Alphabet shares jumped more than 6 per cent in morning trading on Monday (Tuesday AEDT), while Apple was up more than 2 per cent.

It is unlikely that any deal would be announced until June, when Apple plans to hold its annual conference of developers, and the iPhone maker also recently held talks with ChatGPT-maker OpenAI about using its model, according to the report.

Apple, Alphabet-owned Google and OpenAI did not immediately respond to Reuters requests for comment.

A potential deal between the firms could help Google expand the use of its AI services to more than 2 billion active Apple devices, boosting the search giant’s efforts to catch up with Microsoft-backed OpenAI.

It could also help allay investor fears about the slow roll-out of AI apps by Apple, which has lost the crown of the world’s most valuable firm after a 10 per cent decline in its shares this year.

The firms have a years-long partnership that makes Google the default search engine on Apple’s Safari web browser, and a generative AI tie-up may help the Alphabet unit navigate fears that services like ChatGPT could threaten its search dominance.

But the agreement could also invite sharper scrutiny from US regulators, who have sued Google on grounds that it unlawfully stifled competition by paying billions of dollars to Apple to maintain its monopoly in search.

“This strategic partnership is a missing piece in the Apple AI strategy and combines forces with Google for Gemini to power some of the AI features Apple is bringing to market,” said Daniel Ives, an analyst at Wedbush.

“This is a major win for Google to get onto the Apple ecosystem and have access to the golden installed base of Cupertino, with clearly a major licence fee attached to this,” he said, referring to Apple’s California headquarters.

Google in January partnered with Apple’s rival Samsung to deploy its genAI technology in the South Korean firm’s Galaxy S24 series of smartphones, as part of its efforts to boost the use of Gemini after some missteps during its roll-out.

Apple CEO Tim Cook said last month that the company was investing “significantly” in generative AI and would reveal more about its plans to put the technology to use later this year.

The Bloomberg report said Apple was planning to use its own homegrown AI models for some new capabilities in its upcoming iOS 18, but was seeking a partner to power genAI features, including functions for creating images and writing essays based on simple prompts.

Tech First Gulf (TFG), a prominent value-added distributor in the Middle East and Africa (MEA) region, proudly announces a ground-breaking distribution partnership with Invicti Security, a global leader in web application and API security testing.

As Africa undergoes a digital transformation, adopts new technologies, and experiences rapid economic growth, the region faces an unprecedented surge in cybersecurity threats. Invicti Security, renowned for enhancing web application and API security posture, brings forth a formidable mix of accuracy, coverage, speed, automation, and scale, shaped by years of investment and catering to the needs of thousands of customers.

The official agreement, sealed in January 2024, marks a pivotal moment in advancing cybersecurity solutions tailored to the unique challenges of the MEA region. This collaboration positions TFG to champion Invicti Security’s cutting-edge web application security testing solutions across the African continent.

Leveraging TFG’s extensive network of over 2,500 partners and regional expertise, this partnership will facilitate the localized delivery of Invicti’s products and services, effectively addressing the escalating cybersecurity needs of businesses in the region.

“We are thrilled to embark on this journey with Invicti Security, a global leader in web application security testing. This partnership underscores our commitment to delivering best-in-class cybersecurity solutions to our partners and clients in Africa. By merging Invicti’s global experience with our regional knowledge, we aim to address the unique cybersecurity challenges faced by organizations in this dynamic market,” said Mr. Akashdeep Singh, Chief Strategy Officer at Tech First Gulf.

Alvaro Warden, Worldwide Director, Channels & Partnerships at Invicti Security, adds, “There is a significant opportunity for Invicti and TFG in Africa. Our partnership is crucial for our expansion into new verticals and geographies, while also demonstrating our dedication to providing our partners and customers with the best Dynamic Application Security Testing (DAST) solutions. We look forward to successful cooperation in the region in 2024 and beyond.”

Invicti Security’s comprehensive suite of web application security testing solutions is poised to play a pivotal role in Tech First Gulf’s expanding cybersecurity offering, marking a shared dedication to advancing cybersecurity practices and empowering organizations to navigate the evolving threat landscape.

About Tech First Gulf 

Tech First Gulf (TFG) is a leading value-added distributor in the Middle East and Africa (MEA) region, specializing in unified communications, unified collaboration, audio-visual, infrastructure, and cybersecurity solutions. With a diverse workforce and a focus on next-generation technology, TFG enables business partners to operate more efficiently and successfully in the markets they serve.

For more information about Tech First Gulf and Invicti Security’s partnership, please contact, 

About Invicti Security 

Invicti Security—which acquired and combined DAST leaders Acunetix and Netsparker—is on a mission: application security with zero noise. An AppSec leader for more than 15 years, Invicti provides best-in-DAST solutions that enable DevSecOps teams to continuously scan web applications, shifting security both left and right to identify, prioritize and secure a company’s most important assets. Our commitment to accuracy, coverage, automation, and scalability helps mitigate risks and propel the world forward by securing every web application. Invicti is headquartered in Austin, Texas, and has employees in over 11 countries, serving more than 4,000 organizations around the world. For more information, visit our website or follow us on LinkedIn.

