LAGbook recently hit the one million active user mark and launched social apps to let users have fun on the site. Arguably Africa’s fastest growing social network, the twin founders have not had a rosy journey as many would think as they had to juggle with school, hire staff, run a business and as well as live normal lives and fall in love.
Geeks have a life too, and TechMoran just found out what this guys lives are like away from the limelight, where they were born, who their parents and siblings are, what they have done before LAGbook and where they expect to be in the next few years.
What are your full names?
Our full names are Dominic Chidiebere Nwaogu, and Donatus Chikadibia Nwaogu, but we prefer Chidi Nwaogu and Chika Nwaogu, it’s shorter and cleaner.
Where do you come from?
We come from the Eastern part of Nigeria, from a place called Ubahi, Amumara, Ezinihitte Mbaise, Imo State.
Do you have siblings?
Yes, we do. We have an older brother Chinonso, and an older sister Amarachi.
What about your parents, are anyone of them programmers?
Oh no, our parents aren’t programmers. Our dad Chukwuemeka is an American-based businessman, and our mother Chinonyerem (nee Ahaiwe) is an ex-banker. My mother is a twin. She has a twin sister Ngozi. Our maternal grandfather Joshua Ahaiwe gave birth to four set of twins; three were boys and girls, while our mother and her twin sister were the only girl-girl twins.
How old are you two?
We are 22. A few months from today, we’ll be 23. We were born in Lagos-Nigeria on May 20, 1990. We were born premature 7 months, and 10 days. We had to live in the incubator for more than a month in order to survive.
What is your educational background?
For our primary education, we attended Princeton Junior School, Handmaid International Catholic School, and Nazareth School. For our secondary education, we attended Nigerian Navy Secondary School, where we graduated top of the class 2006/07; great experience. For our university education, we attended Imo State University, dropped out after two years to study Physics at University of Lagos.
Have you ever had any professional training in programming?
No, we haven’t. We attended a local computer training institute very close to where we lived. That was after our junior secondary school. We were trained in Data Processing, and that was all. We thought ourselves the rest. We read books and studied online. We thought ourselves everything we know about programming.
Why did you study Physics at University and not Computer Science?
That’s a really valid question. You see, Physics came to us naturally just as computers did. At the age of 12, my twin and I had already thought ourselves first principle differential calculus. We read almost every Physics-related textbook and encyclopedias in our school’s library. We were always found in the library reading, and skipped class to do it. We found self-education very exciting. At 17, we developed a cosmological theory based on Einstein’s theory of general relativity, and we called this theory ‘Space dragging’. In a nutshell, this theory suggested that cosmic acceleration is geodesic motion. At the same age, we received an offer from an American publishing house to publish our work, but we didn’t send it across. With our advancement in cosmology, we decided to study Physics at the University level, but our parents wanted us to be engineers, so we ended up studying Electrical and Electronics Engineering at Imo State University. When we decided to return to Lagos, we thought it was a perfect opportunity to study what we have always wanted; Physics. Our friends always told us that we will not find a degree in Computer Science from any Nigerian University useful, as they are mostly theoretical and not practical.
You created a computer game when you were 18, tell us about it?
When we returned to Lagos to take up the offer from University of Lagos, we found about the Game Maker software written by Mark Overmars. The software allowed programmers develop computer games for Windows using the Game Maker language which is an advanced form of BASIC. Within two months, my twin and I had already learnt this language, and the following month, we created our first computer game which we called ‘Save The Admiral’. We uploaded the game for free. My twin and I are working on a 3D computer game to be published under the game house 2bro, which we hope to release later in the year. The company should have been called Naija Arts, but we decided to change the name to 2bro to attract a wider audience, not necessarily Nigerians.
You are writing a romance novel called Thando; can you tell us more about it?
Yes, we are writing a romance novel. I am the narrator, but the novel is written by my twin [Chidi] and I [Chika]. The novel is about Chika, a young Nigerian computer programmer who fell in love with a fairly educated bartender and teenage single mother Olivier Linduthando Zinhle during his brief visit to South Africa briefly in search of venture capitalists to fund his booming internet venture. In the past, Chika had never loved anything more than his ambition to become a Silicon Valley billionaire. This has been the fuel behind the halt of his previous relationships.
The Plot: The word “Love” has never meant a thing to Chika, a young Nigerian computer programmer who was only in love with his ambition and quest to becoming a silicon-valley billionaire. Fate catches up with Chika on his first visit to South Africa in search of a venture capitalist to support his booming internet venture.
Falling in love with a pretty girl might have been something Chika saw coming, but …falling in love with a fairly educated single teenage-mother who spends her entire night tending a cheap bar in Cape Town was something Chika never saw coming.
