In December 2022, Netpage will celebrate 25 years of service to their personal and corporate clients. We recently sat down with Simon Abraham the CEO and creator of Netpage, for an inspiring conversation.
Tell us about how Netpage started...
Back in 1998, a light bulb moment came to me, and Netpage was born in my bedroom! I talked with my dear friend Robin about starting an internet company that would primarily be a Gambian News site. At 21 and 28 years of age, we were two guys wanting to make a difference, and our journey began!
We quickly identified another friend named Ebrima, who was eager and ready to join us, and we started producing news! Everyday we would go out to the newspaper companies and in the evening take news for tomorrow and get it ready. At midnight we published it. The news that was coming out in the morning papers was actually news that we were producing and publishing at midnight. We had one bulky laptop and a small camera. As we kept on with it, our viewership grew to the tens of thousands almost instantly. A large number of our viewers were Gambians in the diaspora who were seeking out news from home. We were very surprised with the quick growth and continued to go forward.
At that time, we had no revenue model. We needed to make money and feed ourselves, so we each had our little jobs on the side and kept growing the company and took no profit from it. We decided to start doing websites and reached out to different companies to offer our services, web development caught on quickly and gave us that revenue model. Development works grew from 10 websites a year to a lot more.
After almost three years in, we had a substantial amount of savings and had built up quite a following. We were ready for an office!
We eventually received requests for other things that were tech but not related to web development; we were asked for help with computer networks, support services etc … so along with web development, we got into computer maintenance, computer networking; we even launched a few cyber cafes then.
It all just happened so organically and it was demand that called us to the next step, that as of course, becoming an Internet Service Provider. Every time a demand arose, we met the challenge and nothing seemed impossible!
It's almost 25 years later, and the Netpage journey still continues. What has changed since the beginning, and what remains the same?
Sadly, Ebrima passed away 15 years ago, and Robin was ready to move on to other adventures, so I am carrying on alone since 2010. Once in awhile, when Robin and I are hanging out and talking with friends, our humble Netpage beginnings will come up in the conversation. We just look at each other, shake our heads and laugh because nobody has a clue as to what we went through back in the beginning. It was tough, exciting, and it felt good!
We still continue to do some of the things the company started with, like web hosting, networking and training, but those have become less than 1% of what we do. We have gone deeper into the internet side of things, providing connections to homes and offices. It was a very gradual shift, but we saw it coming. We realized that, eventually, we were going to become an internet company wholly. We were recently offered a buyout of our auxiliary services; we said no, it was declined. Some of the clients we have are very loyal and have been with us for almost 25 years. We appreciate the special connection we have with them and want to keep it. That is something very special and unique about our company.
I would like to say as well that over the year, our staff numbers have growth. Our staff members are passionate about what they do. I am proud of them, and we all work together harmoniously; Netpage is just a big family with a big heart.
What is your educational background?
I started working in tech when I was 16 and was doing it at home since age 13. After high school here in The Gambia, I went to the UK for my bachelor's and master's degrees. I am passionate about tech. It's my life, and I tell people I'm as lucky as any footballer out there because I get paid to do what I love. I'm one of those people that gets to work with their passion!
Born and raised in The Gambia, I can see that this country has your heart. What do you do to give back to your community?
We help children with their educational pursuits and, after high school, help them get jobs or further their education. We do these things quietly and not for accolades. Someone a long time ago helped sponsor my education. I know the impact this has had on me; I may not be sitting here to tell you my story if I had not gotten that help.
What is some good advice that you could give?
Education is key; it's your asset. Don't look at something as a hardship; look at it as an opportunity. Be mindful in your life. Do 'self-audits' as it will help you learn about yourself and create a more peaceful life.
One thing I learned from my first degree was some psychology, a component of learning artificial intelligence. That was an interesting and important topic and was how I learned about self-awareness. If I had to give advice to educational institutions, I would say that students need to be introduced to some psychology at an earlier stage in education. Knowing ourselves is a very important factor in happiness and fulfilment.
Besides the passion for your business, what else ignites your soul, renews your spirit and leaves you feeling energetic?
I am active in sports. I love scuba diving, the sea and the underwaters.
It's important to have time to pursue passions, step back, stress less and let some things go. You feel rebooted.
It was certainly interesting and inspiring to sit with Simon and hear his story. He is positive, loves what he does, and puts his heart and soul into it. You can feel this when you enter the Netpage offices. He and his staff of about 100 want to give their clients the very best service possible. This is a company that is unique in their personalized service and genuine care for their clients' needs.