Goodbye Coventry! Hello Birmin'g'ham!

I have left Coventry for good, I have moved to Birmingham!

Moving was hectic, in trying to be economical (I saved about 40 pounds), I had to make 3 trips from Coventry to Birmingham carrying about 5 heavy bags each time. but it would have been a lot harder without having my man Jude, drop me at Coventry train station on two occasions. Thank you sir!

Why I left

I have several reasons for leaving Coventry, top of the list that nothing happens in Coventry. If London is Lagos, then Coventry is Benin. Without the University (in my case Warwick) Coventry might as well be sold to France. Ok, enough of the slamming of Coventry. It is not that bad it used (I get am before no be propati) to be the centre of manufacturing but since the rise of China, everything manufacturing has gone to the far east. Poor ‘Coventrians’!

The actual reason I moved is that Joel and I were looking for an ideal Internet startup base to launch OnePage from (outside London) and Coventry was high on the list but to do that, we needed other startups in the area. Like Paul Graham said, Startups need other startups around to thrive. I tried pushing for a startup hub centred around Warwick University but as time went on, I realised I had neither the muscle nor the time required. So I knew my time in Coventry was up.*

*Of course i will be coming to Warwick at the slightest opportunity, I love that Uni!

Deciding on Birmingham.

When I wrote the blog post “What is wrong with the UK startup scene?" I got to know of Entrepreneurs for the future exactly what I was trying to push for. It came in the form of a comment from Simon Jenner  (you see why you should always blog your thoughts?). The Birmingham City council is trying to stimulate the region buy supporting startups. So the possibility of being with other startups was the first motivation of considering moving to Birmingham. There are also a lot of Internet activities going on in the area; Multipack, Birmingham Social Media CafeBirmingham Bloggers, to mention a few) .Secondly, I thought I should move to a city. Birmingham is the second biggest city in the UK by population (although 10 times smaller than London). So it was a worthy consideration.

Why not London?

London is too expensive! Although I could have got a moderately priced place ‘near’ London, it would not be London. I have always believed if you live in a city, you should live in the city, not nearby. e.g Kubwa is NOT Abuja, no, ‘Redeemed camp area’ is NOT Lagos. Luckily I live near the city centre in a place called Digbeth. Though it is in a formerly rugged part, I can walk to the City centre! I look on the bright side 🙂

Another reason Birmingham appeals to me is that it is small enough to create the family startup scene I have always dreamed of. Since the people of Birmingham are serious, let us see how we can get this city on the European startup map.

Some observations.

  • There are about 2 Chinese restaurants and 4 pubs for every person in Birmingham. Seriously.
  • It is quite cool when your local shopping area is Bull Ring (I have noticed some coded areas like the Rag Market though) and you pass where they audition for X-Factor on the way to your local pub.
  • My I stay about 30 seconds walk away from St Annes Catholic Church. My problem is not that they might be having revival at 1am but that I will have no good excuse for missing mass!
  • We (yes we) have two Clubs in the Premier league (Aston Villa and Birmingham City) . I now have a chance of seeing my Man U when they are in town!

Joel will be moving in form Sheffield in the next few day. I would like you all to wish him the best of luck. It takes great courage to decide to live with Oo for ANY length of time.

So anytime you are in Birmingham, give your boy a holla, I will come meet you up. I mean Birmingham, not near Birmingham.

What is wrong with the UK Startup scene?

Where is the HUB?This post was initially  titled “Where should the startup hub in UK be? Hint: NOT London!” of which the central theme was; although London is the hub of internet technology in UK, it should not be because of the high cost of living which eliminates startups between idea and Y Combinatior graduation stage (product fitness). I also stated that because of the importance of a living community tied to Universities like that which exists in the Valley (Stanford and Berkley), London is NOT conducive, as the Universities there are deep inside the city. I tried to propose a hub location by comparing Cambridge, Oxford, London, and Warwick (my University). While researching for my write up, I realized that there are greater challenges to the UK start-up scene than having a main hub .

Before going on, it is important to note why I am in a great position to write this post.

  • I am a foreigner (Yes, I am Nigerian), therefore I have no bias.
  • I have followed the ‘UK start-up scene’ quite closely for a while (1 year)
  • I have just begun my startup OnePage so I have firsthand experience of what is like creating a startup in the UK

I will itemize the factors working against the UK startup community thereafter suggest my solutions to the challenges I have listed.

Continue reading “What is wrong with the UK Startup scene?”

So you want to school in Jand eh?

I had previously posted this on UKnaWAH, the forum for Nigerians in the UK, to talk about their experiences to help each and every one of us in this land. Unfortunately, it did not take off. This post is targeted at those coming down for the first time and might be useful to those that have visited but not schooled in the UK. The suggestions are from my own perspective i.e Male, Warwick University MSc JJC. DO NOT take it as authoritative.

So you have made it to JD, congrats!  Well, this list is a combination of what I would do if I am coming again, (in no order) and some things you should just know.

  1. I would buy all my clothes in Yaba! Not necessarily Yaba but in Nigeria. Clothes are cheaper in Nigeria because they come from China directly. Don’t worry about buying clothes that are good but mass supplied in Nigeria because they will not be here. e.g. I have not seen one Hackett shirt (which was in vogue when I left) since I arrived a year ago.
  2. I would attend orientation: coming late did not help when trying to integrate. JJC no good. It is better to be ‘jambiteish’ when everyone around is.
  3. I would learn how to cook: Believe me, the sweet sound of sausage, ham, baked beans e.t.c is highly overrated. In one week, you will long for your home food and you have to cook it.
  4. I would learn how to cut hair: Spending 12 pounds to cut your hair every week is not the best use of money. Believe me, cutting your hair is not that hard.
  5. I would plan my December holiday immediately I arrive: I waited till December to attempt planning my holiday for December. Unfortunately, having a Nigerian passport is not the best if you want to travel at shortest notice. In December, it is virtually impossible to get a visa appointment and it is about 4 weeks to process a visa.
  6. I would learn how to write an academic document: Believe me, if you want to survive here, you better learn how to reference and write academic documents. PLAGIARISM of any sort (you will be amazed what is termed plagiarism here) is not accepted. Don’t worry there is no other way but to learn how to reference. It will save you a lot of time.
  7. I would attend all social events in the early days (with flat and class mates), it is important to mix early…after bonds have been formed, it is difficult to break in.
  8. I would NEVER buy any winter/long term attire from PRIMARK…I swear, I did not know better, my men Emma and Uche mislead me.  It is best to buy all your long term things from quality places
  9. I would join as many club and societies. The amount of skills to learn are enamous. For Warwick students, I would recommend PhotoSoc, Warwick Entrepreneurs and Warwick sports.
  10. I would apply for jobs early! Entries for the next year vacancies close by October.
  11. I would buy a Lebara or Lyca mobile line. Most of your early calls will be to home (Nigeria). It is the most economical and smart decision to make. Take you time and choose a contract that appeals to you later on.
  12. I would get my international driver’s lisence from home. You can drive for a year with it.
  13. I would stay off campus (if i do not get Tocil). You can save as much as 40 percent of on Campus rent.
  14. I would ensure I forget the conversion rate from pounds to Naira. I almost did not eat for the first week cos two slices of bread (you might call it sandwich) cost  at least 2 p0unds i.e N500
  15. I would buy all the software I need from the good old computer village. Believe me, just do it.

This is an article in progress. I will update it as I receive comments and I remember more things.

Oo, KCOB, MSc (Warwick)