Ezra Olubi: The Paystack co-founder who received national honors
For the past week, social media has been buzzing with discussions and reactions about Ezra Olubi, co-founder and CTO of Paystack, and his ‘unusual’ dress style. While his fashion sense is nothing new, the catalyst for these discussions can be traced back to the National Honors he recently received, which seek to recognize his contributions to technology in Nigeria.
According to Kris Tola, one of his Linkedin recommendations, Ezra is “a vibrant and self-determined young man who gave his everything for programming,” and he “has finally matured into one of the best programmers in the country today.”
Before delving into the discussions, consider Olubi’s accomplishments that have elevated him to the ranks of Nigeria’s young tech minds.
Birth and childhood
Ezra Olubi was born in Ibadan, Oyo state, on November 12, 1986. As a young boy growing up in Ibadan, he aspired to be a pilot, but life seemed to have other plans for Ezra. In an interview, Ezra described key experiences that shaped his life, including his first encounter with programming.
“The first was when one family friend moved into our house to be closer to school, and he came in with his computer, which was like my first introduction to computers, and that’s how I got into programming in secondary school.”
He began to appreciate the power of computers (in comparison to other gadgets) and how you could program them to do whatever you wanted. This completely diverted his attention away from his earlier career aspirations of becoming a pilot.
Olubi later earned a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science from Babcock University in 2006. As a Babcock University student, he competed in the annual Software Exhibition in 2003, 2004, 2005, and 2006, and he later stated in an interview that it was during one of these competitions that he met and became friends with Shola Akinlade. They collaborated on the project they displayed in their final year, laying the groundwork for their future collaboration.
From a tech background to the creation of Paystack
His first job out of college was as an IT Administrator at Business Management Consultants Ltd, where he supported a custom-built sales performance reconciliation and rewards software. According to his LinkedIn profile, he worked as a Web Applications Developer for North Ocean Logistics & Solutions Ltd for about 6 months, where he created the now-defunct cars-ng.com.
He then worked as the Head Developer and Web/Applications Developer at Softcom Imagio Limited Nigeria, where he created reloadng.com, softpurse.com, and other products. He was also the Head of Product Development, and he founded Eyowo.com, a unified payment system that aims to lower the barrier of entry for prospective eCommerce players in Nigeria and, eventually, the rest of Africa. His dissatisfaction with the limitations of Eyowo products would later serve as inspiration for the creation of Paystack.
From December 2012 to June 2013, Olubi was the Chief Technology Officer at Jobberman Nigeria. He led Jobberman’s scaling efforts in transitioning from the initial server stack to a cloud-based architecture capable of reliably handling transaction loads of tens of millions of transactions per day.
At some point, Olubi volunteered as a Facilitator for the Women Entrepreneurship Program at the Co-creation Hub Nigeria. From 2014 to 2015, he was also Chief Technology Officer at Delivery Science Inc in Yaba, Lagos, where he led and managed the team responsible for the development and management of all client-facing applications (web and mobile), internal applications, and so on, as well as making decisions to ensure business continuity and staff development.
From May 2012 to the present, he has served as Director of Magic Alexander Haring Consulting Ltd, researching technical trends and providing technical advice to businesses; coordinating requirements gathering for, creating and managing teams for custom software development tasks.
After leaving school, Ezra worked as a freelance developer for a while, and it was during this time that he met the co-founders of Softcom, where he would later work. While working at Softcom, he created the product Eyowo, which had some limitations.
“We were looking for a simple way to integrate and accept payments on your website without having to go through other interfaces and all of that.” The plan was to build it into something similar to Stripe, but this was not feasible at the time. Because, after all, Softcom was a company that did a lot more than just that product, and I imagine it was difficult to communicate the resources. After that, I left for Jobberman, but the thought lingered. “So, when Shola approached me with the Paystack idea, I jumped on it,” he says in the interview.
The two collaborated on Paystack, which grew to become one of the most popular online payment platforms used to power a number of e-commerce sites. Paystack is essentially an online gateway that allows merchants to accept credit and debit card payments from customers online.
He has been the CTO of Paystack since October 2015, and he describes his job as “hard at work saving the Nigerian payment space.”
PayStack was the first Nigerian company to be accepted into the Y Combinator program, and it received $120,000 in funding over five rounds between 2016 and 2018. Stripe paid $200 million for Paystack later in 2020. While there is no official figure for Olubi’s Net Worth, most of the information being circulated is based on the value of his business.
Ezra Olubi’s ‘controversial’ style
In an interview, Olubi describes his style as “androgynous” because “that’s what has been more of a recurring thing in my head with regards to like how I just like to carry myself and blow the lines to gender boundaries.”
He admits that he is used to strange reactions when people first meet him, but they eventually accept that he is just being ‘Ezra.’
“I guess I’ve always been like this since I was in secondary school.” I recall my father making a remark, and he was the first person to introduce me to the term effeminate. I looked it up in the dictionary and accepted it. And then, as I became more interested in things like fashion, dressing, and so on, I noticed more women, which was fine. But it meant I didn’t have a lot of guys to look up to, but the women were there anyway, so why not? And most of the time, when I walk into a store to get clothes, I end up in the main section looking for things like jackets or sweaters.”
Olubi’s preference for applying lipstick and painting his nails, in addition to his clothing, draws a lot of attention. His relationship status and love affairs (if any) are kept hidden from prying eyes, and we can see that this only serves to fuel speculation about his sexuality.
Awards and recognition
Over the years, he has been nominated for several awards. He was named Babcock University’s Programmer of the Year twice in a row.
On October 11, Ezra Olubi received the OON (Order Of The Niger) award from President Muhammadu Buhari at the 2022 National Honors event.
I can’t 😂 pic.twitter.com/joiByLKP7Y— Ikechukwu (@ObiIk) October 11, 2022
The reactions that accompanied this award stem from clips that appear to show the President disapprovingly looking at Ezra’s decision to paint his nails and lips. In any case, Olubi’s choice of clothing and appearance violated no laws, so the conversations will fade away like any other internet trend.