This was originally a comment posted by Chika Nwobi, founder of L5 Labs & the 440 accelerator in this story – in which Tolu Oladimeji, a former employee of L5 Labs claimed that the company was trying to force him to relinquish his domain names. Mr Nwobi has asked us to consider this as his official response.
Facts and thoughts.
1. Tolu Oladimeji, was employed with L5Lab as a full-time employee for about 2 years to do graphics/web development for portfolio companies. He left for Interswitch about a month ago. Sometime last year, Tolu showed me a site, wawo.tv, which he had been working on and proposed I adopt it as a major L5/Betazoo product initiative. Tolu’s idea was to curate video content from YouTube and make revenue from ads over time.. I told him I didn’t think it was a compelling enough idea for us to prioritize. I didn’t have any explicit discussion around investment as I didn’t consider the idea investment-worthy.
2. Betazoo, is an L5 portfolio company that is focused on content development. Betazoo runs Kamdora.com (the most visited women-only content site in Nigeria). Betazoo is also the company that holds the record of having the most downloaded callertune in history in Nigeria and also in South Africa. Betazoo has been run by my partner, Emmanuel (Manie) Malaka, since the beginning of 2014.
3. Betazoo is launching a new service soon and the name Wawo.tv would be a good fit. The new service is going to be doing something different from Tolu’s video curation idea. Manie reached out to Tolu this week to see if Betazoo could take over the domain name wawo.tv if Tolu isn’t [sic] pushing his video curation initiative and Tolu confirmed that he was willing to sell the domain. They had been negotiating price up till yesterday. Manie offered to pay NGN 50,000 but Tolu wanted NGN 100,000. Manie went ahead and bought wawotv.com and a couple other domains and Manie called Tolu to tell him and to try to persuade him to sell wawo.tv for NGN 50,000.
4. Now on Tolu’s prompting, TechCabal has written this article about intellectual property infringement.
This incident throws up some questions that are useful for a nascent ecosystem like ours to debate and hopefully learn from. Some that I can think of are:
- If you are negotiating with someone to sell them your domain and that person buys a similar domain, have they infringed on your intellectual property?
- If you pitch an idea to your boss that is within the scope of the business of your company, is it your intellectual property?
- If you pitch an idea which hundreds of people are doing online already to an investor, is the idea your intellectual property?
- If you are in a negotiation and the other person makes a move that reveals that you have very little leverage, what should you do? Should you adjust your position or should you go to the press and make damaging allegations including disclosing future plans of the other party which you are privy to(and under obligation to keep confidential)?
- If you are editor of a respected tech blog and someone makes a claim that an investor is stealing their “original” idea (which in your article you describe as being LIKE Devour.com), should you go ahead and publish such self-contradicting allegations?
I am curious to hear what other people think. Maybe we can all learn something from this.