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Updated: October 2, 2023 / 2023 NextUp: 40 Under 40 Honorees

40 Under 40: Michael Odokara-Okigbo is an African language specialist

Provided Photo NKENNE founder and CEO Michael Odokara-Okigbo says that getting 50,000 users this year has been a big accomplishment.
Michael Odokara-Okigbo, 33 
CEO and founder, ESM Global/NKENNE Find profiles of all the 40 Under 40 honorees here.
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Significant professional accomplishment: In August 2023, we were awarded a National Science Foundation Small Business Innovation Research grant to help us elevate our artificial intelligence capabilities. That was major for us. Also, getting 50,000 users this year has been a big accomplishment for us as well. Our first accomplishment was our first Phase 1 grant from the Maine Technology Institute. As a company, we will always be grateful for MTI for their early belief in us, and their continued support. Winning an American Music Award was a significant accomplishment related to my other career in music.

Passion project: Singing

Audacious goal: ESM Global/NKENNE becoming a multibillion-dollar enterprise, and owning the African language learning and translations market.

Favorite quote: “If you are going through hell, keep going.” — Winston Churchill

Influential book: The most influential book for our company is “Grit: The Power of Passion and Perserverance,” by Angela Duckworth. There are times you have to dig in as a company, and we had those moments. We were able to survive and grow because we were gritty, and made the improvement of our product our first priority. As a company, we’ve learned the power of perseverance, and we are stronger and more hungry for success.

Favorite movie or TV show: My favorite movie is “The Jacksons: An American Dream.” My favorite TV show is “Succession.”

How do you recharge: Running or eating.

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