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Monday, 19 February 2018

Just Before you Approach Investors

It's Monday, the hustle and bustle has commenced in the streets of Lagos, Just stepping outside to get gas at the closest filling station to fuel my generator I got stuck in a 30 mins traffic, various thoughts immediately started swarming through my head; could this be startup founders running around seeking investors? (lol crazy right? I thought so too).  Immediately, I knew what I was going to talk about today.

Just before you approach Investors, chill and take a few steps back
So here's the deal, as startup founders we all have peculiar problems we're very passionate about solving, it often starts with an idea and then a prototype or MVP of some sort, which in turn leads to beta testing (private and/or public) and eventually market roll out. These different phases often require funds especially if you don't have all the necessary skills to achieve this.
In most western parts of the world (after watching silicon valley series of course, lol), Investors often in the likes of angel investors, etc can seed-fund business that are even just at the "IDEA" phase 'cause as Michael Seibel CEO of Ycombinator told me during one of our conversations; in the United States for instance investors are often scared of missing out on investing in the next "Facebooks" and as such will readily pull out funds to invest in what ever idea seems like the "next big thing".

In Nigeria, the tables are turned, and the conditions are different, Investors are scared about investing in wrong businesses that'll swallow up their funds (especially foreign investors) and as a result are usually very skeptical about investing yet alone at just the idea phase, plus recent happenings in the tech industry in Nigeria about companies shutting down / folding up are not helping.

And that's why I'll advice from my personal experiences, just before you approach Investors; do well to scale your business from just an idea to actually having paying customers. Do whatever it takes, bootstrap as much as you can, crowdfund from friends, family members etc, show that your idea is actually something that people want and you're ready to do whatever it takes to make it succeed, and just like I advised in my previous blog post (click here) identify alternative means of generating revenue that's independent of your online customers (at this time).
And then you can approach Investors.

Thank you for taking out time to read today's blog post, I hope it's really helpful, be good and never stop pursuing your dreams, stay consistent and till we meet again I remain Gerald Okonkwo.

Wednesday, 14 February 2018

If Only All Successful Founders Will Be Like Michael Seibel

I woke up today feeling more loved than ever; with the numerous amount of messages and emails I received, at this point it struck me; it was the "Valentine's Day Celebration. 
As curious as I'm always to see Nigerian's reactions during festivities, I logged on to my twitter account (@geraldokonkwo_ looking forward to meeting you on twitter 😆) to see what's going on with 'Twitter Nigeria' and I stumbled upon this mind blowing tweet (look below) from Michael Seibel (founder of Ycombinator);

Here's a tweet from Michael's Seibel founder; of YCombinator
What struck me more was the part where he said "helping each other is a core value in the tech Startup world". For some reason I was really excited that our 'egbons' (meaning elders in Yoruba language) in the Tech Industry are really excited about helping younger startup founders succeed, but my excitement was shortly met with a sad realization & reminder that Michael Siebel is in the United States and could be referring to helping startups there (don't correct me it's just an assumption)

My mind Immediately went to our very own "successful" (cause over here we count raising funds as success) founders in Nigeria; I remember personally reaching out to a lot of 'more successful' founders earlier on while  trying to figure things out with and they all seemed to be reluctant to help; one time I approached a very reputable founder loved from afar by everyone, wanting to find out how he's managed to solve certain challenges I was having at the time, and on meeting him, after greeting and introducing myself and what I do, his immediate response was "my friend is working on something like this already", I was astonished cause he didn't even wait to hear what the question was, again this is just one of many experiences I've had from 'bigger' founders in Nigeria, sent mails, text & Whatsapp messages I never got responses to, it goes on and on, and sadly this is the plight of many other startup founders around this region.
It begins to only seem like the 'successful founders' come and speak at events just for cheap press and never really care about startups or their founders cause it's what happens outside these events that really matters. This is one of the many reasons why I stopped attending startup or tech events.

How I feel when I approach successful founders for help and I'm turned down

The BIG QUESTION for me is what's the reason behind Successful founders finding it difficult to help other startup founders, is it fear of competition?, pride?, greed?, dues?,
I know there are a couple of exceptions but a large number don't and this has been a question I've been asking myself for a very long time, one of my motivations to start this blog was to help ask or answer many unasked & unanswered questions I hear founders ask during interactions.

I really do hope that Michael Seibel's comment today will spark a call to action to create a friendly Nigerian/African Tech Eco-System 'cause as far as I'm concerned we don't have an Eco-system, just a couple of friends and cliques in the Tech Industry who won't help anyone outside their circles.

