OoTheNigerian

sometimes, I make a lot of sense.

A Polite Rant: How to Use Only An Hour to Make Online Payments in Nigeria.

21 April 2015 by Oo

I decided I needed to get business cards for an event tomorrow and decided to use my favorite online print shop Printivo. I uploaded my design, hit check out and my life took a left turn

If Printivo were using Stripe, Balanced or any payment system from the 21st century, I would have had to click a single button since as a returning customer, my card details would have been stored. Instead here is what happened.

  1. I decided to pay with my Diamond Bank company card and after several redirections, was told I needed to go to the ATM to activate my VISA card for online payments.
  2. I took out my personal GTBank Card, after several redirections, it decided to give me an unintelligible error.
  3. I tried GTBank Mastercard again, same error.
  4. I emailed the merchant. Waited to find out if the payment went through and was told it didn’t. Was advised to use online transfer.
  5. I has not used online banking in 3+ years so I had to pull out my form, search for my token and log in to GTBank online (I got these recently).
  6. Ater entering PINS upon PINs, I got to where I was to add a new beneficiary. Filled in all the details and was told to “Answer your Secret Question?”. Of course since there there are a million secret questions, I had no idea what the question was so I typed ’42’. It seems that is not the answer to the meaning of life.
  7. I emailed the merchant who I’m lucky to know personally, and pleaded to be given credit.
  8. Decided to give up, tweeted my frustrations and it got favorited by Tayo, Paga oga.
  9. Aha! I remembered I always used Paga for my bank transfers until our dear Interswitch decided to make online payments so safe that card owners could not use their cards.
  10. I logged into Paga and deposited money into my Paga account. I had to do it thrice becuse I was on the lowest tier of KYC. Yup I had to do the redirect to Interswitch and OTP three times.
  11. Transfers the money to Printivo.
  12. Done.

I deserve a meal.

PS: I skipped the steps where I took out time to insult a few people’s fathers and censored like 10 “fucking shits”.  But you get the gist.

3 comments | Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , ,

We Need a Nigeria Based Business Development Intern

14 April 2015 by Oo

Fonebase Labs Logo

Fonebase Labs is in need of a female Business Development intern to assist the Business Co-Founder in varying tasks that span non-technical activities.

The role is 100% remote, however, should the intern be resident in Lagos, she can attend meetings with the Business team.

Why Female?

The primary reason is diversity. With the Fonebase Labs team currently consisting of 4 males, we are in search of a young, smart, hardworking lady to join the team. As people usually hire from their networks, and ours primarily consisting of male techheads, we’re going one step further to diversify our team and specifically seek for qualified females.

This however does not imply that we are lowering the bar, on the contrary we are looking harder, further and longer for the qualified candidate we know is out there. By joining the Fonebase Labs team as a Business Development Intern, you’ll get the chance to really contribute to the success of the team, use your skills all while gaining valuable experience. To put it in better perspective – you’ll make up 20% of the team.

Who Are We?

Fonebase Labs is a Nigerian founded technology company. We have a suite of web applications that provide various services targeted at the international market.

  1. Callbase – A web based call center
  2. Fonenode - A telephony API with services
  3. WriteRack – A tweetstorming application

Your Responsibility

Your primary responsibility will be to assist the Business Co-Founder in business related activities. This position will require and encourage you to take initiative in conceptualizing and/or executing various tasks.

A Week In The Life Of…

This is currently what my week at Fonebase Labs looks like across our various products

Fonenode

  1. Today, a proposal was sent out to a company interested in integrating Fonenode with their application.
  2. Fonenode is to launch a new segment. We need to recruit a few beta testers and would also need to get press for the product launch.
  3. We need to follow up with a client regarding balancing up an invoice.
  4. Work with the dev team to integrate intercom

Callbase

  1. We are following up with a remote Interface Designer (in Poland) to complete the redesign of the Callbase dashboard.
  2. Work with the dev team and a front-end developer to integrate the dashboard.
  3. Set up a meeting with a company that trains call-centre agents.
  4. Work with our devs to integrate intercom

Writerack

  1. Launch the new design
  2. Inform our hundreds of users about the new design and solicit feedback
  3. Communicate the feedback to the WriteRack lead.

Other

  1. Get a lawyer to tidy up an outstanding agreement with a new supplier
  2. Tidy up the books
  3. Rope Ope and the team into another long meeting.

These are just a few of typical things to be done so having an extra hand and perspective will be very welcome.

How we work?