All that Chika had never believed in, and wrote off in the past became the things he did and loved the most, including the idea of a “blended family”.
Here’s a short excerpt from the forthcoming novel:
“She told me, ‘I will not let go of your jacket. If you leave me, at least I’ll have something that belongs to you’. I felt so guilty because I was going to leave her for Uganda. I knew it was just for a couple of days, at most, a week. But, will she believe me? If only that stupid man didn’t walk over her in the past, she may have learnt to trust people. So I slipped my phone into my jacket she was putting on, since she told me she’ll be keeping it. I wanted to be sure that I’ll return; if not for her, at least for my phone. I knew someday I’ll be back for information on my phone.”
We’ve been invited to the Bayelsa Book and Craft Fair to take place this April in Bayelsa-Nigeria. We will be speaking about our new career path to hundreds of Nigerian writers including Wole Soyinka, Gabriel Okara, JP Clark, Femi Osofisan, Chukwuemeka Ike, Mobolaji Adenubi, Akachi Adimora-Ezeigbo, Leslye Obiora, Odia Ofeimun, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, and Olu Obafemi. Our speech will be moderated by the publisher of DADA Books Ayodele Arigbabu, who may eventually publish the Thando novel.
LAGbook recently reached the one million member milestone, can you share with us the untold story behind LAGbook, and its success?
We would have founded LAGbook with a college dorm roommate Anayo Ughamadu. But Anayo was satisfied with the epileptic growth of his new dating website. We had just sold our 50% stakes of the dating website to him, and he was enjoying being the total benefactor to all profits. My twin [Chidi] had already brainstormed an idea to create an exclusive social network for students of our University. The social network is to be called LAGbook, fancy form for Ladies And Gentlemen book. The global idea was to create a social network were students of University of Lagos could unwind, mix, connect with one another, and share their daily experience on campus. The idea was perfect. Everything was in set, but one thing was missing, and that was fund. We had to pay $990 USD to get the network started, and we didn’t have it. Anayo did, but he refused to fund the LAGbook project. He claimed he didn’t have the money to; that his entire fund has been exhausted on the dating website, but as time ticked, he spent more than $1,000 USD on his dating website and a social network we created for him PalzCity. Unfortunately, the dating website came to a halt, and the entire 100% was equal to nothing. SingleTreasures was eventually shut. After a few months of running PalzCity and SingleTreasures, Anayo returned to us to acquire PalzCity for a 33.3% stakes of LAGbook. We refused. We offered him 33.3% of LAGbook if we acquired PalzCity, and he invested some money into LAGbook over a limited period. He wasn’t able to meet up with the offer, so we acquire PalzCity then for 9% of LAGbook, which today has been diluted to just 0.26% of LAGbook. Getting to one million members was a no-brainer. We advertised, and appealed to users to invite their friends to join us so they could meet friends of their friends, and connect with even more people, and eventually a million people signed-up within ten months. That’s all!
Do you have any project you’ve worked on in the past?
Before LAGbook, we created a dating website called SingleTreasures with a college dorm roommate Anayo Ughamadu. SingleTreasures wasn’t a fast growing community. A lot of money was spent. The community made it to Yahoo! News, but the signups wasn’t encouraging. After the creation of LAGbook, we created a microblogging community we called OyaFollowMe. OyaFollowMe allowed its users create free accounts and follow their interests, while other users follow them in return. It was a very sophisticated tool, because it allows users share videos, photos, and music files along with their micro-updates, and allowed them join groups.
Unfortunately, we were not able to keep it running simultaneously with LAGbook. There weren’t enough funds for that, so OyaFollowMe had to shut down after attracting over 20,000 registered members. We also created a web search engine called WebsFinda. WebsFinda lived for only a year, and we shut it down for reasons unclear to us at this moment. Recently, we created a dating website much like SingleTreasures, but much more sophisticated. We called it DateSteady. DateSteady was the greatest blunder in our internet entrepreneurial career. DateSteady shut down only after six days from launch after exceeding its monthly bandwidth by a very large percent. The money needed to keep DateSteady online was so much; it didn’t make enough sense to us to run it, when it didn’t give us that much in return. LAGbook was the only project we created that lived to celebrate three years on the World Wide Web. At the moment, we are working on new projects such as 2bro, a video game development company that will develop video games for platforms like Android, iOS, Mac OS, Windows, and HTML5.
What’s your advice to anyone out there wanting to be like you two?
Figure out what you are good at that many people aren’t. Once you’ve figured it out, do it, and never do it for free.