PyLadies Night with Isaac Sesi
5 min read
Isaac Sesi is an entrepreneur, software developer, and embedded systems engineer. He is the co-founder of Sesi Technologies, an AgriTech company that develops hardware and software solutions for farmers and agribusinesses in Africa. He has also co-founded 2 other startups in the past; Invent Electronics and GravyCode.
He has a degree in Electrical and Electronics Engineering from the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST). Isaac is a Tony Elumelu Fellow a Next Einstein Forum finalist and a World Summit Awards National Winner. He was recently selected as one of the 50 most influential young Ghanaians for 2018.
His passion for STEM led him to cofound Nsesa Foundation, a non-profit whose vision is to inspire an Innovation revolution in Africa and get young Africans to solve problems using science and technology. Nsesa Foundation's programs have trained hundreds of high school students and have reached over 300,000 people across the world since 2013.
Isaac has had the opportunity to showcase his work to several heads of state including the president and vice president of Ghana, the Chancellor of Germany, Angela Merkel, and Prince Charles of Wales. In his free time, Isaac writes on entrepreneurship on his blog, isaacsesi.com, hosts The African Entrepreneur Podcast and plays the piano.
From your bio, you have a lot of outstanding achievements. Will you add any more descriptions?
Err...well outstanding achievements may be a bit overkill. But hey, we are doing our best and trying to make an impact. Whatever recognition that comes along the way is the only validation of the good work you are doing. So i prefer to focus on the work rather than the fanfare.
When did you decide to go into tech? Was it in Senior High School (SHS), or Junior High School (JHS)? Do you have a sibling in that area of expertise?
Well, i have been in tech all my life. I started destroying radios and stuff very early I built battery-powered boats in JHS. I built dishwashers, robots, cloth drying machines, communication systems, etc in SHS.
I built apps and websites and did more complex embedded systems engineering stuff. After University, I started translating all of the tech and engineering i have been doing into products and devices and making them commercially available to have a real impact in the lives of the underprivileged. So yes, I have been in tech for a long time.
Did you use Robots with Arduino NXT/EV3? (P.S: NXT and EV3 are robotics kits used to also teach robotics mostly in JHS and SHS in Ghana)
Well, it depends on you. NXT/EV3 is more structured. Easy to follow. Arduino is more freestyle. So it depends on the individual and how they are learning or being taught. Each has its own advantage or disadvantage. Personally, I prefer Arduino because it allows for more creativity. I wouldn't put one above the other
Your company, Invent Electronics imports hardware components that constitute IoT kits? How and Why did you come up with that?
It was simple. I was at University doing electrical engineering. We needed to do projects and finding components for them was difficult. So I decided to fix that. Invent Electronics was born.
I keep seeing a product of Sesi Tech, called Grainmate. What was the inspiration for this?
So GrainMate is a flagship product of my startup, Sesi Technologies. It is an affordable grain moisture which makes it easy for farmers to accurately monitor the moisture content in their grains before storage to help prevent post harvest losses.
What setbacks did you encounter on your journey? Few examples? Was funding a big problem?
Funding: Unlike software where all you need to develop an MVP is a laptop and internet, .developing hardware is expensive. You need money to develop a prototype.
You need equipment to refine your prototype. All of these cost money. You need a larger skill set to successfully develop a hardware prototype. You need a maker (the engineer who designs and prototypes the product.) then you need the software guy who will develop supporting mobile applications. These do not come cheap. So you need to have the cash to prototype
Technical Know-how: Developing hardware requires a lot of specialized skills. Unfortunately, it is difficult to find people with -that skill set in Africa. Either they are already working somewhere or they are so expensive that you cannot afford them initially if you don’t have funding.
Scaling to mass manufacturing: It is very difficult to scale to mass manufacturing in Africa. Setting up manufacturing processes, getting the right equipment, finding casing/enclosure for your products, etc are some of the challenges you will face when trying to scale your manufacturing
Any links, GitHub account or resources that you’ve used that aids in acquiring some of the skills you have?
well, i learn a lot. I take a bunch of online courses all the time. Almost every point in time, i am taking at least one or two online courses. And my go to places for online courses are coursera.org and udemy.com. I look at where i am going, my career objectives and then i list the skills i need to thrive in those places. The ones i do not have, i go and acquire...
Currently my company is running a number of projects so i am taking a course in Project management. Education has been democratized, thanks to the internet. you don't need to pay so much to learn anything anymore, just grab your laptop, and anything you want to learn, you can find.
I love to read too. Because i am running a company, i love reading a lot about startups, growing your business, fundraising, etc. I have a cache of hundreds of digital books that I read regularly.
Also, I invest a lot in buying books on amazon kindle and audible in areas that are of importance to me. I love LinkedIn too, it helps me connect with people i believe can catalyze my development in other areas.
So hey, whatever resources you need are out there, just google.
Lastly, do you have any contact info or email that anyone can reach you on for project advice , idea contribution, internship ,etc at Sesi Tech?
If it is a personal email unrelated to my work that you want to send, please send it to firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, i blog at isaacsesi.com where i write about entrepreneurship, personal development and productivity.
This session was moderated by Abigail Afi Gbadago the current Robotics Lead for PyLadies Ghana.