Born in Wilmington in the state of Delaware, Antonio Depina grew up with negative stereotypes about Africa, which were largely shaped by the Western media. His father comes from Cape Verde while his mother comes from Liberia but he never visited the continent until he started a career as a basketball player.
“When I was a kid, it was not cool to go to Africa, so I had no intention to go,” Depina, 27, told Redbull. “I didn’t learn about it in school, and what I saw on TV was the ‘feed a kid in Ethiopia for a dollar a day commercials.”
While playing basketball in Portugal and Spain, Depina met some African players who had moved to Europe to better their lives. Their quest for economic opportunities sparked Depina’s interest in his origins as well as his journey towards entrepreneurship.
Depina quit playing professional basketball in 2019 and returned to the United States to launch his business ideas. After a series of failed ventures, he launched a sports app known as Overseas Basketball Connection.
The platform connects talented NBA players with pro-basketball teams worldwide without the use of an agent. Depina launched the OBC mobile app while filming Nexflix’s The Circle in August 2019. Depina launched his app at the time the world was battling with COVID-19 although it did not pose a threat to his business.
“I think the pandemic kind of helped things,” he told Redbull. “People were looking for opportunities overseas because they didn’t know which countries were open, and we guided our players through that.”
Starting OBC did not come easy, Depina recalled. According to him, he had to explore beyond his limit to make the launch of the app possible. He told Forbes Africa, “I door-dashed, Amazon-Flexed, sold controllers out of the trunk of my car; whatever hustle I could do to make the money for marketing and developing the app. There were so many disappointments from developers that I eventually coded and created it myself. I had every reason to give up.”
After the successful launch of OBC, Depina’s next entrepreneurial venture was Zoomly, a car-hailing app. The launch of a ride-hailing app was influenced by his challenge of getting a cab on time when he visited Cape Verde.
Depina told Forbes Africa last year that Zoomly will let people know that Africa is very much part of the digital realm. “We were not taught that Africa is a booming economy and that Africa’s about to blow up. I think it’s going to be the next greatest continent,” he said.