We are a 100% distributed team. We presently consist of 4 people. 3 developers one of whom is on on extended holiday in Boston, my Co-Founder (presently in Akure), Intern developer (in Ilorin) and myself (In Lagos… for now)

Our “office” is situated on HipChat, Trello, Quip and Google Mail

Our Ideal Candidate

  • Pre NYSC or NYSC
  • You are top graduate and very interested and familiar with technology and startups
  • If you have visited Lagos, you must have dropped by CcHub or its equivalent elsewhere
  • Know that Raspberry Pi does not taste delicious and Hacker News is not a dangerous place.
  • You have a blog , write/have written about technology
  • You take initiative. e.g started or ran an association while in school.
  • Previously worked with a startup or a business
  • You are naturally organized and like writing (this is important).
  • Wired or The Economist is not out of place in your magazine rack.

Why Us?

First, why not us? We do not offer a competitive salary for a graduate, which is why we are specifically looking for Pre and NYSC level candidates. We however offer a decent package for the job requirements.

In spite of that, here are some advantages of working with us.

  1. Getting a deep knowledge and experience of startup operations. From concept to revenue. We assure you after your tenure you’ll be a catch for a Nigerian or international technology company. We’ll work towards being able to afford you when the tenure ends.
  2. We’re very (Buffer open) internally. If you want to know the balance of our bank account, just ask. If you want to know why any decision has been taken, ask. Nothing is off the table.
  3. We’re pretty flexible. You can work from wherever, whenever as long as you complete your tasks properly and on time.
  4. Our contacts are your contacts. You will get to meet and know a lot of people that will be of help to you in the coming years.
  5. You will be working with a really top notch team and will definitely learn A LOT!
  6. We encourage reading, and will also provide unfettered access to our library.

How to apply

Send an email with

  1. A summary of your academic background
  2. A list and description of projects you have done (it should have a technology angle)
  3. Visit Callbase.co and in a few paragraphs, explain what you think it is and where you would take it if it were handed over to you

Pls dnt wrt lk dis

Oo Nwoye

Co founder, Fonebase Labs

oo@fonebaselabs.com

Leave a comment | Categories: Startups | Tags: ,

Watch out Swatch! Today, Apple Starts the Clock for You and the ‘Timepiece’

09 March 2015 by Oo

I wanted to write this post after Apple announced the Apple Watch but decided to wait until the launch day.

For such an old device, the timepiece has not evolved for quite a number of years in terms of function. As the mobile phone became ubiquitous, the wristwatch being single function device lost is utility and became a full time fashion accessory. This changes today.

Before we talk about how Apple upends the cart, lets try and understand the meaning of time.

Understanding time

The Timeline Interface by Pebble

The Timeline Interface by Pebble

If you think about it carefully, time itself is not really important as its accuracy expires the second we look away from our watch/clock/timepiece. Time only really useful in context.

“How long before my flight?”
“How long before the match starts?”
“How long am I behind schedule for the meeting?”
“How long before I need to wake up?”

Watches should tell us the time and not us looking at the time and doing irrelevant mental math (this generation will ruin the brain)
With the sensors and app that will come with the Apple Watch, our watches will move beyond the time realm and prompt us with

“Dude you’re about to have a heart attack!”
“Dudette, your blood sugar is low. It’s time for your next insulin shot!”
“Mamalete, ya babylette’s temperature is too high. Nope, not Ebola”

Pebble with their timeline interface, and smartstraps have built the first wearable that’ll take input from our bodies, compute without us looking like dofusses.

Time to say goodbye, swatch

Swatch

A collection of Swatches

 

Swatch‘s business model has always been built around the uniqueness on the watch face and strap. However, the core of the watch remained below basic.

It is not even Apple that will turn swatch to blackberry, it is Pebble, the cross platform alternative to the Apple watch that gets it right; as regards to building and affordable mainstream wristwatch.

Why spend $150 for a piece of plastic that tell you the time and at best has a stopclock when you can get a device that gives you infinite number of faces and tell you a lot more stuff beyond the time plane.

Here comes the Apple

Apple Watch

Apple Watch Collection

I am not a fan of Apple products, however, if there is one company that can take a consumer electronics mainstream, is is Apple. They tell the cool kids when it is time to move.

Today they are taking the smart watch mainstream and we are going to have a number of casualties.

You might ask, what’s so different? Smart watches are not new!

