This is a guest post by By Olumide Olusanya, Dr, CEO and Founder, Nigeria’s biggest online supermarket.
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat!” —Theodore Roosevelt
Why would I be opening my very first blog post ever with such a long quote? It is because I have searched for over ten years—and will continue to search—but have still not found any other that best encapsulates the totality of what doing startups in Africa, and especially Nigeria, entails. To cut any portion of the quote out will take from it. Adding a single exclamation mark more will cause equal damage.
My purpose in choosing to begin to document some of my thoughts on this subject, similar to how others before me have started doing, is just so we can have a loudness of voices of DOERS in the technology ecosystem in Africa, and especially in Nigeria, to drown out the voices of the wingless fowls who have no farthing idea or clue as to what it REALLY means to do startups in Africa, and especially Nigeria.
I am not going to be talking about how to do startups following a Harvard MBA degree, as quite a number of the privileged “big guys” in this clime have. You begin to wonder if securing a foreign MBA that costs US$100,000+ and 18 months+ is the key qualification for doing something big in the tech space in Nigeria. US$100,000+ after discounting the costs of plane tickets, that is. (Why, by the way, would you go suffer, hunger, save and spend that much for such an education if you are already sold on the idea that tech business startup is WHAT you wanna do? Or is US$100,000+ not enough as starting point for a HUGE tech business?) Anyway, I would be flatly disqualified on that basis.
Neither am I going to be talking about doing startups with potentials for single digit million US$ exits. There is nothing exciting about that at all! No one deserves to face as much brutality and pain just for a single digit million US$ exit. Trust me—it is not worth the pain! (I dare say double digit million US$ exits too ain’t worth it as well.)
Furthermore, I will not be addressing this from the perspective of the professional critic whose only insight into doing startups in Africa is from what he gleans from binging on TechCrunch, PandoDaily, GigaOm and the like—most of which have no relevance WHATSOEVER to the very mortal nature of the combat of doing startups here in Africa. (You cannot even begin to guess how different and so far apart those startup terrains are from what obtains here in Africa, and especially Nigeria.)
And it will not be from the angle of the Conference Junkie—or Conference Hoe, if you prefer—the wannapreneur, the guy whose face you ALWAYS see at all those shitty conferences that have no semblance of having anything to do with technology business or startups on this side of the world.
Finally, I will not be doing this from the vista of the dude who is USUALLY the one you see on that stage at every Demo Day that is happening in town. (And even those happening out of town. Shit!) Collecting vanity awards left-right-center and all over the place that have nothing whatsoever to do with actually BUILDING something, nurturing it, and STAYING with it. Yes, you know yourself. YOU. YES, YOU!!!
So whose perspective will it be from? Stay tuned…for my next blog post in the new year 2014—the year of THE Gloo!