5 Things To Learn From The Tiketmobile Fiasco (Yes, I’m Calling It A Fiasco)

1. Hindsight is 20/20. And Not Even Then.

memento

We don’t know the terms Jason offered for his $25,000 and I won’t speculate. What I do know is that for some reason (arrogance, optimism, stupidity, fear, all of the above), Cele & the team were convinced that not taking $25,000 from Jason was a good idea. Before we rush out and say, “you SHOULD have taken that money because you could have died!”, remember that life is littered with people who were about to take one deal when a better one was around the corner.

It’s in Jason’s interest to make it look like Tiketmobile would have thrived under his tutelage but we don’t know that. They could have got a better deal a week later (not likely) but they didn’t. Tough.

Again, hindsight is 20/20. It is in this same world that Google offered Groupon $6bn. Also in this same cold, cold world that Yahoo offered $1bn for Facebook.

2. That being said, founders need to get realistic. About everything.

No seriously. Get realistic about the amount of funding there is out there (not much), your startup’s chances (slim to none), the greatness of your idea (meh) but most importantly… your fundability.

realistic

You need to realize that big funders (PEs, VCs etc) operate with companies that have achieved a particular scale and have founders (emphasis on S) with particular characteristics. They call it pattern-matching. If you’re just out of UNILAG doing NYSC with a small startup, you don’t fit the pattern. So when that “arrogant” beast comes with his $25,000, you should sit up, listen and take a hard look at your options.

3. Know. What. Your. Business. Is.

know your business

In my opinion, there are two types of tech startups – tech wonders & operational wonders. Things like Facebook, Twitter and Evernote are basically tech wonders. They are all about the technology, fundamentally. For the longest time, their most precious resource is engineers and their services can be used across borders without local teams being involved.

Then there are operational wonders – these basically use the internet to disrupt a traditional market/industry. It’s easy to point these out because that’s what Rocket focuses on. They refer to them as “internet businesses” for a reason. In those businesses, the tech isn’t the most important part of the product. Success is often determined by marketing, operations, customer experience etc. So think e-commerce, deals, hotel reservations, movie distribution etc. The fact is that most of the internet businesses founded today fall into this category.

mistake

The mistake a lot of “techies” keep making is that they think that they should building tech wonders when they should be building operational wonders. You’re selling bus tickets and you think (somehow) that your app is the most important part of your product. No one gives a crap! They just don’t want to have to report to the bus park JUST TO BUY A TICKET. You should be working on sales, distribution and the customer experience first. It’s a mistake I’ve made but it’s not one to keep making.

4. There’s a School of Thought That Says That Funding Isn’t Important. Bullshit.

stfu

ESPECIALLY IF YOU’RE RUNNING AN INTERNET BUSINESS THAT CAN BE REPLICATED IN THE NEXT MORNING BY SOMEONE WITH BETTER FUNDING. No seriously. If there’s anything we can all learn from Jason’s post, it’s that.

5. Life is Short, But It’s Also Long

If you’re going to spend 5 years of your life working on something, you shouldn’t really mess around about it. You should take each day seriously. So if you’re “doing a startup” while keeping your life in a holding pattern, you should stop and ask yourself what you want.

life is short

But life is long, and this is probably not going to be your last shot. You should understand that it’s ok to build a company and have a minority stake today if it sets you up for a better shot in the near future. If you’re not foreign-educated, from a wealthy and/or with a lot of connections, you’re going to need to work your way up. That may mean having a successful company on your CV even if you had a less than ideal shareholding. The great thing about success is that it often breeds more success.

To be truly honest, some of the people holding on the founder’s flag may be better suited to be employees of some sort today. So if you have the opportunity to learn how to build a business and still have equity, it may be a shot worth taking.

So tell me, what else have you learnt from this “fiasco”?

This post first appeared on Seyi’s blog.

25 Comments

  • upnepa says:

    Love the images

  • opeawo says:

    No sentimental public blackmail. Never.

  • El_Komo says:

    This is the most succinctly put post I’ve read in a long while about internet businesses in Nigeria that avoids fucking everyone up. Just build something that makes money too.

  • Abiola Omoniyi says:

    great post, bookmarked!

  • Emeka Okoli says:

    Great post, ticketmobile is somewhat endangered specie-ish kinda startup. Its not a product but a service however this post has said it all. But I guess celestine got his reason(s) or plans let’s hope he made the right call.

  • Seyi says:

    The ticketmobile boys are young and bright…they should go at it again and again. There is no shortage of ideas. As the saying goes “the sky is big enough for all the birds to fly”. So its sad that Jason will actually use this event to glorify himself and a company he started. Its way below the belt…

  • Okechukwu Nnamdi says:

    Sorry Seyi, I disagree. Not every business needs early funding, and funding doesn’t imply that a business will be successful. Facebook launched in 2004 and reached a million users before getting their first major funding, around that same time Myspace was a juggernaut in terms of users and valuation (i think around $700m or upwards). Yet facebook will live to overthrow myspace.

