We’re Giving Out a Million Naira to Discover the Next Great Nigerian Startups.

Summary: Techcircle is organizing a pitch competition holding on June 12 where the winner will go away with N1 000 000 – ONE MILLION NAIRA. All applicants will have a chance to put their startups in front of some prolific local and international investors from Japan. Apply now

For those that like long stories, read on.

In 2016, my man Shollsman – aka Shola Paystack reached out to me stating one of his investors wanted to visit our tech ecosystem and see “startups”.

I told him guy, I hope say e serious. This no be 2011 when oyibio on summer break go come gather men dem in the name of ‘I wan invest’, press us like who wan check which bread soft pass then leaving us all hanging.

He assured me his investor was legit serious and introduced me to Hiro Mashita of Japan.

I spoke to Hiro and let him know “hey, you have to commit something to show seriousness for the time these founders will be going away from their businesses to meet with you – hopefully, it leads to investments”.

We decided rather than force a promise of investment, putting up total prize money of $3000 was a good start – cos as the Japanese say, とても悪い – at all at all na im bad pass.

We had the pitch competition – which frankly was pipeline generation; Hiro and his team met with a bunch of startups that applied. The meetings were independent of going through the pitch competition.

Kangpe – Now Reliance HMO won the top prize and Furnish.ng won the popular prize (both startups are alive and well today and I want to believe the prize month made life easy then)

Hiro Mashita Presenting Femi Kuti with his Prize

Early this year Hiro reached out stating he wanted to visit again. In my mind, I was like “this is not 2014-16 when a bunch of twitter bio and conference panel investors came around held meetings and used our time to do research raise their funds.

So early in our conversation, I wanted to establish his true commitment to investing in Nigerian startups

“Hey Hiro, including Paystack how many of our startups have you invested in. Didn’t really hear back”

“Ahhh Oo. One moment.

So my west Africa portfolio currently is Paystack, Hotels.ng, BuyCoins (BitkoinAfrika), OMG Digital and Releaf”

“Very Niiiiice” I responded. Channelling my inner Borat.

Give or take, Hiro and team have put in ~ $1 Million (ONE MILLION US DOLLARS)  in our techosystem in less than 3 years and he’s told me he wants to double down in investing here.

To prove it, this time around he’s coming with more people including Yuzuru Honda CEO of a publicly traded Japanese company, FreakOut Holdings. They are on the hunt for startups of all stages – post-launch.

Beyond investing, they are looking to help in cross-pollinating (tech and market entry) our ecosystem with that of Japan and far Asia.

Therefore, if you are presently fundraising and open to meeting with Hiro and contingent, there are two ways to go about it.

Or if you are a bit further along and not interested in the pitch competition but would like to meet the team

If you run a co-working space, incubator/accelerator, fund etc. Send this to your portfolio.

The pitch competition will be held on 12th of June the details of the event will be coming up in a bit keep your eyes and ears open for the details.

Goodbye Medium: Re – Porting Back to Base

Roadblock

 

It’s been about 7 years since we all queued up for Ev’s new thing.  Wordpress was deemed clunky and Medium, the ish (we bin dey beg for invite that year o)

What’s changed? TIme.

More specifically, I got tired of not being in control.

Outsourcing your address on the web is a risky thing to do because any day, you can be kicked off that leased plot and you’d lose your audience (graph).

I don’t want to wait until a random change happens.

RSS and custom domains help insure against such things on third-party  platforms but Medium offers neither (custom domain names used to be, but is no longer supported)

Medium has also failed to innovate. For instance, you cannot publish a table on Medium. That’s crazy! and Almost zero levels of customization. I understand Ev is doing what’s best for his company. I’m trying to do the same.

In addition, I have some ideas I’d like to explore like writing different types of content in addition to regular posts.e.g. commentary on articles, quotes, images, etc. I am hoping this influences me to publish more often.

Please, subscribe to my RSS feed if you’re still old school like that 😉

PS: I’ll still post stuff on Medium just to let those there know say “na that side we dey o”

PPS: I definitely miss the gorgeousness that is Medium’s Editor.

Mark Zuckerberg’s Visit. Between Lagos and Abuja.

