Today, we confess that we enjoy TechCrunch for months. But after a while, we sat down and asked ourselves one question: what values have we gotten from TechCrunch? TC is addictive (oh yes) but it is not a tech blog for a typical African entrepreneur. The more you read it from Nairobi, Lagos, Accra, the more upset you are with your environment.
There are many things that go bad when you read that great blog – your country sucks! While you cannot find someone to give you $3,000 to start a company, someone is getting $30m bucks to start a gossip site. You begin to wonder, is that American dollar or Zimbabwean? We can assure you that it was indeed US dollar and will always be American dollar. The same world, the same planet but different country.
But that is not the reason we do not visit TC anymore – it simply does not add any flavor to what we do. You read all those stories that have no immediate application to Nigeria or West Africa. Who cares what some of those companies are doing when the environments are not similar to what you have in Lagos. Of course, we do subscribe to the feeds and print some lessons on entrepreneurship. Those lessons from founders are really good. We focus on those than the bloated companies.
Yes, you waste all your time pounding hopeful news about Silicon Valley and none of those ideas make sense in your nation. Instead of figuring out how to make farmers receive better information about farming, you are planning on how to take on Facebook. Are you a boxer? The other day, one Nigerian startup that does web hosting vowed to take on Godaddy! Haba, for what? Do you know the war chest they have? Is that the best thing that can happen in Nigeria?
Over the years, TC elevated us to come up with many imaginations and ideas. But those were pretty lame dreams with zero chance of success in Nigeria. You get cornered thinking that you can replicate what they did in Silicon Valley in Nigeria. You get fooled that a man who organizes events got $120m to make his website better. You read that some college dropouts got $37m to make an app for photo sharing. You get all these news that you think your time will come. Those are dreams. The best you can get in Nigeria is borrowing $1,000 from your in-law or friends which you must give account every week on how the business is going. If you do not, they will ask for refunds. If you refuse, fights don start ohh! Of course, no contract, no formality; the uncertainty is increased.
So here, we decided to try something. We compiled some nice African blogs that focus on explaining how Africans are solving local problems. We bookmarked Indian tech blogs. We did the same in Pakistan. We read same in most developing world and simply avoid Western blogs. When we visit, we are not looking at the products and companies, we are looking at technology patterns and stories about managing and running startups. All those raised, acquired, we ignore them.
We took those ideas in our parent company and we changed our pricing model, our business strategy and how we present our products. We offered better customizations. Today, we know what the local markets want and not what they are doing in New York or London or Tokyo. And business has picked really up. From Imo State government to even foreign companies that want to tap into Africa, they simply understand now that we have a local solution. Our proposals do not pretend to match the boys from Silicon Valley, we do it to appeal to our local market.
As our local Idumota traders do not have the taste of a New Yorker, we have no pressure to create products, at unaffordable cost, to meet the spec the New Yorker will want. So, we make things in-line with reality and understand that we have to be nimble and agile to succeed. While they pool the millions from Wall Street, we just have to manage the little we have. And the Ovim tablet is a testimony. The next one on sale from Friday will retail at about $200. It has phone features and it is a solid Android tablet. If you read TC, you may be tempted to take on Galaxy tab. But who can afford that in Awka? Opopo?Calabar? We think we sell more tabs than most companies because we have something that is affordable. We do not dream! We do business.
So, make a decision. Cut off the time you spend reading about Twitter, Facebook, Zynga, Spotify and how you will clone something better than them. Rather, use that time to visit all the websites of Mobile Monday in Africa. Visit the Momo Nairobi, J’Burg, Kampala, Nigeria, etc. You will get insights that will help you start a small business with $2,000 than reading where people spread money as it is not money.
Do not interpret this literally, we hope you get the idea. No matter how hard you try, you cannot be better than Twitter or Zynga, but you can learn while mFarm Kenya can work in your village. If those farmers subscribe, MTN can sign your firm in their VAS network.
But you can sneak into TC once in a while – they inspire us a lot.