Why your Startup is bound to fail in Nigeria and what to do about it

by | Mar 30, 2016

I have always wondered what makes a new tech product win, especially in Nigeria. Why are there so many failed startups in Nigeria ? Is there something everyone is doing wrong ?

What would you do differently if you realized only 1 out of 10 new product introductions result in a profitable business? Would you continue to operate the same way, week after week, year after year? The surprising fact is that companies large and small, established corporate giants as well as brand new startups, fail in 9 out of 10 attempts to launch their new products. They unnecessarily burn through capital or run out of ideas as they try to force their new products into markets where no one is waiting to buy. Yet time and again they all return to the same processes that produce failure.

Some product disasters have become the stuff of legend:


  • OpenApps: Introduced by members of CcHub in 2013, the site had over 30 million collective visits in 1 month of launching. OpenApps planned to provide open market intelligence on Internet users behaviour in Nigeria. We can say they had users, what happened ?
  • Kuluya Games: The gaming company was valued at $2 million in 2013 ( yes you read that right ). We can say they had money, what happened ?
  • FirstPayLink by First Bank, PayWithCapture by Access Bank, are some examples of bank initiatives to provide multi-platform internet payment gateways. Why haven’t these products caught on with Nigerians? They have the capital to burn, users whom they can cajole, so what happened ?

There are several other examples that fit this category and somehow I feel you have made up your own list too.

So back to the question, what makes a Nigerian tech product succeed or fail ? I really do not know the answer, but let’s sample what some founders and community members are saying.


So how do you gather enough users to scale the threshold, to move from being NollywoodLove on YouTube to being the today’s iROKOtv?

Get your friends, family and employees to use. If you can’t convince people you know how do want to convince people you don’t know ?

In the end, you need to get just one thing right – the users. Users who will come back to use your product and who would tell others about it.

Photo Credit: Matthew Kenwrick via Compfight cc

Rufai Mustapha
Rufai Mustapha

Self taught software engineer with vested interest in building clean and scalable systems. Enthusiastic about impact of tech in Nigeria/Africa.

Gentle guy around the corner, not a geek. CS undergraduate at OAU.

On January 22, 2022, be part of the largest gathering of innovators, startup founders, thinkers, programmers, policymakers, and investors in West Africa. Register free.

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Ayodeji Ademola Agboola
Ayodeji Ademola Agboola
5 years ago

As a startup founder myself, I’d say one of the biggest reasons why startups by small boys and large companies fail is because we end up building the wrong product. It’s incredibly easy to build the wrong product because skills are plentiful, money is also sometimes plentiful, and users can also be plentiful.

A lot of assumptions are made, no proper prior information investigation carried out hence theories aren’t tested before we rush into the build. Why? Cos we want to hit the market first.

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