Thanks for reading Today's blog, feel free to follow me on twitter @GeraldOkonkwo_ and don't forget to signup to receive newsletters right in your mail box.
Happy Valentine's Day, I love You All.

Monday, 12 February 2018

Most Startups often Crash and Burn

I started out this blog post knowing absolutely nothing about what I was going to talk about (cause like I said  earlier on, I'm still very new to this), but then it hit me; the outrageous number of tech startups springing up these days, one would only wonder if its because it's the "in thing" now or because they actually want to solve genuine problems, and it often looks like they "crash and burn" almost as fast as they are conceived.

Most Startups often crash and burn as fast as they are conceived
A deep look into what's responsible for this while communicating with various tech startup founders over time has revealed that; most founders are often distracted and only interested in creating "an app" or an "online platform" to do "so so so" forgetting the structure and tons of background work and research required to build a business (because tech startup or not, its actually a business), and just like every other business, there has to be structures in place, a very good delivery channel, a good business model, identification and marketing strategy etc. The app or online platform is only basically a leverage in my own opinion (leveraging on the power of technology) to access a wider market.

In Africa this is even more difficult, though there are many surveys about the behavior of internet users pointing towards a positive pedestal, it's nothing but a hoax. 
We still have a very looooooong way to go when it comes to internet usage, the patronage and loyalty of customers and that's why I'll advise in my own unholistic opinion that even though you're starting that tech startup for online customers (which of-course you'll get but not enough to make you profitable at this time), ensure to have a diversified means of generating revenue (which should be less dependent on your internet users) whilst we wait on customers to fully adopt internet/eCommerce  patronage.

A quick peek into certain tech companies adopting this A + B model will reveal companies such as Jobberman for instance, even though characterized  as a tech company, they in addition to this carryout offline recruitment, partnerships and training programs.
Irokotv recently deployed kiosks around the city of Lagos to help drive the sales and encourage users to get contents easier; still an offline approach to engage customers (cause obviously these kiosks are not on the internet).
My own startup; has an offline division called iFix corporate where we recruit handymen for engineering outfits, facility management companies, corporate firms, etc.

I can go on and on, but these further goes to drive the nail on my point, which is first off; identify the BUSINESS around that TECH STARTUP you have or want to create and then go on to create alternative and diversified means of generating revenue, depending less on internet users till Nigeria and Africa fully adopts internet / eCommerce patronage.

Thank you for reading this post, I hope its educative and mind blowing for you. Don't forget to subscribe to my newsletters to get fresh contents right in your mail box and also leave your much appreciated comments below. 
God be with you till we meet again.

Saturday, 10 February 2018

Weekend Special - Funds & Grants for Startups

Having developed a key sense of searching for opportunities for Startups, I'll like to share a couple of startup funding opportunities and grants I recently stumbled upon. Don;t forget to thank me later ☺

This is a startup seed funding opportunity organised annually by The Tony Elumelu Foundation. According to him; they are now accepting applications for the 4th cycle, Outstanding African entrepreneurs who have start-ups or business ideas with the potential to grow are encouraged to apply. 
Click Here to Apply.

The World's first Decelerator held in Spain, Menorca Millennials is a world class community of entrepreneurs, advisors and investors that invests in early-stage startups, led by seasoned entrepreneurs that are working to solve the world’s greatest challenges with technology, while leading the sustainability revolution.
Startups from Africa are also often accepted.
Click Here to Apply.

AYEEN was conceived to effectively affect the business space and entrepreneurial minds of young Nigerians. The conception has led to the identification of viable business ideas, start-ups and existing businesses which have been generously aided with grants, business mentor-ship and coaching.
Click Here to Apply.

FasterCapital is a virtual incubator based in Dubai Internet City. Helping startups through the programs acceleration and incubation. 
Fastercapital has currently 22 incubated startups that graduated and are fully functional now, more than 190 startups in the acceleration program, more than 120 regional partners with 80 offices worldwide.
Click Here to Apply.

Shell LiveWIRE is a social investment programme that aims to help young Nigerians explore the option of starting their own business as a real and viable career option.
It provides support, access to training, guidance, and business mentorship to young entrepreneurs and potential entrepreneurs between the ages of 18 and 35.
Click Here to Apply

Yeah I sure am as excited to find these opportunities also, visit right here on this blog to find opportunities regularly and also; don't forget to subscribe to my list to receive these opportunities right in your inbox. Thanks ya'll.

Thursday, 8 February 2018 - The Bumpy ride

Awesome being back! so as promised in my previous post folks, I'll be sharing how I started; an AWESOME ADVENTURE (FYI if you haven't read my previous blog post, quit reading this right now and read the previous one first).