To preempt the 30th call and 100th message. Yes, I saw Zuckerberg. In Aso Villa, Abuja. No opportunities to picture. No space for conversations.

After the event, I saw first hand “big” men & women jumping stool to take picture. I even used my hand to block the CEO of a multi national who wanted to squeeze through. “Guy, calm down” I said to him 😂😂

The good thing about Aso Rock especially when a bigger man is around is, it becomes neutral ground. Men whose subordinates you’d happily wait hours to see become your equals.

After a while though, my guy signalled to me and we left the rowdiness.

Zuckerberg looked REALLY uncomfortable in the setting of politicians and was overheard saying “can we leave now? “.

Contrast that with the Lagos crowd where “small boys and girls” had great access and respect interacting with him. He felt quite comfortable with fellow comrades.

He clearly prioritizes the startup crowd. Which is good. Very good. 

Watching politicians and “big” people scramble to associate with a 32 year old boy they would not have allowed to blossom here in Nigeria filled me with shame and joy at the same time.

Then I realised that these people still do not get it. The young man they adore had subtly given a nod to where he knows the future lies. Iyin told them to their faces but they still cannot get it. A retired bank CEO would still be struggling to be the next Zuckerberg 😂.

Anyway, this long note is to explain to my many friends who somehow are sad they did not see me with Zuckerberg. Though I don’t get it, I really tried to get a selfie for y’all but it was just too rowdy. No be because person wan chop meat e go begin dey call cow broda.

Finally, tech is where the new power is if it was not clear before, it is now and I’ll keep trying to do my bit to ensure we get it.

I have to give a nod to Bosun, Femi and team who have built Cc Hub, which I believe singular most important factor that crystallized our techosystem.

 

PS: We will still address what we REALLY think of Mark’s visit to Nigeria.. sorry Sub saharan Africa, let us first milk and savor the benefits. There is a time and place for everything. besides, I am a criticism break. 

Aso Villa Demo Day. Hm…

Aso Villa Demo DayThese days, If one writes, they’ll say this trouble maker don start again. So I kept quiet on Aso Villa Demo Day (a day to showcase to the President the best of Nigerian technology).

However, this morning, the thought came to me, “Wait o… we have been clamoring for Bubu to take tech seriously, therefore this Aso Villa Demo Day is our one chance to  ‘convince him’ that tech is the future and that we here in Nigeria have the capacity to deliver on the promise.”

To the best of my knowledge, non comrades of our techosystem (I know, sounds so entitled and arrogant) have the mandate to decide our representatives. How we are viewed by the highest level of government depends on them. They are our representatives to the President. 

So looking through the list, I could see less than a handful of startups like GRIT Systems and RedBank folks tackling huge and important problems.  I could also see a number of “normal startups” e.g a different permutation of ecommerce startups you’d find in Lagos.

Looking further however, I see stuff like Egusi Soupe. And many other ”ideas” most likely thought off the cuff. I doubt much more than the pitching time was allotted to these ideas. Their only entries in Google search is from the press releases sent to various media outlets.

So how have these representatives of  Nigeria’s Tech possibilities been chosen? And by who? And with what criteria?

I would think if we’re pitching tech to the highest level of the country, we should be going for greatest impact. We should play our very best cards. Which I’d interpret as startups with the most feasible chance of directly impacting a minimum of 1 million people or creating/saving a minimum of a billion dollars. 

A second thing I’d champion if we in the techosystem had this opportunity would be to go out and recruit beyond the people that applied. For instance, I should expect a Tryctor, WeCyclers, something on the future of education, financial Inclusion etc to be among this list.

Finally, I would there should be a clear and realizable outcome from this rare August (september?) meeting with the President. Every startup should have their one ask which we would expect the President to mandate/champion instantly. This should instantly eliminate every “idea only”  entries which belong to hackathons and business plan competitions.

But what do I know?

I’ll conclude by referencing a favorite admonition of my man Bubu. 

“You Nigerian Technology Press should do more investigative journalism. Ask questions. Prod around. Basically, do your jobs. You’re the fourth estate”.

PS: I don’t intend to be harsh or overtly critical which is why I have my recommendations within the post. Hard questions must always be raised especially when it comes to government. No vex.