, aiding economic development efforts, Teyibo said.
Hot demand for rented devices
For its rental equipment, YouWork.ai purchases A- and B-grade used electronics from domestic refurbishers. Working out of a rented warehouse space in Phoenix with partners in Africa that collect and redeploy devices, the company currently has seven business customers, including 10 to 15 freelancers, and a total of about 200 devices rented.
“We have a lot of demand from individuals [as well],” Teyibo said. “We just don’t service it yet.” He noted that creditworthiness is easier to determine for businesses, which reduces his company’s risks.
His company embeds software that’s able to track and lock computers in cases of nonpayment, he said, adding that, so far, it hasn’t had to use the capabilities.
Roughly 60% to 70% of the deployed equipment consists of computers, and the remainder is phones. The company sells YouCare plans, which provide for free repairs and temporary replacement of rented equipment. YouWork.ai relies on local repair shops in Africa. Much of what they do involves screen issues, Teyibo said, although they also perform other cosmetic repairs and replace components such as hard drives and keyboard keys.
His company has found that electronics design sometimes presents an impediment to repair, he acknowledged, and sometimes repairs don’t make financial sense. Ease of repair even factors into which electronics his company buys, he said.
“I think Apple really needs to think about how much waste is being added to the world just from that one decision that they’re making,” he said.
Teyibo estimates each laptop will have five to 10 users before it reaches its end of life. Because the company is so new, none of the computers or phones have reached that stage yet. When they do, they’ll be recycled by a Ghanaian company called Appcyclers, he said.
YouWork.ai is experiencing more demand than it can serve, so it’s looking to raise money through a seed round of investments, Teyibo said. The money will build the company’s operational and infrastructure capabilities.
“It’s really so that we can build the entire company, some of the necessary structure for this process to continue to work,” he said.