Answers that can explain why Nigerians and the rest of the continent would rather do a Google search rather than a Kili search could probably be compiled into a best-seller (Kili is coined from Kilimanjaro). As to why there are more indigenous dating websites than there is a traditional Facebook competitor is not far-fetched. Granted, the indigenous technology space is still picking up; but why are they all picking up startup models that are mostly a direct look-alike to some other already successful ones from other parts of the world? Does that signify that the tech space is picking up on the wrong foot? Let’s say it doesn’t matter, after all, it’s ridiculous reinventing the wheel; but why is there no single truly global African tech startup whose product/service is used like Google or Facebook across the world? Is it that everything that is needed to be done has already been done? If so, why ‘reinventing the wheel’? Should you oblige, these are some of the perceived impediment to building a truly indigenous tech startup with a global acclaim.
TAKING THE EASY PATH
A potential search engine challenger is not just a directory listing. No offense to all the indigenous ‘big’ players in that space, but websites that allows user search directories of places, businesses, and related subjects is more of a Listing service than a search engine. Google, who celebrated their 15th anniversary this year, has been working on and refining its original BackRub algorithm into what is now referred to as Semantic search. This logic is now baked into artificial intelligence built from several petabytes of user behavior. If you must build a formidable startup with global appeal, it must be disruptive, such as the Think Different commercial texts written by Rob Siltanen, “…The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things…” and he added “…maybe they have to be crazy. How else can you stare at an empty canvas and see a work of art?” These lines exemplify NOT taking the easy part as the surest way to disrupt the present. And yeah, it can be very rewarding.
You don’t trust anyone with your ‘great’ idea, but you still ‘google’ stuff sometimes when you need ‘fresh’ ideas; yet you’ve successfully convinced yourself that the tons of information (and ideas) you get online are supposed to be open and free. Like the old saying, ‘a tree does not make a forest.’ Sharing your idea with others is one of the best kept secrets to nurturing that idea into something bigger. If the self-confessed oath of keeping ideas secret is key to global disruption in the tech ecosystem, Google would have been founded by a Nigerian. Here is a perfect illustration of an idea:
You could not attend a party because your Lamborghini is parked in your garage.
Let’s say you cannot drive, what happens to hiring a driver? Suffice to say, like a drop of water in the ocean, an idea is not tangible and virtually non-existent elsewhere but in your mind. Teamwork is like the human body, it has many parts that do different things to keep us capacitated and physically enabled. You don’t necessarily have to hire all of your team members when you are starting out at once; you just have to identify where they are and establish mutual bonding. For some of them are probably your friends already (or not), others may be currently studying in a college or university, some may be at home (unemployed, perhaps) without the slightest idea that they will be part of a (future) team that will be disrupting an ecosystem. So, when this team is formed, the bond you’d have created with them will surpass friendship; more of a culture that can only be seen through the eye of a disruptive startup founder.
GO TO LAGOS, EVERYTHING IS THERE
You probably have heard that Lagos is the “ish”, me too. But don’t believe the hype too quickly. Else, you might end up selling all your personal belonging and (probably) accumulate so much debt than you can probably pay up just so you can run to Lasgidi. Not so fast! Granted, Lagos is probably the go-to-centre but not all “ish” are “for real”. In 2013, a startup from the Federal Capital, Abuja, surprised the Lasgidi tech ecosystem when it pitched at SeedStars event picking up 1st place in Lagos, and went on to pick up 2nd place in the world event in Geneva; and eventually, the startup got funded up to 300,000 USD in fresh investment. This startup is Simplepay4u founded by Simeon Ononobi. So before you enter that night bus (or fly if you can afford it), here’s a little tip for you: Use that money and register a domain name, stay in your locale and build something disruptive.
IT’S ALL ABOUT THE MONEY, BRO
After all, every business exist for the singular goal of making profit. True. Before you might have outrun yourself; remember, money represents value. The process of buying and selling is actually giving out an amount of money for something else that is of commensurate value. On this premise, it is logical to assume that building value into your product should be your first and only priority as a startup; if you want to get paid before you give value, it’s quite unfortunate no one has told you just how much time and scarce resources you are wasting already. Well, it is possible to get funded before you even build something; that’s why angel investors exist. But that is all your startup can get if you are not able to generate value in the form of a product or service from your idea. Consequently, the story just might end up as one those startups that ended as quickly as the idea ‘clicked’.
If you have to go out of your own way to build the next ‘Big Thing’ from this part of the world, nothing should hold you back. But first, think on these things;begin with a disruptive idea.
Till next time!
Article written by: ChuQ Dennis