EMBA Alumni Launch Global Management Consulting Firm Focused in Africa
We asked entrepreneurs Philip Agbeko (EMBA ’15) and Osaruyi Imohe (EMBA ’15), currently based in the D.C. area, about Hilltop Global Group, the management consulting company they recently started, which is focused on providing value-based solutions in the Africa region.
Tell us about your new company.
Hilltop Global Group comprises a diverse team of Georgetown University Executive MBA alumni. We are dedicated to providing private-sector solutions that have economic and social impact in the United States, Africa, and other emerging markets. Our primary practice areas align with our core competencies in finance and banking, government services, information technology, and education. Philip Agbeko (EMBA ’15) leads our operations in Washington, D.C., with other partners while Bhavesh Patel (EMBA ’15) leads our operations in Nairobi, Kenya.
What inspired you to start your own business?
Our vision is to be the premier partner providing strategic advisory services to governments, investors, and businesses in the United States and key frontier markets. We were motivated by our experiences at Georgetown University to create value, serve a niche need, and make a positive impact while delivering services. Our values emphasize our commitment to socio-economic development and align with the Jesuit principles of service to society and the community.
We believe Africa is the next frontier for significant growth and economic development. To achieve these goals, there needs to be more focus on strengthening the institutions and systems that will enable the transformation. We felt there was a need for a team that could catalyze the efforts of all parties involved into better outcomes overall.
As an organization, we strive to improve Africa’s image in the global arena as a reliable and credible destination for business and investment. We also see ourselves as partners to African government bodies and institutions, as well as business entities looking to maximize potential, including efficient production, value creation, and acquiring the skill sets needed to bridge the development gap.
Tell us a bit more about the challenges of running operations/projects in the African continent from Washington, D.C.
Although business in Africa can be challenging, we are fortunate to have a strong team of partners with complementary professional experiences, but more importantly a strong understanding of the unique operational and cultural dynamics of business implementation in Africa. There are significant logistical challenges with operations in Africa, so having a local presence like we do in Nairobi, Kenya, is very important. Connecting with decision makers also is a challenge, but our strong network of reliable contacts across the continent helps us address those challenges. We also leverage technology and collaboration tools to “reduce the distance” between our operations in the United States and Africa.
What has been the most challenging and rewarding part of starting a business?
As a service-driven start-up, the primary challenge revolves around focusing on particular practice areas. There is always the temptation to have a broad focus in hopes that “something sticks.” The fear of possibly missing out on opportunities can be daunting, but focus is important. Choosing the right opportunities to pursue requires careful and honest consideration of our resources. We would like to take on everything at once but know we need to be patient. Also, access to capital and contracting opportunities for smaller players can be challenging. However, given these challenges, it has been especially rewarding to see opportunities grow into full-scale, successful projects.
How did Georgetown’s McDonough School of Business prepare you for this entrepreneurial venture?
The experience at Georgetown University was truly transformational, not only academically, but socially. It was refreshing to engage in discussions with professionals who have varying viewpoints and significant experience from a broad cross-section of industries. For instance, the business planning residency, which taught practical and revolutionary approaches like the lean start-up method, is something we have used in our own business and undoubtedly will come back to again and again. Georgetown University’s practical approach to business remains grounded in our DNA. Experiences like consulting engagements and presentations on projects for clients in Turkey, Vietnam, South Korea, Hong Kong, and Thailand prepared us for our own venture. Georgetown McDonough truly does mean global business!
How have you stayed connected with Georgetown McDonough’s global network?
We are beginning to tap into the global network as we solidify our operations. We frequently participate in alumni events to maintain and build on our connections. We plan to participate in more alumni events and projects. We foresee exciting opportunities to collaborate with Georgetown University alumni globally.
What advice do you have for students or alumni considering starting a global business?
Identify a product or service that solves a unique need or problem and have a plan to execute and deliver. Be sure to have a few unique differentiators. It also is extremely important to maintain focus, as it is easy to get sidetracked. Also, remember to keep a long-term focus and celebrate small wins no matter how seemingly insignificant. The global marketplace is quite dynamic and opportunities may appear when least expected. Be prepared! Pull together a diverse group of people to bounce ideas off of and get their feedback as you pursue new ideas and opportunities. You will be surprised at how the people in your network can help you think about a problem in a different way or make introductions to other influencers in your space that then become valuable resources as you grow your business. Don’t forget to have fun!
What do you miss the most of your Georgetown experience?
There are many things we miss about the Georgetown experience. The lectures and instruction (minus the quizzes and assignments) from the incredible faculty will be at the top of the list. Additionally, the opportunity to work on an intellectually diverse range of projects with a super-talented cohort was truly life-changing. The camaraderie of our cohort is something we miss dearly. Hoya Saxa!