Away With Sandwich Startup

Away With Sandwich Startup

This is a Short Note.

To be an entrepreneur, under most circumstances in Nigeria, is to declare to be visible. To be successful, you cannot hide. If you are an entrepreneur in Lagos, you must hustle. It is not a career that begins at 8am  and ends at 4pm. Simply, when you sign-up, it is a 24/7 operation.

One thing that is very important is finding a way to find voice in the crowded space of the business world. You want people you want to hear about you, to hear what you are doing. The communication must be organic, authentic and from the top. It goes beyond press release released by the communication team. The world wants the Founder to speak and be visible.

Why is that necessary? Because tomorrow can bring different moves. As a startup, that is risk. You must navigate that process of moving from one phase to the other. This is not about being gentle. In short, if you think you are special, it is not likely you will be a good entrepreneur in Africa. To do well in this career, you simply have to assume you are nobody. That gives you the humility to wait for a CEO for 7 hours in the waiting room and when he appears, you thank him for the opportunity to be waiting. Yes, you are even lucky to be allowed inside the building. Your degrees, your products or whatever you think you have accomplished should not matter. The challenge before you is this: close the deal and have the papers signed.

Note one more thing: you are respecting that Office and not necessarily the individual. So, it is very important you have that mindset. If you cannot hustle as an entrepreneur in Lagos, forget it. And besides hustling, you must find a space to command. It requires total commitment and dedication for you to succeed..

Now, if you are among the lucky group that has raised capital, that means you even need to do more. One of the challenges in Lagos and indeed Africa is what I call the Sandwich Problem. You have raised money and been doing well, and need more capital, but no one wants to give you money. You are running low on funds and you cannot find new capital. The old investor cannot invest and new ones are not interested. You are sandwiched and that is a very dangerous state. (I have been inspired by the sandwich generation in coining the Sandwich Problem)

a generation of people, typically in their thirties or forties, responsible for bringing up their own children and for the care of their aging parents.

Most times, the reason why that happens, especially in Africa, is that no one knows you are even doing well. And suddenly you need to tell the story but the time is too short before you run out of money. But if you check promising startups like Paystacks, Flutterwave and Jobberman, they do all they can to tell the world how they are doing. That helps them connect with investors passively and when they need help, those people can become believers.

Jobberman was good. They received a huge in-bound investment in the past. They never asked for it, the company wrote them that they wanted to invest. The same thing happened with iROKOtv and many others. But entrepreneurs, who are doing well, but yet invisible, hoping that raising money is a calendar event, are always surprised when nothing happens within the window they have mapped out for fundraising.

You cannot be a sandwich startup. You must find a voice and be bold to tell your story. The world is listening. That can bring in-bound investments and also get investors ready when you need to hit the market. Being an entrepreneur is not a competition for who is the most invisible person. You must have presence to do well. Otherwise, go and get a job, where you can afford not to have a presence. You can be a gentleman or a lady of class. But to run a business, you must overcome all those classy attributes and swim and make noise. Otherwise, no one will know you are in the water. That you hate to speak in the public is a no-no, because being an entrepreneur is like a play except that it involves risking money. Lagos is a tough place to do business and to succeed, you must find a way to hustle.


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6 thoughts on “Away With Sandwich Startup

      1. What about a start software company that offers only Web design services and yet to delivers their own product in the market. How can they be visible and get away with sandwich. Thanks a lot

  1. Lagos is a peculiar market and to succeed as a business person, your hustle must be tight – no loose ends which includes you getting out there (who has been invisible “epp”) and be known for what you do. Waiting for the perfect time will eventually prolong your earnestly awaited success as opportunity only hooks up with the right level of preparedness. Great piece Ndubuisi.


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