open for business

I get irritated when I hear of ‘startups’ around here focusing solely on getting their products noticed by venture capitalists. Well, that’s what it seems like to me.

I even get upset when I see social media posts from many Nigerians who haven’t done anything for themselves with text like “How to get VC funding” or “10 things you need to do to get funded”. I think this all is completely overrated. I have even grown to dislike the word ‘startup’.

I grew up knowing the phrase ‘starting a business’. Now everyone and their brothers have a startup. What annoys me the most is how founders of these little businesses have such high shoulders, and go over twitter giving advice they themselves can’t follow.

While quite a number of businesses have done a good job of pushing remarkable products to the public, I hardly see any exciting ideas. And that’s pretty sad. The new ones I hear of are, of course, struggling to find their way into getting some nonsense ‘funding’ instead of focusing on real life.

The sad thing is that most times people are creating solutions to problems that don’t even exist and now: they are trying to convince people that they have problems.

But can you really have a great product without money? I honestly think so. In fact, I believe so much that without financial resources you can create an amazing product that will run itself till the big bucks are absolutely necessary. Having implemented ideas that I thought were great in the past, I believe that user feedback (“user”, being the operative word there) helps you know whether it would succeed or not without concentrating on outside-money.

I am inspired by companies like Whatsapp. They created a chat app just like everyone- only they tied usernames to phone numbers breaking the barrier of having to create a solution that’s native to one operating system by forgetting the standard choose-a-name- submit-an-email address etc. $19 billion later, we are talking about the already popular Whatsapp.

Slack started in February. Today they are recorded to be the fastest growing enterprise app EVER. This is after being valued at $1 billion. Isn’t it because they focused more on value? While maintaining an office space in Lekki, Nysteria staff sometimes had to work remotely while looking for the best way to optimize communication. At some point we were Google Wave enthusiasts until they shut it down. Later I heard about how Automattic staff successfully worked remotely relying on their in-house app called P2 for internal communications and collaboration. Slack was probably an offshoot of this idea. But hey, it is tackling a real life problem. Automattic staff now use Slack.

I am inspired by Crazy Egg, a profitable, self-funded ‘start up’ for heat mapping and A/B testing. We use them at Pulse.ng.

While I am not opposed to being funded by angel investors and so on, I think its time that we forgot the word ‘startup’ and focus on ‘starting a business’. The type of business where family members and friends are the first customers. I think its time to forget about dreaming office spaces as luxurious as Googleplex and focus on making profits from the idea.

I am not opposed to soliciting for VC funding. I think we should focus on providing solutions to real problems. Let’s begin to leave solicitation of funds to hardware start ups who may need real capital. But For god’s sakes, someone should please find a solution to traffic monitoring(forget Gidi Traffic). And someone should work on a localized Yelp that allows these other big shitty companies to be more aware of the ills, good and harms of customer reviews.

So, how to get funded by angel investors and VCs? My friend, let’s create a smart, sustainable business with a long-term focus where the goal is to grow it in the smartest way possible. I am still in that process.

This post was originally published on Seye’s blog.

Photo Credit: opensourceway via Compfight cc

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