Former employee at Risevest accuses CEO of cultivating an unhealthy work culture

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Eleanya Eke, CEO of Risevest.

An outgoing employee at Nigeria-based stock investment app Risevest has accused the startup’s CEO Eleanya Eke of creating a stifled work environment where criticism was unwelcome.

In a farewell post published on her Medium account on Thursday, Efe Uduigwomen says she decided to leave her role as the company’s head of marketing to “prioritize her mental health and focus on what’s ahead.” 

She alleges in the 500-word post that Eke unilaterally reneged on the part of her contract where it was agreed that she would work fully remotely, by mandating her to resume regularly at the office. 

Beyond the breach of employment terms, Uduigwomen cites the prevalence of COVID-19, which she contracted in 2020, as a reason why she did not feel a need to be physically present at work.

She says Eke made this a condition for retaining the role she had started as a part-time staff in 2019 and began full-time in 2020. 

“It wasn’t up for a discussion either and before I could wrap my head around the situation, an announcement that I resigned was made by the CEO during a team meeting; where he also shared some of my confidential work/career information.”

On Twitter, Eke said the farewell piece contains “blatant half truths.” A spokesperson for Risevest is yet to respond to TechCabal’s questions about Uduigwomen’s terms of employment and the circumstances that led to her resignation. 

Risevest (which is often shortened to Rise), as a company, is a product of a blog which Eke started in 2014 to explain the rudiments of financial literacy to Nigerians in the wake of an oil price crash and a recession. 

The blog, Rebel Money, became Rumex in 2018 but before then, Eke had started helping individuals invest their money on the US stock market. He introduced Cashestate the same year for real estate investing.

Uduigwomen says she joined Eke to lead the startup’s rebrand as Rise and launch its app. “It was a good opportunity, a role I was well suited for and also one that came with a lot of uncertainty for my career,” she says.

While she thanks her colleagues, highlights successes and refers to “an amazing ride,” the post is one of disappointment at the work culture at Rise and suggests a broader problem within Nigeria’s tech startup community.

“As leaders, we need to strive to do better in creating an enabling and healthy work environment for people. One where people feel safe to ask the tough questions of management and peers, in an open setting, built on respect and empathy.” 

Last August, tech talent-matching startup WeJapa was at the centre of a similar public bashing from freelance software developers who felt manipulated by the startup’s CEO Favour Ori. The outrage led Microtraction, the startup’s investor, to commission an investigation that ended with Ori stepping aside as CEO.

Uduigwomen’s post does not accuse Eke of manipulation in the same breath as the WeJapa case. However, it raises questions about the work environment at startups that are, on the whole, expected to be more progressive than traditional institutions. 

Update: Risevest CEO Eleanya Eke has responded to this report. Find our report on it here.

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