I remember laughing at the poor quality of Nigerian music videos on UK TV when I was younger. Now 10-15 years later, Nigerian artists are international superstars and outcompete many European and American artist on quality of content produced, cultural influence and possibly income earned. The growth of the Nigerian music industry has been phenomenal.
So how does this relate to the Nigerian technology ecosystem and what lessons can we draw from the success and fast growth of the Nigerian music industry?
1. Choose your partners wisely
Theres much that founders can learn from the break up of popular groups like plantation boys, Mo’ Hits records, Chocolate City Boys, EME and others.
Founders, it is important that you choose partners wisely, from co founders to investors. Things happen and people change, so make sure your visions are aligned. Failure is never an option, but ask your co founders and investors clearly — what would happen in the worse case scenario? Then work options into your legals (vesting, liquidation preference, etcetera).
2. The first to market does NOT always win
Some of the well known early artistes that pioneered the new school sound of Naija music are now either non existent or not doing so well. A small number of artists (2Face Idibia, Don-Jazzy, P-Square) have been able to stand the test of time and thrive in the new school era of Wiz-kid and Davido et al.
In the tech ecosystem, we seem to have a culture of ‘Nigeria’s first ever, number one [insert startup idea]. Which in reality means nothing. The first to market in any particular space may not be the big winner. Number one now may not be number 1 in 5 years (heavily funded or not).
The last to market will learn from mistakes, benefit from market and customer development, new innovations and a thriving ecosystem to plug into. Many of the founders of funded and growing start-ups in Nigeria will say that anyone building a tech company in Nigeria now is early. However, the switch from early to ‘right time’ will happen very quickly. Perhaps it’s the start-ups that enter the market 12 to 18 months from now along with the startups that can build sustainable business in the present, that will have a chance of success. Think about all the companies in the social space before Facebook.
3. Build a brand and perfect your craft
The early pioneers of the new school that are still thriving now are the ones that built a brand, perfected their craft and “kept it real” (No Yankee accent). Building a brand proved beneficial as new artists entered an already crowded space and competition grew they were able to stand out and maintain A-list status.
Many people in our community have complained about the amount of e-commerce start ups that are launching, which is funny because I think we are still in the early days and haven’t even seen the half. Significantly more startups will launch and many more startups will be funded, the competition now between rocket companies and others, is just the tip of the iceberg as Nigerian tech takes off competition for customers, investor dollars and market share will increase.
Founders building start ups now, should start building a brand name (both on a company and personal level). Make sure you’re building an incredibly awesome product. Understand your space more than anyone else, focus on being 100% authentic and don’t copy and paste ideas from other markets.
4. Move to Lagos
The most well known artist all live in Lagos, the close proximity of talent, world class studios, engineers, events, media houses and entertainment investors means that artists move to Lagos.
“Why does Lagos get all the attention?” is a question I’ve come across often. Being an entrepreneur means that you should be willing to move where the opportunities are. The undeniable fact is that if you are thinking of building a tech enabled company in Nigeria you should be in Lagos. I can’t think of one well funded, growing start up in Nigeria that has its head office outside of Lagos. If global tech investors are coming to Nigeria they come to Lagos. Does that mean great companies will not be built outside of Lagos? No. Being in Lagos increases your chances providing you already have the necessary ingredients.
5. Be nice
You’ll rarely hear a bad word or read of a serious (verified) scandals about the artist that has been around for a long time and is still thriving.
The tech community is a small one and everyone knows each other. Being the cat’s head today does not guarantee you will not be the rat’s tail tomorrow.
Founders, be as nice to employees as you can, this does not mean you can’t fire them when it needs to be done. Be generous with the time you have and advice you give to other entrepreneurs, compete fiercely but fairly and be humble.
Investors, be clear and transparent, do not waste an entrepreneurs time, promise “added value” you can not deliver and see yourself/fund/accelerator as the prize. Having good deal flow today does not mean founders will accept your money tomorrow. Word about a dodgy, bad and arrogant investor travels quickly and you may not be able to get into the best deals as the market grows.
I admire our artiste and entertainment Industry. Among them you’ll find some of the best entrepreneurs, natural born grafters that started from the bottom and grinded all the way to the top. In the process of building multi million dollar businesses they created a multi billion dollar industry and made Nigeria culturally relevant in the global entertainment industry. There are some valuable lessons our tech ecosystem can learn from them as we grow.
If you liked this post, you might also want to read about why Olamide is more important than Steve Jobs
This post was first published on Frederik’s blog.