Apple has attacked the segment not as a gadget like her predecessors in the Watch race but as a fashion item that happens to take the timepiece to the next level. Looking at the above, you would have to admire the three pronged approach

  • The Sports watch (Casio, G- Shock and co)
  • The Casual
  • The Luxury (Made of 18Karat Gold)

As you can see, unlike with Pebble (who have done a great job) and other tech companies, Apple has 10s of millions of iPhone owners who are tired with wristwatches that do not really do much. After a person’s watch stops her from getting a heart attack, and other countless answers and activities and uses like opening doors (I’ll send my key to your watch), cars etc. Would the person put a piece of metal or plastic on their wrist that does nothing more than ‘look good’?

Of course, there is the ‘little issue’ of battery life which will only keep improving . That is the only reason the death of Swatch and co will be slow. Death of course is certain for  a lot of the old brigade.

Hopefully, rather than laugh like Balmer, Swatch would be hovering around founder asking “Guy, how far na?”

As for me, I’ll be getting my first watch in 10 years this year and is is not going to be from the old brigade.

*ticktock*

This is my first post this year. I’d like to blog more frequently so I’ll probably increase commentary pieces. Not every time serious post. Sometimes, Apple. As usual, forgive typos and please point them out for me.

2 comments | Categories: Commentary, Technology | Tags: , , ,

How I’ll Run an African Technology Incubator

01 December 2014 by Oo

Introduction

There has been an uptake of tech incubators/accelerators in the African techosystem™. While I applaud the great work that has been done so far, I am yet to see an incubator on this continent run the way I’d love to do it. Rather than just criticise, I’ll use this post to give my own perspectives and suggestions using an example.

I have to point out that this is merely postulation and in real life, things hardly turn out the way you postulate.

Between the Incubator and the Accelerator.

There seems to bit of confusion between what incubators and accelerators are. My own definition is simple: the incubator takes the idea to product/market fit; the accelerator takes it from product/market fit to where it needs to scale.

I am talking about running an incubator.

Guiding Principles.

The incubator will be pro founder and looking to fund commercial viable businesses.

I am not one of those that ridicule MBAs. But there seems to be a difference between business and tech head founded incubators. My guess is the tech heads are better placed to empathize with a fellow tech head. While pure business heads are guided solely by numbers.

In addition, I see a lot of incubators that view their investor position as being benevolent. They see it like they are doing the entrepreneur a favour. I see it as a partnership at worst and at best, the founders are doing me a favour helping me make money.

In reality, we both need ourselves to make money while solving problems.

The set up.

I like the Y Combinator setup. If I were running an incubator, I’d have a core partnership structure. The partners made up of “specialist generalists” e.g operations, would all have a stake in the incubator and must have contributed to the fund.

I am not a fan of incubators/accelerators that stockpile “mentors”. It ends up confusing people. There are many ways to cook soup. What ends up happening is each mentor in a bid to justify their existence insist their way is the best. Of what use is a mentor that tells you “what that other guy said is good enough”

The partnership will have one primary person that covers an area of expertise. e.g Product, Finance, Technology, Design Legal and Operations. The partnership will not be bigger than 6 people. Of course industry experts will be welcome to play an ad hoc mentoring role but it will be after the startups have been selected.

More on that in my example to come.

Idea Selection

We’ll focus on ideas that are relevant to the continent but applicable globally, generate revenue from the very first user and can scale to millions of dollars in revenue with a team of 20 or less and at worst can survive without follow-on funding even if it does not succeed in scaling.

Founders will be able to apply with their ideas or ours.

Founder Selection

Since we will be focused on incubating, we will be looking for teams that are “complete”. The core tech must be internal and part of the team. Same as the core operations (more on that in my example). They must have proven at some point in their past that they have the resilience and focus to execute a project for a long period of time.

We will also recruit our founders. The best employees are sought out and not waited on to apply for the job. I believe same applies to founders. I see most incubators putting out application forms and waiting for the applications to roll in.

Like the CEO of a startup, I as the promoter of the incubator will use applications but will also spend a lot of time trying to recruit founders. Many of the best people are already doing something else with their time. That does not in anyway mean that those that apply are not good more like there a lot of great people that will not apply.

We’ll look to cap it at 5 teams per set and 2 sets per year.

The Incubation Period

There will be a residential place available for all founders. This may not be a big deal in other climes but here in Lagos, having a place where you have 24 hours light is luxury.

Providing only an office that has the resources is not enough when most of your founders will be spending 4 hours daily commuting and most likely will be operating at 50% capacity during “office hours”.

For the 3-4 months incubation period, every other distraction will be taken care of. At least it will be an offer left for you to take or not depending on circumstance.

