Meet Co-Founder Of Thinknum: Greg Ugwi
It was in the middle of the school day when Greg Ugwi heard the footsteps of the administrators coming down the hall in his hometown of Lagos, Nigeria. And he knew they were coming for him.
About 40% of people in Nigeria live in poverty — a statistic that Greg knew all too well.
To this day, Greg recalls the day where he was pulled out of class because his parents couldn't afford the school fees. From that day, Greg vowed to lift himself out of poverty and strive towards a life that never deprived him of an education.
Thinknum is a New York tech firm that scours the web and compiles alternative data sets for investors. The Series A startup has fundraised about $11M to this day. All thanks to the co-founder and CEO of Thinknum, Greg and his co-founder Justin Zhen. In the midst of all this GameStop fiasco, Thinknum is quickly built and launched a tool that allows investors a ranking of the most-mentioned stocks on WallStreetBets and Stocks subreddit.
But let's backtrack for a moment. From Nigeria to Princeton to Wall Street and now startup land, the Lagos native has found that focusing on himself and honing his craft has led to the most successful moments of his life (aka GameStop).
“We have to develop ourselves to make the most of the self-actualized talents we have. You want to make a difference, you got to work on yourself work, your game, or your craft so you can make a change."
Born To Be Great
Greg was born and raised in Lagos, Nigeria. Throughout his childhood, he knew growing up in a low-income community meant limitations to resources. But that didn’t stop Greg from pursuing his wildest dreams.
At an early age, he knew education was the way out. That meant being diligent about school and focusing on constant learning. However, instances in Greg’s life lead to an unknown foreseen future. He recounts a moment in life where he was pulled out of school for almost a year. His family didn’t have the means to pay his school fees during that time.
At the age of 10, life began to change for young Greg.
“When I was 10 years old, I got a scholarship because I did well on a test. At that time, I think it was the most expensive high school in Nigeria.”
It was during high school that Greg started to notice the gap between him and his classmates. During holidays when students would return home, Greg found that his life at home and school greatly juxtaposed.
“You got to keep giving people a reason to choose you whether it's a product or you.”
After high school, he was accepted to Princeton on a full scholarship. A place that opened various doors for him, not only in terms of education but to himself.
“Princeton was a huge opportunity for me and it's you get access to a lot of resources. I'll say more broadly than education, I [was able to] develop [myself].”
While the education was incomparable to any experience Greg had lived through, he found the most important aspect was honing your true self. That meant, solidifying your craft and working on yourself. This realization that changing the world started with yourself, led Greg to focus his next four years on becoming self-actualized.
“We got to develop ourselves to make the most of the self-actualized talents we have. Whether you have children, you want to make a difference, ultimately, you got to work on your game or your craft. Then you build social capital so that you can make a change.”
“Princeton was a huge opportunity for me and it's you get access to a lot of resources. I'll say more broadly than education, I [was able to] develop [myself]."
One of many great leaders that Greg looks up to is LeBron James. For Greg, he saw a reflection of himself in the NBA star’s upbringing. James grew up in the projects, faced countless adversities but came out of his situation giving to his community.
And how did he do that? By focusing on his craft of course.
“I think like LeBron. What he does is inspiring to me. He was born in the project, his dad was not around. A tough situation, but he developed his skills and his ability. Whether it's education or sports, I'm leaning into developing whatever.”
Sports means discipline. Focusing on physical health doesn’t always mean just working out for Greg. The true benefits of health are within team sports. “I'm working out so that’s been useful to me in terms of discipline, self-improvement, and feeling good about yourself.” Like we mentioned before.
Taking stock of relationships. Greg regularly thinks of all the people he’s interacting with. Why? Because it translates to business. “You got to keep giving people a reason to choose you whether it's a product or whatever.” The way Greg sees it, people in your life decide to spend time with you, so give them a reason to stay.
Read, read, and read. The secret to success is quite simple: reading. It doesn’t matter if he was interested or not, Greg picked up and read. And it’s not just to explore a new topic but to become more empathetic. “The biggest way I've found to develop empathy and to grow is read broadly. Whether or not it's related to your field, something that excites you, and makes you feel good. It makes you feel connected to other human beings.” The idea here is to choose readings that challenge you. The scarier, the better.
Get To Know Greg
At the end of every interview series, we ask our guests a series of rapid-fire questions to get to know them better as a leader. Their quirks and habits that have led them to where they are today.
Q: Who are leaders you look up to?
A: LeBron James, Lloyd Blankfein, and Jeff Bezos.
Q: Night owl or early bird?
A: Early bird.
Q: What are you currently obsessed with?
A: Knowledge graphs
Q: What kind of advice would you have for your younger self?
A: Everything will be alright. It's OK to relax.
Q: If you could instantly become an expert at anything, what would it be?
A: Investing. An expert investor.
Q: If you could go anywhere right now (pre-Covid-19), where would it be?
A: Japan. Seeing Mount Kita.
- Delegation: Are you delegating or empowering or both? (Source: Forbes)
- Leadership: If you're a leader of a team frustrated with office politics, try the following. (Source: Twitter)
- Resilience: How to deal with years of rejection, according to a woman who built a billion-dollar company. (Source: CNBC)
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Cover Photo: Thinknum
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