After Njoku Emmanuel’s father seized his laptop for “coding too much” and not facing his studies, he dropped out of school to focus on coding. 3 years later, he has become one of the best blockchain engineers of his generation, travelled the world, and now runs his own startup Lazerpay, a crypto payment gateway.

Njoku’s greeting was casual, like his outfit—a black round-neck t-shirt on jeans. His boisterous laugh set a natural mood for what would become a long but interesting conversation. It was a busy day in Lagos, and the murmuring voices around him indicated he was joining the video call from his office. The walls behind him had “Lazerpay” and some motivational quotes written all over them.

“Sorry for the noise, bro,” Njoku said, running his fingers through his locks. “It’s a busy week. We are going out of beta sometime next week, so all hands on deck!”

To avoid internet fluctuation, we switched off our cameras and dived into our conversation.

Lazerpay, a crypto payment gateway startup Njoku co-founded with Abdulfatai Suleiman and Prosper Ubi, was launched in October, and the reception has been massive. During its beta phase, the crypto startup has been endorsed by several tech and blockchain enthusiasts as a necessary innovation needed to accelerate crypto adoption in Africa. But what is even more remarkable about Lazerpay is Njoku, its 19-year-old CEO, who seemed to have emerged from nowhere to become one of the most sought-after young tech darlings in Africa.

Except he wasn’t a sudden emergence. 

The Njoku we see today is a product of a seed planted about 7 years ago in Port Harcourt, the biggest city in the South-South region of Nigeria. In 2015, at 13, Njoku and his brothers were casually introduced to computer programming by their aunt, who was a robotic engineer. Since then, Njoku chose to write code and never looked back.

The lofty dream that followed was wanting to build an operating system like Bill Gates had, or a social media platform like Mark Zukerberg did. He wanted to be the African Mark Zukerberg and told everybody that cared to listen so, including his mother who wouldn’t stop jesting him for it. Njoku began to ask questions and pored through every content on computer programming he came across. 

Born to an engineer father and a school teacher mother, Njoku was a mathematics whiz. He represented his school in the mathematics olympiad, won several medals, and lost a few. When his mates had a single mathematics textbook that had different topics like geometry, permutation and combination, and more, Njoku had a different textbook for each topic—each textbook as big as the all-encompassing ones. 

“My father forbade us from using a calculator to solve our mathematics homework. Every computation had to be done with your head—why else do you have a head?” Njoku said. With this, his problem-solving skill was already top-notch; little wonder he was quick to embrace programming. 

Because gaming was one of his favourite activities—having played video games with his siblings—at the time, he began to learn game development and started using C++ to build games. In 2017, he wrote his final secondary school exams and cleared all his papers, with A+ in mathematics and further mathematics. 

Surprisingly, his next challenge will be finishing University.

“University was a waste of my time”

Like most Nigerian parents, Njoku’s parents wanted him to become a medical doctor—his older brother was already studying medicine. But Njoku had chosen his own path, one he wouldn’t let go of for the world. 

He got admission to study electrical engineering at Enugu State University of Science and Technology (ESUT) in 2018. This, his engineer father could live with. 

Njoku during one of Lazerpay early ideation sessions in Dubai

In the same year, he joined Quiva Games, a gaming company based in Enugu, as an intern. Everything was going okay; his plate was full—a tasking engineering course and a job where he could build his coding skill. But, after a few classes in his first year, he realised engineering wasn’t as tasking as he had anticipated. 

“I thought everything would be advanced, but it was people packed into a small hall to learn social sciences and general studies. I was like ‘What the hell is going on here?’ And the maths they were teaching at 100 level was like my JSS 3/SS 1 maths. So, it became a waste of my time.”

He knew he wasn’t going to do this for another 5 years, so he became laser-focused on coding. “Any time I was going to school, I was going to charge my laptop and code. I didn’t tell my parents. When they gave me money to buy textbooks, I used it to buy coding courses on Udemy.”

His father somehow found out he has been missing classes and invited him home. “I didn’t know it was a trick to seize my laptop. I went back to school and had to borrow laptop to finish some projects at hand and keep learning.”

COVID-19 was a blessing in disguise

When COVID-19 hit in 2020 and everywhere was locked down, everybody panicked and scared, Njoku was somewhat happy; he’d be away from school without getting into trouble. So, he upped his game and started coding 12 hours a day. He didn’t want to go back to school, and the only thing he had was to learn as fast as he could and get a remote job.

In March 2020, he got a job as a mobile application developer at Kwivar, a buy-now-pay-later company based in Port Harcourt. 

“The salary was ₦70,000. When I got it, nobody could talk to me. I was the biggest boy I knew. My parents couldn’t believe you could get a job during the pandemic when companies were laying people off. Though the salary isn’t enough reason to not study medicine, they finally saw what I had seen since 2015.”

