Saturday, 23 May 2015


 BLACK    SOCIAL    HISTORY                                                                                                                                                                                             Investment banker helps set up a new dating app

Dating app entrepreneur – Jean-Pierre Eleady-ColeDating app entrepreneur – Jean-Pierre Eleady-Cole

Date with destiny – Angela Cobbinah talks to an investment banker who has helped set up a new dating app
The online dating industry is growing by leaps and bounds now that the stigma of finding love on the web is rapidly receding in the face of expanding use of smartphones and fast modern life styles.
New companies are entering the field every year and one of the latest is Kuloh, based in the Netherlands but aiming for a global reach.
One of the three men behind it is Sierra Leone entrepreneur Jean-Pierre Eleady-Cole (pictured), who realised that in order to make an impact a novel marketing strategy was needed.
In Kuloh’s case this is linking dating with events listing. “We are the first to market with event dating category,” he explains.  “We do not do extensive profile testing. We just give you the tools to go out and have a good time.”
He adds, “Basically, with Kuloh you can look up an event, buy tickets and go to it. You can also see who else is going or invite your friends. You can make a connection at the event or prior to the event.”  
More than two years in the making, it is similar to Tinder, the popular dating app that uses a smartphone’s GPS to track down other Tindering singles in the vicinity. 
“Except Kuloh is a lot more,” he says. “You don’t need to walk around and look for someone to date. You can also bypass the dating. It is there if you’d like to use it. Kuloh offers a lot in one app.”
To help it around the problem of building a database of users from scratch, Kuloh has partnered with a number of events firms giving it access to potentially a million plus potential users.
“We will continue to form partnerships with other firms under the Kuloh brand or as a ‘white label solution’ where firms will use our technology but under their own brand.”
Having helped midwife the product, the 35-year-old is concentrating on building up his career as an investment banker, which has already seen him work with leading banks and companies.  
Brought up in Freetown, he lives in Germany with his family, but regularly works in London. His quiet confidence and easy charm may have something to do with his illustrious pedigree. He is a direct descendant of Liberia’s first president, JJ Roberts, while his great-great-great grandfather was the Englishman John Mayer Harris, who set up a string of trading companies in Sierra Leone in the 19th century.
As such, Eleady-Cole had a comfortable childhood – his father a cardiac surgeon and his mother an internationally exhibited artist – and he was sent to the UK to finish off his education.
But his gilded youth was shattered when his parents and younger brother were forced to flee the Sierra Leone civil war in 1997 and seek refuge in the UK, leaving everything behind them.
“I had to grow up very quickly,” he says ruefully.
After reading economics and sociology at university, propelled by a mixture of adventure and ambition, he decided to return to Africa and go it alone with a business idea. “This was trading in seafood. The main problem was lack of experience and not enough capital. But I thought everybody needs to eat and with the right quality and the right price you can succeed.”
He headed for the shores of Senegal and Gambia, observing straightaway one of the main problems was fluctuating fish prices. “The fishermen had large families and suffered from irregular cash flows. They really struggled to pay for boat fuel and food.” 
Eleady-Cole’s solution was to make a deal with a group of fishermen and buy them all petrol, rice and cooking oil, as well as mobile phones, quite an imaginative step in 2002 when the mobile phone was still in its infancy.  
“In return I got the first catch of the day and I was able to jump ahead of the local competition who treated the fishermen badly.” Further deals with local fishing plants sidestepped another major hurdle, his lack of an export licence, and soon he was exporting to the UK, France, Thailand and Singapore.  
Describing the business as “successful but nerve racking”, he sold it after two years and decided to enter the more sedate world of banking, landing a job with Coutts in London.

As a portfolio manager and strategic advisor with various companies over the years, he is at the cutting edge of a sector that clearly has an eye on fast growing Africa markets, something that gives him a distinct advantage. “I grew up in Africa, I have the contacts and I am able to get into the local mindset,” he says. “I would love to use my financial know how to be part of the African growth story.”
With Kuloh poised for an initial roll out in the Netherlands and Germany, and with a number of impressive transactions under his belt in the corporate and banking world, Eleady-Cole is clearly heading in the right direction.