In simple terms, GNBO would not kill Nigerian web hosting and co because of the following reasons.
The only new thing Google is doing is giving one year of free domain name registration, the other offerings have always been free (Google Sites, Google Apps and the the hosting that comes with both of them). So if the only website you can design is similar to a Google site template, then you might be in trouble… for one year. The domain names in question are only .com.ng domains too. We should also remember that Google does not offer any personal support therefore it can be rightly argued that Google is essentially developing the market for others to harness.
However there is a bigger question Loy should be trying to raise. What are Google’s intentions with this initiative? Is it as charitable like they market it? Nope.
Therein lies my problem with Google. They market pure capitalist strategies as charitable initiatives.
For instance, Google is presently sponsoring broadband in a number of Nigerian universities. Their aim is simple, get as many people online. The more people on the Internet, the greater reach for their on line advertizing inventory. Yup, while getting them online, get them using gmail and other Google properties. Same as with the free domain name/website/rs to hosting initiative, they get an awesome local directory listing while getting local businesses online
So you see, these ‘freebies’ are purely intelligent capitalist initiatives. I get offended when they are pitched otherwise. These investments will not pay off now however in a few years they will. It is obvious Africa is the next frontier for growth and in a competitive world, he who wins Africa, tips the scale. In the marathon of world web domination, Google is essentially breaking out from the pack that is still milking whats left in the west, while they Google sprint towards the finish line which is Africa and other ‘developing’ countries.
Do not get me wrong, I do not believe the deal Google offers is unfair in both the broadband and domain name cases, they are. All I ask is that Google stops pitching them as charity.
Mobile Payments will take off: The Central Bank of Nigeria has given licence to companies to effect mobile payments. Although we will be playing catch up, it will be at a rapid pace. It will herald real ecommerce in Nigeria. Watch out for PagaTech; When 3 Stanford graduates are in a market, expect some exciting competition. Watch out Interswitch.
Broadband Price crash:MainOnefibre has landed, GLO one I assume has too. NigComSat will send a communication satellite to space this year. The way the price of bandwidth will crash while increasing in capacity will be unprecedented in the world.
Twitter and Facebook Protests:It is election year in Nigeria and like the Iranians, Nigerians will shout fire and brimstone (online) if the results do not go their way. Attempts will be make to co ordinate protests via social media. It will be interesting.
Eastside vs Westside:Like Mr Sesan said, there will be a more pronounced rivalry between east Africa (Kenya) a and West Africa (Nigeria) about who is supreme. Nigerians would believe being the ‘giant of Africa’ they should be regarded as number one even though Kenya has the achievements that can be pointed to. Hopefully the competition and rivalry will be healthy.
Reforming NIRA:The .ng issue will blow up this year and the regulators NIRA will be reformed. .ng will be sold at a normal price. (more on this in the coming days)
Less Clones, more startups: With more people knowing how to program and with mobile payments, will see people start creating real startups. We have actually startedalready
More Blogging. Contrary to what my man Gbenga Sesan thinks, Blogging will be on the rise. It will be consist of Picture and Micro blogs. Posterous and Tumblr will be the friends of Nigerians.
Internet Security: Nigeria will start paying attention to internet security. As I was typing this, I saw the report of the defacing of the Kenyan websiteby a hacker. Nigerians will use their new found programming knowledge to test their might. What better way to do it than to test the authorities. Also, the advent of mobile payments will make the compromising of security more attractive.
International Tech Visitors: Mobile payments, better broadband, more startups, mobile penetration, and Nigerian topics trending on Twitter Globally, we will see Global companies taking note of Nigeria as usage of their apps will see a surge from this parts. We will see SeedCampand co looking towards this side of the world. Google, Microsoft and co will start paying more attention to the developer community. More exciting international events will be held here.
Global renowned Nigerian founded startups: Watch out for Identified, BookNeto, Precurio, Lotaar (mine:) , and some more startups by Nigerians that will make a mark globally.
Nigerian Porn sites:As a result of the broadband crash and improved bandwidth, people will now put scarce media content online. 🙂
Government censorship: The internet will invade the country like never before and the government will be caught unawares. They will try to respond by passing some ill thought out laws.
If you are interested in penetrating the market of the future, NOW is the time. If you are Nigerian, it is time to come home.
This was a very hard post to write. I wrote and deleted it several times. Reason being, issues about race is complicated and can easily be misinterpreted and have an unwanted outcome. I eventually made my decision to publish after reading the post A Fix for Discrimination: Follow the Indian Trails by Prof Vivek Wadhwa on Techcrunch
Because of the complexity, I would like to make the following statements before proceeding.
Please read to the end before deciding to comment
I will use people and institutions to illustrate my points. I am NOT directly or indirectly accusing them of anything. They are just examples.
My stats are not 100% accurate but are good enough to get my point across. If you notice any error, please bring it to my attention.
Now to the post.
Do you know of any renowned Internetcompany/startup with a black founder? (please note I specifically said Internet.)
Now my description of renowned will be subjective so I will explain what I mean. I mean an Internet company that is mainstream, known around the world, maybe used by millions and possibly profitable. From Google, to Yahoo, Twitter to Tweetdeck, to Posterous, to WordPress to BrightKite to PayPal to SlideShare to Skype to Spotify to YouTube to Amazon to Lastfm to DropBox to Facebook, to Hi5 to Farmville to any of the scores of web apps I use daily monthly or yearly (go ahead and add the web apps you use). I do not know of ONE with a Black Founder!*
*That was until I stumbled upon Michael Seibel (pictured above), the CEO of Justin.TV. I wrote most of this post before I found about him on a Black Enterprise (not mainstream) website. Most of my arguments remained unchanged.
