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Nigerian entrepreneur’s mission to create hundreds of Aberdeen jobs

Rotimi Alabi came to the Granite City to study but has since raised millions with his technology business.

Rotimi Alabi wants to use his business to "give back to Aberdeen". Image: Rotimi Alabi
Rotimi Alabi wants to use his business to "give back to Aberdeen". Image: Rotimi Alabi

Growing up in Nigeria as a young child, Rotimi Alabi always knew he had high ambitions when it came to business.

In his own words “he wanted to make an impact”.

At the age of only nine he started secondary school in the Nigerian state of Plateau which set him on his way to achieving his dream.

In 2011 he moved to the Granite City to do his PhD in geology at Aberdeen University.

Focussed on his career goals

It was a decision which led to him a year later starting up his technology scale up company RAB-Microfluidics.

And setting him on his business journey in his bid to “give back to Aberdeen”.

The 38-year-old said: “I went to secondary school at the age of nine.

Rotimi Alabi
RAB-Microfluidics founder Rotimi Alabi

“A lot of people find that very rapid. I felt I could do it. I was always getting good grades and came seventh out of 2,000 people.”

Rotimi, who grew up in Kogi state, finished secondary school and wanted to become a petroleum engineer but his mum Justina had other ideas.

He said: “When I finished secondary school I was a very tiny child in stature. My mum was very concerned about me going to university.

“She really wanted me to study medicine but I wanted to be a petroleum engineer.

“But because the university was very far away and I was a small child my mum didn’t want me to go.

“I started studying medicine but I didn’t like it. I left and did an undergraduate in microbiology.”

Start of RAB-Microfluidics

Rotimi completed his compulsory Nigerian paramilitary service for one year before moving to the UK and doing his masters at Coventry University.

In 2015 he started studying his PHD in geology at Aberdeen University when he was 24.

Rotomi Alabi has faced difficult decisions during his business journey so far. Image: Rotimi Alabi

It was during his time there in 2016 he started RAB-Microfluidics and developing a “lab on a chip” technology after identifying a gap in the market to “radically improve” oil lubrication analysis.

Since launching the company has received millions of pounds in financial backing including £2.2 million led by Par Equity and £1.25m from investment partners.

‘Ups and downs’ along the way

But like many businesses, Rotimi is the first to admit that things haven’t always went to plan and he’s had to downsize his staff members by six.

He said: “Like any other business there’s been ups and downs.

“You always try to manage those situations that come in the best way possible.

“When we started we knew that we had a technology that could provide value to the industry.

“We were seeking the best way to provide this. I didn’t know anything about running a business for the first time.

“What we ended up doing was attended programmes that assisted us in getting enough information to allow us to steer the business in the right way.

“I moved from one person to two and then grew all the way to 12 people.”

Streamline RAB-Microfluidics

Despite Rotimi growing the business he faced difficulties in getting the product to market which led him to make some tough decisions.

He said: “Admittedly you have some downs in the business and we got in to a bit of bother and had to reduce our numbers.

“Right now we have six people.

Rotimi Alabi met Prince William at a Royal Society of Edinburgh entrepreneurship event. Image: Rotimi Alabi

“We were expected to commercialise quickly and the product was taking a longer time to get to market.

“Because of that the anticipated revenue you were hoping for to continue growing the business was not coming in at the rate we wanted which meant we were burning cash.

“You cannot feed the mouth that you have so we had to let some people go at some point.”

At one point Rotimi was predicting a £2m turnover for 2024 but he admits it’s more likely to hit £450,000.

Major contract win

RAB-Microfluidics, based at Bridge of Don’s Energy Development Centre, has recently secured a £750,000 contract with a unnamed “global energy giant” to develop an autonomous oil monitoring system for two-stroke marine vessel engines, based on its patented technology.

Upon completion, RAB’s autonomous oil condition monitoring system is set to be deployed across the maritime cargo sector.

Rotimi Alabi and former First Minister Nicola Sturgeon. Image: Rotimi Alabi

Rotimi said: “Once we develop and deliver the product to the customer in 2025 we expect off the back of that we will then start selling to the customers.

“Around 400 instruments which can generate the company a high seven figure in income.

“We have started developing the product and we have customers buying it.”

‘I want to give back to Aberdeen’

Despite facing setbacks along the way Rotimi has always remained positive and focussed on being a “producer”.

The dad-of-one said: “I have always been ambitious and wanted to make an impact. I think I always knew what I wanted and getting what I wanted I had to adjust to make sure that happened.

“Everything I have experienced has put me in a position to create an impact. There have been lessons along the way to ensure I am the person today.

“I’ve been able to be a producer. I want to contribute to society. I want to be able to create an enterprise that employs thousands or hundreds of people.

“To be able to give livelihoods to people and give back to the University of Aberdeen because they were instrumental in my development.

“I also want to give back to Aberdeen and that’s why I didn’t move the business away from Aberdeen.

“I’m from Nigeria and I still stayed here because I want to give back.

“Everything from my childhood has helped me with life skills and be able to cope in the fast paced world we are in.”