    Personally I don’t see the opportunity in the bus ticketing space, because of the chaos in the busing system presently. Have you been to Jibowu or Orile where these buses operate. Hey! I could be wrong. People like Jason are looking to create good valuations for their startup funds.

    My advice to Ticket Mobile, the fact that Jason or Obi have entered the same space doesn’t imply defeat. Build your product, be competitive and find your own niche. forget all the Big talk by Jason that they making 100s of sales. Its all psycological offensive. I can tell you for a fact they aren’t doing that great, I know one of the founders.

    And oh! incase you guys are wondering, Jason normally asks for 50% of the company. But that’s not so bad considering it would be valuing ticketmobile at N 8,000,000, considering its just a website at the momment (Well thats how I see it).

    • Jason 'Igwe' Njoku says:

      Just to be clear. Never have I asked for 50% of a startup. Never ever. We actually don’t own 50% of any company at Spark unless we have started it ourselves. And several of those have taken >$250,000. Thats a fact. If you have heard different happy to hear the case.

      We are also selling hundreds of bus tickets per week. Another fact.

      • niyoma says:

        Jason I don’t see an issue with you wanting 50% of a company – it is all about the risk profile (albeit perception), how risk averse you are, cost of capital etc. When you bet on a horse, you get better odds for the least favourite horse / jorkey. You offer, Cele puts counteroffer, you say no 50% or nothing, Cele says no, life goes on.

        My observations are however that for someone who claims to have tasted failure endlessly, you can come across as rather bullish in your approach and braggado. I see no reason why you needed to publish the details of your conversations with Cele. Where does it stop?

        You could do with less of the talking and more of the doing. You must remember when you are in a position of influence people look up to you (I don’t). You need to learn to bite your tongue now and again. But hey it’s your tongue.

    • Seyi Taylor says:

      The fact that you don’t see the value in the bus ticketing space worries me. You should research redbus.in.

  • Seyi says:

    @disqus_SqH2MpmoAX:disqus we are not addressing the same issue. You addressing how they should be run and funded. Am addressing another entrepreneur/investor grand-standing because they refused he’s money.

  • adeleke says:

    6. Be the boot in bootstrap. Do anything, find a way to keep the cashflow black.
    7. Sometimes, easy funding is a curse. 234next got $350 million and still failed, Don’t kick yourself too hard. If the culture don’t fit, exhale and exit.

  • Li says:

    The key word has mentioned by my fellow brother is: ‘ Build your product, be competitive and find your own niche. forget all the Big talk by Jason that they making 100s of sales. Its all psycological offensive. I can tell you that they aren’t doing that great. ‘… Jason is telling you money is everything, techcabal is telling you money is important, they are just messing with your psychology. Really management of resources no matter how little is more important, and resources can be defined in several respect: exposure, concept, vision, employees. The staff you pay 100k for, I will pay 20k for and get better value! etc… The race is too early for any one to judge.. Forget story jo… everyone has got a story.

  • I wonder where Dr Taylor gets all these images.

  • Donnie Ibiyemi says:

    Now everybody is giving advice on how to run a startup, including folks who can’t write one line in Html.There are no heroes yet on the Nigerian tech scene none not even Jason.

    Very constructive article anyway.

  • segebee says:

    Maybe Cele shouldnt have sounded like he was entitled to free money in his post but I guess he was just plain fed up…
    All the promises, all the pitches, these guys practically do nothing else apart from TiketMobile… But then I always felt Cele comes across as ‘talkative,young,not a manager/strategist’… Constance on the other hand is more subtle…and appears a better technical hand… But their asset seems their liability… They are young and inexperienced… When Cele would recruit a business person, he took a friend/relative….and even then why was it he and not his biz dev negotiating with Jason…

    CC Hub should have guided them better, why even pop wine over an app that isnt making good revenue…

    I think Celestine should step down from making business decisions. Bring in Femi or Bosun and focus on the product…

    Cele and Constance can build a product far better than Jason’s 22 man ‘marketing’ team…

    I honestly dont see Oya.com.ng and Bus.com.ng as competitors. I dont know anyone who uses those services…

    Besides the money isnt only in bus ticketing and I recall Tiket Mobile wasnt initially to sell bus tickets but making it easy to purchase tickets on your mobile… I think they were in talks with an airline once…

    I believe in you guys Celestine and Constance, you have what it takes. Next time, talk to Femi before making any decision.

    I think its better you didnt take Jason’s money… Guy would prolly have overstressed you guys and talked down at you.

    The future is so bright for you guys. Never Give Up! Never!

    PS: I ardently read Jason’s blog and am inspired by him but he shldnt think he is all that… Jason had many failures, TiketMobile hasnt even had one yet

  • Kola Lawal says:

    Guys go and build your own tech company. People are criticizing Celestine when they have not built any thing.

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