Where I have checked for black founders
I have read thousands, yes thousands of articles from the biggest Technology blogs (TechCrunch, Mashable, ReadWrteWeb, GigaOm) covering Internet companies and I am yet to come across one article covering a startup with a black founder. (Please note that there might have been some published on a day I did not read.)
I have followed TechCrunch50’s and a 40, LeWeb, DEMO and other competitions startups, yet to see a single one there too. (There might be one or two among the hundreds but I am yet to come across them.)
I have seen the stars come out from incubators like YCombinator, Techstars and SeedCamp and I am yet to see a black founder among the renowned ones (except Justin.TV so far.)
I have read books (e.g. Founders at Work by Jessica Livingston, The Stories of Facebook, YouTube and myspace by Sarah Lacy, The Google Story, etc) that document the stories of scores of startups featuring hundreds of characters but I cannot recollect a black character in any of the stories
I have gone through the interview archive (I’d guess over a hundred interviews) of Mixergy, the awesome site that interviews lots of startups founders but have not crossed an interview of a successful black Internet startup founder.
Although it is reported that In 2008, blacks constituted only 1.5% the Valley’s tech population, I would rule out discrimination. This is not a white/black issue, it is a Black-everybody else issue. The founder of eBay, Pierre Omidyar is Persian, That of Admob, Omar Hamoui is Syrian. The founder of SlideShare is both a woman and an Indian so she is a minority (in US) on both counts. There are several other women and minorities (at least in US) that have been able to create world class startups too. Secondly, based on my experience in the UK, the ground is as level (racially) as can be.
Some of my observations.
It seems the blacks are generally just not interested in the Internet. I have organized and participated in several startup events in the UK and on several occasions, I have been the only black person there. Other times, we have been 3 among over a hundred. Now these events are absolutely open to EVERYONE. When I created Warwick Internet Startups, a group to promote Internet Enterprise, I told all my friends majority of whom are black but yet at the end of the day two of them came ONCE, and disappeared afterwards.
The ones that do some interesting stuff hide. I know quite a few Nigerians are behind some really ambitious and impressive projects yet they refuse to show their faces in their websites and I will call them out now I have the chance. HopStop the New York journey planner founded by Chinedu Echeruo, Zetatype the software keyboard company founded by Obi Nwosu, Social Cubix social media app development company founded by school mate, Udoka Uzoka. Guys, why do you hide your faces on your wonderful creation. I will dedicate a full blog post to why it is important you show your faces.
There are certain fields where a race dominates, like blacks do in rap music (but they have my man Eminem) Whites in Rock music and Winter sports
Here is my counter argument: Their audience is dominated by that race (based on cultural and geographical reasons). The same cannot be said for the Internet. EVERY RACE USES THE INTERNET EQUALLY
There are historical inequalities that have put blacks on the back footing.
I agree that historical issues might be at play in some of the educational imbalance but I have to disagree that is the case on the web. The Internet is the only medium that has allowed people from any background to make it big on the web; it is one of the few places meritocracy plays it big. Asides that, there are quite a lot of stories of foreigners who arrived the US rather poor and unequal. Take the examples of Gurbaksh Chahal and Indian immigrant and Max Levchin a Ukrainian Immigrant who are founders of BlueLithium (which sold to yahoo $300 million in cash) and PayPal (which sold for 1.5 billion) respectively.
It interesting to note that there are black people that have very high positions in internet companies. David Drummond is the Chief Legal officer for Google, Trevor Johnson is the Head of Strategy and Planning at Facebook, Tristan Walker is the star VP of business development at Foursquare Not counting the thousands of great black programmers in Facebook, Google, Yahoo, etc. There are numerous black successful entrepreneurs like Farrah Gray so why not the internet?
Should there be a quota system for startups with black founders?
I really do not know which is why I am raising this. Prof Vivek pointed out that the Indians have a mentorship system Contrast that with the mentorship system for Indians (The Indus Entrepreneurs) in place where people like Vinod Khosla helped the younger Indian entrepreneurs). In the same article he put up a link for the black mentorship group in the valley (100 black men on Silicon valley). that is not too encouraging. Asides the fact that excludes women (at least in name). I cannot see any success story on the site. There are no events holding that would attract me as an ambitious startup founder.
This is VERY important to me.
As a black Internet startup founder (OnePage) I am well within my domain raising this up. I am sure I am not the only person that has wondered these same thoughts but it is only a black person that can bring it up with the least chance of it being misunderstood.
many years ago back in Nigeria when I first had the ambition of being an Internet entrepreneur, the first thing I looked for was a Nigerian doing something online whom I could aspire to emulate, there was none. I later discovered there was not even a single black man. Contrast this to music where there are people like Jay Z to look up to.People may not realize the importance for young people in having a role model (near or distant). It is quite tough when you observe ‘your type’ has not successfully travelled the road you are about to begin a journey on.
Are There Renowned Internet Startups With Black Founders?
People I would really like to get a response from
Prof Vivek who does a lot of research on Internet Startups and made me finally spit this out.
As much as writing this makes I feel like a ‘hater’, I think this post is necessary. I am really getting tired of seeing posts about how Twitter is going to save Iraq, Africa, and the world. I wonder why this start up is being shoved down our throats. I think it is hi time we looked through all the hype.
How does Oprah joining twitter become news? Did Oprah getting a Facebook page become news? Why is it that every movie or music star joining or not joining Twitter makes the news?
Twitter does not count as a revolutionary tech/web product. To be, it has to drastically change our lives and create real industries. I will mention a few.