Why most Nigerian founders might be wrong about entrepreneurship

by | Jul 20, 2016

I grew up imagining how the life a founder would look like, hoping someday I could be one myself. If you observe, I used the word “hoping” because at that time, I was almost certain being a founder of an organisation wasn’t any easy task. As I thought, it comes with acquiring the best grades in school, attending multiple seminars, having a range of impressive certificates in your portfolio to backup the tag of being an entrepreneur etc. In all of this, what even impressed on me the most was how a founder or an entrepreneur deals with huge staff payroll month on month. Putting all of this together, my admiration for founders grew even deeper.

Today, all of those aren’t exactly prerequisites to becoming a founder. And it’s a whole different story completely with the emergence of Startups in the technology space. Even with a tacky business idea, backed with sizeable resources to throw around, one can already start looking forward to being called a founder in no time while having no real office space.

Just yesterday here I got talking to a founder of a promising startup while heading home together, and we took the moment to discuss a lot about the ecosystem and what the future would look like based on happenings today.
Of the many things he mentioned during the course of the conversation, one particular case scenario where a founder here in Nigeria packed his stuffs and relocated to the US struck me the most. For a moment, I felt this pulsating twinge in my head for asking myself the question “why on earth would a startup founder quit and opt for a regular job?”

But then it’s not so surprising given that these days there seems to be more of this trend than ever before. I should stress that by virtue of having what we call a startup, a team can comprise of just one member. As, we’d have it, there are a lot of them in this space to even save ourselves the need for counting. For those operating co-working spaces, you need only look around to find that vacant seat previously occupied by a founder as an attestation to this fact.

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The misguided belief that entrepreneurship  is a gateway to wealth

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In answering my own question let’s consider this interesting lines of thought I borrowed from Victor Asemota on one of his Facebook post.

In his words “People make the mistake of thinking that there is ALWAYS a direct correlation between wealth and entrepreneurship, I tell them that if you plot the data points of all failures, there is probably MORE correlation between failure and entrepreneurship.”
This takes us back to one of many root causes. A lot of us seem to have forgotten the core values of entrepreneurship that emphasises hard work, diligence, sacrifice, a sense of responsibility, thirst for quality innovation etc. It’s quite sad that these days a lot of founders are living under misguided belief that entrepreneurship is a quick way to wealth, so much so that they fail to consider the necessary valuable metrics essential for running their business.

The situation for some is just as bad as not knowing what they want and worse still, believing that they’d figure it out as time goes on. Time of course is an essential ingredient in keeping a startup afloat, but it’s also a curse when you consider that their working DNA requires them to scale faster than lightning bolt.
We may agree on some things like how the degrading educational system for instance isn’t helping matters or the general frustration arising from the unhealthy business climate in Nigeria. However a few ones have done it right in spite of the ubiquitous challenges

To shed further light on this, CEO of Paga, Tayo Oviosu shares in his thoughts in this tweet.

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Say he was mean, agreed. Call it a subtle slight on upcoming founders, perhaps 95% is a wide disparity and a full blown exaggeration, whatever. For me, I couldn’t agree any better with it.
In my own case, I get feature requests from startups a lot of times and, upon running a background check, the disappointing ending even dumbfounds someone with little or no background in tech let alone a seasoned techie.

Surprisingly, some are barely a month old. Instead of focusing on learning the ropes in their chosen niche market so as to deliver quality customer experience, they crave publicity and attention. I can imagine where that road leads, but “good luck” with that I can say as they head further down that road.

Conclusion

If there’s one thing I learned about entrepreneurship, even as a child, it’s that it begins with the passion, followed by a tenacious spirit to weather any arising challenges. Of course it’s about the money, but it’s also about adding real value.

Evidently, the startup space in Nigeria is a bubble waiting to burst. So for this reason we would still see the emergence of a lot founders (hungry). However, that’s where it gets tricky. The illusion that startups are an easy way to wealth draws a lot of founders in so much that the market then becomes fairly saturated, and as the competitive forces naturally begin to dictate how things should work, it becomes a real race for survival. Over time the unfit ones tend to fall by the way, leaving only the entrepreneurs that have got what it takes to last in a very competitive and unfriendly landscape like Nigeria. Their progress, represented by tiniest bit of the bubble, will be scattered across and the real returns will then set in.

Tayo Oviosu’s tweet may perhaps be opinion based, but if you think you’re amongst the 5% doing it right kindly raise your hand up.

Ifeanyi is a desk reporter-turned administrator. Outside of work, I love to read and travel.

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