Editor’s Note: This article is in direct response to this post by Jason Njoku. Opinions are the author’s and by no means represent the views of TechCabal.
This guest post should not be read as an official statement from the Managing Director of Jovago.com, Rocket backed African venture. This post doesn’t reflect company’s views in any way. It just comes from a dude who happens to be more and more active in the NG Startup scene.
Oh, and everyone can read this. Especially people who do not like my opinions. There’s nothing better than a structured, mind stimulating discussion.
I can handle critics, and I should, especially when I write about someone.
I have only one favour to ask. If you read, read carefully, read till the end. Most nasty discussions and misunderstandings come from paraphrasing too freely and not trying to understand the writer‘s intentions which completely twists the sense and robs your responses of logic.
Certain people accused Jesus of not being able to swim after they had seen him walking on the water — Author unknown.
When all your arguments are not valid anymore, keep calm. There’s always racism.
I understand it’s sometimes not easy to be a young Nigerian outside Africa. I hear you. I’ll tell you what — sometimes it’s not easy to be a young Oyinbo in Nigeria either. Especially when you don’t live like a typical expat alienating himself from the outside world. When you actually blend in, walk in the streets, drive your own car. And escape from LASTMA and Police officers confusing you with a talking ATM.
While trying to sign a deal with the dodgiest hotel in Festac Town, I was first a subject of jokes from a group of young drunk Nigerians. Afterwards, I was attacked because I refused to show them my resident permit. Don’t fight a sober guy when you‘ve had too many drinks. In Ibadan I was arrested by SSS for “suspicously wandering in the city”, and accused of being a spy. I was flattered actually (#mynameisbondjamesbond), though I was held and questioned for a couple of hours by a guy who clearly had an issue with white dudes.
But you know what? I don’t care. I just treat it as another obstacle. Dealing with racists is like dealing with other kinds of idiots.
I was raised to see people as colourless, but I acknowledge the problem. I believe the best way to treat racism is to absorb it. Newton’s third rule of motion is not the best idea here. My family members were in concentration camps during WWII so I know something about hatred and being treated as second category citizens.
Partnership deals are like air for startups. Incorporating your I-mean-nothing-startup-yet with someone bigger is obviously valuable. Not mentioning the Profits and Losses related stuff. But what I have learned up to this day, is that the bigger the deal is, the less important the Excel sheet. What matters is if they buy you as a person, if you are able to build good relations.
So next time, before you hit the race argument, maybe it’s good to ask yourself a couple of questions: “Maybe I just suck at negotiations? “Maybe these guys had the guts not to fall in love with my awesome self at first sight”. “Maybe my amazing startup is not that freaking awesome to them yet?”.
Also, if someone declines a partnership with a Nigerian company it‘s mostly not because there are black people in Nigeria, but because Nigerian businesses have not been well presented internationally PR-wise.
A great private banker wearing sweatpants in his office is still a great private banker. But there’s a reason he wears suit for customers‘ meetings. So unless you’re this-is-my-private-war Jason Njoku (is he also changing his british accent?), wear a suit if you meet a western company you want to make a deal with.
I am not racist. I employ white people — Jason Njoku
Racists employ people from other races all the time. Not going into details of the type of jobs. Just saying. And no, It’s not an implication that someone who says that is still a racist. It’s just an observation that this statement has a logical value of zero.
The 2% Problem
Jason Njoku recently shared interesting U.S Tech companies ethnicity division charts. You can find them here. He easily assumed it’s because technology companies (as with banking, law, accountancy, consultancy) largely hire people who look just like themselves.
Above is the ethnicity division chart of some US Universities. This is the real reason. If mostly white dudes study IT, then mostly white dudes will work in IT. Probably we could dig deeper in search of the real root of the case, but that’s enough to take out the main blame from tech companies.
You can’t build an ecosystem Startup Ecosystem with people passing by – Jason Njoku
Thanks for linking to my article. But out of all the expat Rocket MDs, I am really the worst example to back up your theory, just ask my Nigerian friends And yes, there are also financial investments and feelings involved. I’m no Ivy League, no ex McKinsey. After my first startup failure I worked in a bar to bootstrap the next one. But that’s not really the issue here.
Njoku suggests that Jumia should have already destroyed Konga with such a backing, but it didn’t, and it’s mainly because Jumia has expat leaders, and this is why in the long term Jumia will loose. However, he’s missing one important point which makes this assumption wrong. Jumia-Konga is not a Pepsi-Coca-Cola competition in a saturated market. Where the only way to sell more Pepsi is to kick out Coke. The competition is taking place in the growing market. And the market is growing faster then the companies. For many years ahead both companies will still have a chance to win simultaneously.
People come and go everywhere. What matters for the ecosystem is what they contribute during they stay. How many people they influence, how much they invest, what sustainable structures they build.
Would you say expat MDs have a higher propensity to leave the company to go back home? Whoever does recruitment in Nigeria and sees in CVs how often Nigerians change jobs would argue with that. Do Expats need to do more homework of understanding the market? Maybe. Are they good at it? Yes. That point was mentioned by Editi here.
I have given an extensive explanation of why Rocket is good for the ecosystem here. And until I see any comments to that article or any new arguments, saying things like “Rocket is bad for the startup ecosystem. 1000%” is no more than just a catchy phrase to get more retweets.
Mark Essien, one of Njoku’s Spark beneficiaries recently tweeted
The easiest way to prevent a tech scene from developing is to do things that cause conflicts and suspicion, preventing knowledge sharing
— Mark Essien (@markessien) June 27, 2014
Now, dear reader, ask yourself a question. Who is really bad here for the Nigerian startup ecosystem? As a role model for many young nigerians, Njoku has a responsibility on his back. Would be nice to see more of these, instead of posts filled with prejudice.
There are great things ahead. Lets make it happen, together, abeg.