Introduction to the blockchain

Before the pandemic, Njoku had already started learning about blockchain. He’d taken Udemy courses on blockchain and had entered the finals of a hackathon project that would be held in Lagos in 2019—the first time he’d ever be in Lagos.

2019 was Njoku’s first time in Lagos: Njoku and other participants at the hackathon.

In April 2020, a month after he started working at Kwivar, he got another offer as a blockchain developer at Project Hydro, a blockchain company based in the British Virgin Islands. He would be paid $700 monthly in Hydro tokens. At this point, he knew he wasn’t going back to school; everything happening to him agreed with that decision. 

Fast forward to September 2020, he wanted to leave Kwivar and needed something to replace it. So, he reached out to Ugochukwu Aronu, the co-founder of Xend, the parent company of Quiva Games where he’d interned for 5 months, to check if there was an opening. After sharing what he’d done at Project Hydro—decentralised wallet, snowflake infrastructure for decentralised identity—Aronu invited him to come to Enugu and join his new venture Xend Finance, a decentralised finance (DeFi) platform for credit unions, cooperatives, and individuals, backed by Google and Binance.

At the time, the pandemic was already easing up, and students had started going back to school. So, Njoku told his father he was going back to school. Aronu made him an offer—₦150,000 net salary, a MacBook, and free accommodation. 

The days at Xend Finance: Njoku and Emeka Nweke, the lead blockchain engineer who taught him how to deploy complex smart contracts

“I went to Port Harcourt to show my parents the offer and told them I was dropping out of school. It was obvious they couldn’t do anything about it. Going back to school just to graduate and earn about half or as much as I was already earning wasn’t wise,” Njoku said.

It was at this point that his parents knew and accepted Njoku’s crazy idea to drop out. At Xend Finance, he had to step in when the lead blockchain engineer was unavailable, and that accelerated his blockchain knowledge. Despite the close call—since they’d already scheduled to launch by December 2020—he led the build but not without a hiccup.

“It was difficult because I had to take charge of an entire project in the middle of building. I fixed the bug, wrote, and deployed smart contracts. But I made a deployment error that cost the company $10,000.” So Aronu told him the money he lost would be deducted from his salary. At that point his salary had jumped to ₦300,000. He panicked and started applying to international jobs—at least those ones could pay him enough money to service the debt.

He would later find out Aronu was only joking, but by then he had gotten an offer from MakerDAO, one of the biggest DeFi companies in the world. He was the first Nigerian engineer on the team. As usual, he went home to show his parents his new offer and his mother couldn’t believe her dropout son could earn over $3,000 per month. But that was the beginning.

After MakerDAO, the offers wouldn’t stop coming. He got a contract offer from Instadapp, a DeFi protocol company, for $90 per hour. “I was like, these people don’t know me: I’ll work 20 hours per day!”

He resigned from Xend Finance and was ready to make his mark on the global blockchain ecosystem. He relocated to Dubai.

Dubai was his passport to the world

MakerDAO was having an offsite meetup in Portugal and Njoku was supposed to go, but his visa wasn’t approved on time. He was frustrated, so his aunt, the robotic engineer, advised him to try applying to travel to Europe from Ghana or anywhere outside Nigeria. “She also suggested Dubai, and I took it. After staying in Dubai for a month, I told her I’m not coming back home.” 

In Dubai, more job opportunities came. He was on top of the world; he could now reject offers and travel the world. For an 18-year-old boy, there was enough money in the bank so he told his father to leave his brother’s medical school’s tuition to him. “My brother is in Bulgaria, so imagine earning in naira and paying tuition in euro. So it’s only right I took that off my father’s plate.”

He got a contract offer of $3,000 per week from Avarta, a blockchain security company based in Singapore. He joined them and built their entire blockchain infrastructure. 

Njoku and Suleiman, co-founder and CTO at Lazerpay, in Dubai

Then he met Yele Bademosi, founder and CEO at Nestcoin, who would later become one of Lazerpay’s early investors.  Bademosi then became Njoku’s mentor, so when he wanted to start Nestcoin, Njoku was one of the first engineers he reached out to. It was around this time that the idea to build Lazerpay began to form. 

Njoku dropped everything to focus on Lazerpay. Avarta reached out with a full-time offer of $7,000 per month and $50,000 worth of Avarta token, but he rejected it. They came back with another offer of $15,000 per month, but Njoku was running with his new vision now. Before, the vision was to become a great engineer, but now it’s to become a great founder.

He knew what he wanted from a young age and stood by it. His steadfastness has turned everybody around him into a believer; his parents have now begun nudging his youngest sibling to study software engineering. 

Njoku isn’t Zukerberg and may never be, but he’s building his own empire in the blockchain world. At 19, this can only be the beginning of his journey.

Credit:  Damilare Dosunmu

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