Kike Oniwinde is the Founder and CEO of BYP Network, a platform for black young professionals to connect with each other and corporations. She has a BSc (Hons) Economics degree from the University of Nottingham and a MSc Management from the University of Florida. Kike is also a Great Britain javelin thrower who received a full track and field scholarship to study in Florida. Her past work experience includes working in sales in Fintech and front office at major investment banks including Goldman Sachs and Citi.
The idea of BYP Network came after Kike studied abroad and met talented black students. Once back in London, the lack of diversity in the workplace coupled with low opportunities to meet others in the city; prompted the idea. BYP Network has since hosted thousands of black professionals in the past year and a half in London, England with plans of international expansion. The platform has thousands of downloads and has led to Kike winning multiple awards. She has been named as a Sky Woman in Technology Scholar gaining a $33,000 grant and full backing From Sky Corp. She also won the Founders Forum ‘F-Factor’ Competition beating 200 applicants along with winning the New Entrepreneurs Foundation pitch contest. She gained over $50k in funding and was featured in the Sunday Times (A national UK paper).
Kike is a World Economic Forum Global Shaper, University of Nottingham Hall of Famer and was once named as one of the top five black students in the UK. She credits her growth mindset, big vision and tenacity for her current successes.
According to her ; “The plan is for BYP Network to be the go to platform for black professionals who want to connect locally and globally to create new businesses, friendships and careers. Representation is important and I believe this platform will empower the black community. I’ve benefitted significantly, as I connected with my American Co-founder, Adrian Claudius-Cole through BYP Network”.
The young entrepreneur whose story went viral globally shares her inspiring journey with me in this exclusive interview.
My childhood prepared me for what I do now in many different ways. I’ve only ever known hard work whether through academics or sports. What I’ve mainly learnt is the importance of perseverance as good and bad times are very cyclical. I’ve failed so much but I keep going because I’ve learnt it always pays off.
I am 25 years old, I’m from East London, I was born to British-Nigerian parents, I am a Libra and I have a huge desire to change the black narrative. I want to help black people around the world through technology. I am super enthusiastic – borderline naive – but it fuels me to just keep going and to ask the right questions and to stay curious.
Inspiration behind your brand BYP Network
The inspiration is simply from meeting a lot of talented black professionals along my journey, especially whilst I was a student at The University of Florida. There, I had a strong desire to meet as many black professionals as possible and to connect, so we could raise our aspirations and be around future leaders. The hope is to help the black community form the right jobs and new businesses, and just to change the black narrative by being role models to the younger generation and ensuring we don’t get left behind.
Being a world economic shaper and recipient of several grants
I’m very humbled that I’ve received these grants and that I’m seen as good enough to be seen as a world economic shaper. Especially when I go to meetings and I’m surrounded by so many incredible young people who all have a desire to make a difference in the world. It makes it feel like I’m on the right path and the universe is aligned with my desires. It’s more a signal that I’m doing the right thing rather than an accolade to myself. I’m just excited to keep going forward and see what I achieve.
Starting a business is very difficult, it poses a lot of different challenges. There are a lot more lows than highs but when the highs happen, they’re amazing. It’s not for the faint-hearted and my years of being an athlete have helped me as sports and business are very similar. Both take dedication and resilience, especially bouncing back from multiple failures. The challenges are yet to come but I’m excited by them, because once I overcome them, something amazing will come from this.
Leaving the banking sector for Tech
The tech industry is the future. Tech is so exciting and I can use my creativity and my economist skillset to drive change within the industry. Tech connects people on a grand scale, and I’m so happy to be in this area. I hope it inspires others to join the industry, even if they don’t have a tech background.
I’m pleased with everything that happens along the journey. The reward is understanding I’m on the right path – whether that’s winning a pitch competition, or people downloading the app, or getting media attention. That’s the greatest award. My greatest award was finding a Co-Founder through the BYP Network platform – that showed me that my idea behind setting up the platform was right, you really can find other talented black professionals and it works!
BYP in 5 years
Being as big as LinkedIn! We’re known as the ‘Black LinkedIn’ and I believe it will be a billion dollar company. It’s a new vertical, we’re targeting the black professional, and there are millions of us who aren’t catered to. We want to cater to them, we want to help them develop, and we want to show them that we’re a body who cares about their development , and through the use of mentorships and corporations, it could prove a world solution. It’s not exclusivity, but inclusion by combining so many elements. It’s a billion dollar company, but also one which makes a positive impact. I’m excited for the hard work and looking back and thinking “wow, here we are at 5 years old”.
Not giving up
I never feel like giving up but whenever things get hard, I have this funny saying where I say “I quit”. I say it in business and sport almost every day. But, the truth is, I’ll never quit and I always keep going.
I was inspired by some of the stories I heard from people in the tech industry. Lots of social platform stories inspired me. I felt like I had great ideas for the black community that nobody had tapped into. I thought, “why can’t I be as successful?” . In the black community, we don’t see many role models who inspire us to aspire higher so I looked to tech company founders who motivated me to want to do well.
Reception since we started
The reception has been amazing from the get-go. When we launched our first ever event it sold out with barely any social media. Since then we’ve grown to a global community with a lot of interest from corporates for diversity and inclusion. The reception has shown me that BYP Network is needed and has already helped make thousands of connections. I look forward to our growth and the continue support from the community.
I am a woman of Rubies
I have the ability to build something from scratch, to be bold, strong and confident, and to walk forward in my pursuit and purpose. I understand that I can break boundaries and there’s no reason why BYP can’t be great, or why I can’t be great. I want to change the black narrative. I feel compelled to go forward with this mindset and this business.
Due recognition for women in Tech
I think that one thing I’ve learnt is, we know there’s not enough women in tech (or many male-dominated industries), and there aren’t many black people. We, as women, have to go in. We have to be strong and face the knockbacks, and people saying horrible things. You have to build yourself up and keep going. One thing I’ve learnt from my experience of working in tech is people will only give you recognition if they want to. As long as you’re satisfied with yourself and you’re achieving, it doesn’t matter. Keep breaking down barriers even when people are closing doors on you.
Advice to young women who want to go into tech