By now you should know the name; I sure hope you know the team as well. Three super smart guys who are super good at what they do. You sure as hell better know the story.
Let’s start from the beginning. The very beginning. Garage48 Lagos, May, 2011.
A hackathon that was put together by Sheriff Shittu and Francis Onwumere. It was an electrifying 48 hours with 8 “startups” pitching, Namzo was on the Flippi team — we worked from the same room with the Flippi team, and there were some great guys there, Mukoshy and David Adamo Jr just to name a few. Francis was on another team at the event. We all had fun, CallCamp went home with the prize and a seed was planted in many of us.
Fast forward a few months to Startup Weekend, September 2011, another hackathon put together by Francis and a few other people. Teams were formed and Prowork was born. This time, the team comprised digitalcraft (Francis), Kehers (Ope), and Namzo (Ernest), and I must say, this was cheat mode in full gear, the Prowork team already worked together as a web development company for a while, as Digital Craft Studios.
As is typical with hackathons, most of the “startups” pitched were dead right out of the gate. TiketMobile and Prowork pushed on however. Accelerate to 2012, at Mobile Web West Africa, Prowork demoed their product at the conference and CcHub’s Showcase Tuesday. That was when the product, Prowork, was officially launched.
The next time I met Francis was at the NigeriaCom event in September 2012, he was doing a version of sales pitch to conference attendees, Prowork was also a finalist at the Meffys Digital Award that year as one of 5 African mobile applications to be nominated. Next up was the premiere edition of Demo Africa , with only room for the best & brightest, and sure enough Prowork was one of them. The live stream was really a dead stream, but I watched the recorded video and caught some of the 40 pitches. Prowork didn’t win then, but the next opportunity would come soon after at Apps4Africa, in which Prowork came out tops amongst all startups and businesses that applied.
In between all those highlights is where the real work is, the part that no one sees. The sleepless weeks and months, because sleepless nights just aren’t enough. Tinkering with stuff and oh the naysayers, always enough of those. Prowork is now almost 2 years from inception and in that time they have been able to push, pull, gnaw and grind through all swampy, marshy, rocky, sandy terrain that starting up in Nigeria doles out in excess to those who dare. Now that they have proper lift off, the next milestone would be aiming for cruise control.
I am very happy to have had the opportunity to witness the up and coming of Prowork. In May they were named one of Global Forum’s top 50 entrepreneurs. I keep telling Francis that we are following in their footsteps, but he thinks I am joking. Truthfully I can never be satisfied being just a spectator. If this is truly the era when technology startups and businesses in Nigeria begin to come into their own, then this is only the beginning, there will be dozens more to come.
I have always asked Francis to share some insights on some key learning points during their journey, (you can help persuade him in the comments ). This is a chronicle of sorts… how I remember the journey, which barely scratches the surface, obviously. The point of this? To achieve the holy grail of initial success with your startup, you have to be willing and able to do the work just like Prowork did and continues to do. There are too many half starts and full stops, and that in my opinion is the true killer for startups in Nigeria.