Scope and Funding

Once of my biggest criticisms of African incubators is that they do not begin with the end in mind. They have this idea of holding on to the startup from the beginning to IPO. I view the startup funding funnel more like an assembly line. Before starting, it has to be clear who you want to hand over to and pitch those people before you start. After hand off, you move to the next batch.

Y Combinator’s accelerator program ends with them handing over to Venture Capitalists and Seed investors on demo day. Were I to do an incubator, my plan will be to hand over to the accelerators and that means discussing with the likes of YC, TechStars and co before I start to know the type of metrics and growth that will get them interested.

Sometimes, the startup might scale beyond your next planed step. In that case you work and hand them to the VCs. But at worst they have great accelerators to be handed over to.

For the above to work, there has to be a clearly defined time scope. If startups think they can stay forever they will work like they have a cushion. Like strict and loving parents, they have to know the nest is available for just 4 months. That’s it. It would help them have an urgent mindset. It does not mean after 4 months you kick them out in the rain if they are stuck.

Equity and Financing.

Off my head I am looking to spend $25-35k per startup for 10% “founder shares”. $15-20k cash and $10-15k for facilities/operational expenses depending on team size. I think it is fair because we’ll be acting as co founders taking practically the same risks as founders.

For the funding of such a scheme, we’d will be looking to raise about $2 million that will last over 4 classes (5 startusp per class) and 2 years. A fraction of the money (say $100k) would come from the partners, much more(say $400k) from the promoter i.e me and the rest, from strategic Limited Partners. e.g Venture Capital firms and accelerators interested in deal flow and say telco companies interested in not being left behind.

Raising money from external parties is the hardest part. But then, that’s why we have the finance person in the startup :). Also see epilogue.

A Quick Example.

Idea

Funding a startup that wants to build an on-demand platform for building artisans (painters, plumbers, etc). Customers request jobs and the startup gets a trained artisan to do the job and takes a part of the revenue.

Founder Selection

The team would need to have someone that can build the platform but more importantly, a person that has practical industry experience. Say whose parent or self is/was an artisan, or has experience in the industry e.g has worked in a building maintenance company.

If we do not see such a person applying we’ll seek them out. Maybe someone doing such a business on an analogue scale or sweet talk that person out of their building maintenance job where they do all the work but the owner takes all the upside.

I am not saying a founder without such experience cannot learn on the job. I just believe the risks of failure are much higher without practical experience.

Scope

Our work as an incubator is to ensure that at the end of 4 months, there is traction which we’ll define in revenue terms before the class starts.

In the first few days, we will work with the founders to define the scope. e.g focus on painters and painting jobs in Lagos.

As a product person in conjunction with our tech partner (say Ope Obembe), in two weeks, we can work hands on with the technical guy to get the version one of the platform ready. Our operation partner say Mark Essien (top lad) will work with the operational co founder to work on recruiting 5 painters that will execute the first jobs and maybe a strategy for scaling recruitment and training.

Everyone will work hand in hand to get the first set of jobs.

At the end of the incubation period, we would expect that 30-40 painting jobs must have been done with say 8 new jobs a week coming through and growing weekly. Growth is extremely important.

That will be the core focus. That is what we will hand over to be accelerated. If per chance it is moving much faster, then we’ll seek higher level of funding or if sustainable, no funding at all.

It all depends on circumstance.

Mentors

After selection of such a startup, we’ll seek mentors that have experience in the building maintenance space. Say an executive in Berger Paints or someone that has executed on something similar in a different country like Adaora, the co founder of HomeJoy (no, she’s not Igbo) . Such people can be a source of finance or important strategic partnerships later on

This differs from the popular model of pooling mentors for the numbers before knowing if their skills will be relevant to the starups selected. Although someone that has scaled and exited a web hosting company is cool to have around, that experience is most likely irrelevant in the case of building an artisan on demand company.

Conclusion

The above captures the high level of my general idea. While still very theoretical and easier to write than execute, it is the way I’d try to do it if I were doing it.

Epilogue

My retirement plan was always to fund and run an incubator after my first exit. It is so much easier for two reasons, I would have the money to kick-start the process and secondly, I would have the authority and trust when speaking and convincing founders, potential investors, partners and most importantly myself.

But since that is taking much longer, I’ll brain dump my theory until it’s time :)

PS: Do check out Callbase, one of the products of the startup where I’m co founder.

Thanks to Ope, Banke and Mark for feedback.

6 comments | Categories: Startups, Technology | Tags: , , , ,

← Older posts