At first, it was exciting witnessing the rapid rise of startups in Nigeria. Lately, it's becoming saddening with copycats propping up everywhere adding little or no value to the consumer. The e-commerce industry is a ready example. There are so many only online shopping sites available now that apart from the Big Two[ Jumia and Konga], others are just struggling to get the trickle of users remaining.
It is very important that competition is highly needed if our Nigerian tech sphere is to rise in prominence as that Of The Silicon Valleys of the world but mere copycats will do no favour to the growth of the Nigerian startup community.
At the recent World Economic Forum held in Davos, Switzerland, Google chairman Eric Schmidt was quizzed about the "dominance" of certain tech monopolies, such as Facebook, Google and Apple who between them control the vast majority of the web and mobile internet. He said:
On the question of dominance, you now see so many strong tech platforms coming through and you're seeing a reordering, and a future reordering, of the leaders because of the rise of the app on the smartphone. ... all bets are off. We have a whole new set of players," he said.
The major question for the future, he said, was, "What are the apps that people are going to use? ... I view that as a completely open market at this point.
The admissions he made are vital clues to the ever-burgeoning startups in Nigeria. As noted by the Business Insider,
"And while Schmidt's answer wasn't exactly an admission that Google is going to crumble anytime soon, it did echo the thinking of some in the tech business who have noticed that smaller, specialist companies have begun slicing off niche chunks of Google's core business, or developing new search areas that Google has no access to".
These admissions by Schmidt align with the proposition made by Chris Anderson in his book, The Long Tail. He argued that copying the traditional monopolies may not be the only way to success. In fact, a lot of successes are to be found in the Power of The Long Tail: the act of finding micro and mini niches within a large market and dominating it completely.
So here is a clarion call:
To all startups and wannabe entrepreneurs trying to be the next Jumia or Konga with little or no resources, start small and be the best in a niche. Household items for example.
For startups trying to be the next travel app like Uber, focus on a particular niche and you will strike gold.
Lastly, while its important that we sometimes dream big and innovate away monopolies. Most times, starting small in a niche pays in the long run.
Over to you, Which mini or micro niche in a big industry can you dominate?