Trust me just as Obama suggests, you want to hear (read) this ☺
I arrived back in Lagos on the 2nd of July 2015, after having lived in Delta State for  9 years (dad was transferred  in 2012 and we had to relocate, bla bla bla); thankfully an older friend who runs one of the best building services / engineering consulting firms here in Lagos had agreed to let me intern (+ youth service) at his company, my intention then was to gain some more knowledge to help me run Wefix more efficiently. 

After working for close to a year and being repeatedly frustrated by workmen and artisans who wouldn't be on our designated sites "on time" or diligently handle tasks given to them, plus it was extremely difficult to find a replacement right on the spot, Voila! I had identified a problem which's solution eventually became, So I decided to face this head on; I quit my job and began talking to "POTENTIAL INVESTORS"

Dudes I attended all the Tech Events you can ever think of, meeting with people, sending hundreds of emails, trying to communicate my "awesome idea" to them, but none seemed to be interested ('cause obviously they've heard over a million ideas and seen the visionaries do nothing or eventually give up on it), but then out of close to 150 emails sent (not exaggerating), JASON NJOKU; founder of Iroko Tv & serial Investor sent a follow up mail asking some questions. On receiving his mail, just seeing his name on my inbox list, unleashed tons of butterflies in my stomach, I've never been that excited, we eventually met, seemed to have chemistry on the spot, I liked his person and the fact that he was more interested in the founder and not the idea itself (didn't ask me about business model, traction and urghh! go to market strategy whew! founders have a lot of work to do), he gave me an offer on the spot, asked me to think over it and the meeting was over. I remember going home so excited that day and talking to everyone about it, business was on the pathway to a huge success.

Didn't see it coming
And just as we all didn't see Donald Trump's election, I didn't see what was coming next; Jason of Iroko pulled out of the deal for reasons I guess he dimmed fit, I was broken into a million pieces! but on the brighter side I had started significant work on the idea as directed by him prior to us signing the "docs". 

Though beaten down, I carried on; with the help of a few very awesome friends especially Reuben, Victor (now my co-founders) Sammy and Drae who I was able to "sell" the Vision to, we were able to deliver the idea into a finished product; was born. Our efforts attracted the likes of Faster Capital (an accelerator in Dubai), Heritage Bank, MI Education (a handyman training institute in Australia), etc and that has led us to where we are today; with over 250 handymen signed up on our platform, completed over 200 successful tasks, an office in Victoria Island - Lagos, great partnerships, paying customers...

Friends it's been a very bumpy ride so far I must say, but with GOD on our side we remained consistent, though we still have a looong way to go that's for sure, we ultimately intend to remain consistent.

Thanks a lot for reading today's post, I tried as much as possible to summarize our entire story so pardon me if I left some things out, but I hope this is inspiring for you, don't forget to drop your comments below.

Tuesday, 6 February 2018

I'm Gerald Okonkwo

So at this point in my life I've decided to start up a Tech-blog - TechbyGerald; to share my IMPOSSIBLE experiences so far while starting a tech company in Nigeria (Sub-Saharan Africa) and hopefully readers can learn one or two things from it. O Shoot! I forgot to properly introduce myself - I'm Gerald Okonkwo founder / CHM (Chief Handyman - my own interpretation of CEO) of (an online platform for hiring and engaging the services of handymen and artisans in Nigeria), I'm the last born child of a family of four boys and a dad (my sweet mom is late sadly; but that's not the topic for today) from Anambra state in Nigeria. 
     I had my primary school education in Our lady of Apostles private School, Yaba after which I attended the Yaba College of Technology Secondary School for my junior days in secondary school both in Lagos and later proceeded to attend the Cornerstone Int'l School Asaba, Delta State. I attained my Bachelors in Engineering (Computer Engineering) at Madonna University in Nigeria and later went to study a Post graduate Diploma in Project Management at the London Academy Business School.

That's me in my Coverall -2017
My Journey of becoming an Entrepreneur started in 2012 during my Industrial training (IT) program in school I started my very first company - Wefix Maintenance Company (Now Wefix Company Ltd) a maintenance and facility management company and four years later (in 2016) I started my first TECH COMPANY;
       Entrepreneurship is a very difficult, but yet very simple and interesting venture that has one simple rule - CONSISTENCY, especially in a place like Nigeria where we're saddled with various challenges daily, it's really not Funny trust me, but just be consistent.

Thanks Ya'll for reading and stay tuned for my next post where I'll focus more on; how I started and the challenges I had to face. ☺