Funke Opeke’s vision to run a 7,000-kilometre undersea high capacity submarine cable from Portugal to Lagos, Nigeria seemed unachievable, downright ambitious and perhaps even ridiculous but no one and nothing could stop her from making it happen. So, today, MainOne and its CEO are to thank for the unimaginable internet speeds that Nigerians are able to attain, a possibility of the great things that Nigeria could achieve in the information communication technology (ICT) sector.
A direct result of the reality of MainOne is also the present low cost of data in the country compared to how utterly dismal the services were even as the cost was prohibitive only in 2005 when Opeke moved back to Nigeria to take on the role of Chief Technology Officer at MTN Nigeria. It was the low internet connectivity in the country that made her decide to do something about it. Barely three years later in 2008, she started MainOne, West Africa’s leading communications services, and network solutions provider, which launched fully in 2010.
Born Olufunke Olayemi Opeke to the late Professor L.K.Opeke, who was the first Nigerian director of the Cocoa Research Institute of Nigeria and a teacher mother, she grew up in Ibadan, Oyo State and attended the University of Ife (Obafemi Awolowo University), Osun State, where she was the only female in the electrical engineering class. She has been quoted as saying that being the only female in that class prepared her for the male dominated industry that ICT in Nigeria is. She went on to study at Columbia University and followed with a career in ICT in the United States that spanned 20 years culminating in an executive directorship with the wholesale division of Verizon Communications in New York City.
The founder of Main Street Technologies and Chief Executive Officer of MainOne Cable Company raised $240 million to start MainOne, a tall order for someone who has said that raising money is the most difficult thing she ever did as an entrepreneur.
Bet you didn’t know that Opeke, who grew up with six siblings, two boys and four girls, received the best prize in all the subjects she took the year she graduated from secondary school.