There’s been no better time to be on the SPARK-side. Jason Njoku just raised $2million more for the three-month old Betaworks-modeled incubator, on top of the initial $1 million they launched with in May. And what better way to announce that, than with a nice upbeat feature on PandoDaily?
And it was an interesting piece, from Sarah Lacy no less, that artfully sketches the heroic rise and rise of Nigeria’s internet movie mogul, through the trials and tribulation of building a global startup in Nigeria and as a Nigerian. Two years ago, just his college room-mate believed in him enough to fund his idea. Now he’s raising millions of dollars for angel investment in the local tech scene from London, Singapore and Africa (really, Sarah, Africa?). It all brings a tear to your eye.
If all you know about Jason came from this nice Pando feature, delivered on premium Silicon Valley journo livery, you might get the idea that it’s your classic zero to hero story. And you’d be half right. Victory has defeated him. Jason’s zero days are behind him. But is he a hero?
I wonder if Spark charges a carry on the $2m raised. All in all $3m in early stage tech is very good news. http://t.co/AFubXEU3OX
— Naz Onuzo (@IamSnazz) August 17, 2013
What Jason has done is amazing because it is unprecedented at this scale and stage. Jason has lit a $3 million dollar fire under the asses of risk averse local VC, who are no doubt paying attention now. Stacked up against Spark funds, all other known local angel investments and venture philanthropy seem trivial. The Tony Elumelu Foundation recently announced that the beneficiaries of their $5,000 grant have been increased from 20 to 50 for a total sum of $250,000. Even with a more wood behind fewer arrows strategy, at Spark’s typical investment of $50,000 per startup, they could fund 60. Not an apples to apples comparison of of course, considering that TEF is a no-stakes grant, and Jason has been known to put as much as 250k behind just one startup.
But what I cannot for the life of me fathom is why Jason, by his own admission, unrepentantly chooses to be an object of resentment. With all he’s accomplished, if he would just dial the hubris and bullying down, just a notch…he would easily be a national hero. In some ways, he already is. Just not in his own tech village.
If this was the valley where insanely successful but paternalistic mansplainers regularly get their asses handed to them by an intelligent community that isn’t intimidated by success, even if they are broke-ass digirati, Jason would have been put in his place a long time ago.
Jason Njoku has the chance to become an everlasting legend. A positive, rallying force for Nigerian and African startup entrepreneurs. His story is inspiration to millions. His willingness to chronicle his journey, and his undeniable aptitude for it makes him a potentially invaluable knowledge resource. Finally, he’s shown that he can put his money where his mouth is. Could this man be the Paul Graham of Nigerian tech?
It is possible. I just hate to see him cuss it all away.