Prelude: I stopped journaling a few years ago after the combination of work and family life took over my free time. However, I was moved to break the dry spell after a comment on the Facebook tech group, Silicon Africa, by Victor Asemota. From what I know, Victor is a bit of a “Babalawo” in the Nigerian tech circle. Apart from his full-time time gig as a fintech-CEO-cum-world-traveller (can’t tell me nothing, the guy gets paid to travel), Victor can provide an answer to most startup-related questions, or he knows someone who can. As such, you will understand why everything he says in the Silicon Africa Facebook Group reads as gospel. This explains why when he launched a project to “prove how easy it is to start a startup as one person in America”, he got 67 excited comments.
My personal and unsolicited opinion was that the conversation was a bit one-sided, especially for aspiring entrepreneurs who aren’t as connected or as resourceful as Babalawo. I then decided to start something to prove the opposite sentiment – to show how possible (even though we can all agree that it might not be easy) it is to start a profitable international business from Nigeria.
To be fair, I had embarked on this journey long before Baba Victor’s comments, but I had never thought of sharing my experience. Plus I haven’t done a personal blog post in a long, long time, so please bear with me. By doing these posts, I aim to share:-
- Why I’m doing this
- How I identified a product to sell to the world
- All the tools and resources available to me in Nigeria to help on this journey
- How much I spent in total doing this
So a few months ago, I embarked on 2 journies. The first journey was from the UK to Nigeria – I was taking my children to visit their fatherland for the first time, and we were to stay 9 weeks. The second journey was an entrepreneurial one, but it was no less adventurous. I had decided to identify, design and sell a physical product to the world, all from my base in Lagos, Nigeria.
Anyone who has attempted to do business in Nigeria will tell you what a thrilling adventure it is. For starters, just a month before our arrival the Worldbank decided to release statistics which put Nigeria in the 169th position (out of 190) on the “ease of doing business” index. Lovely. In case you didn’t get that, this meant that the Worldbank put Nigeria in the top 21 most difficult countries on earth to do business. Challenge accepted.
So why am I still doing this?
I can assure you that this is not keyboard warrior rehab, and I’m not trying to prove a point. Instead, I’m trying to encourage and educate people, and show that this business thing is possible wherever you are. Yes, someone whose government helps them register a business in 24 hours is at an advantage over someone whose government “assists” them do it, 10 days and 6 forms later. But on the other hand, businesses have started up in Nigeria, crossed the 5-year life expectancy benchmark and received VC funding to continue the good work. Businesses like IrokoTV ($40m USD), Hotels.ng ($1.2m USD) and Cars45 ($5m USD) prove that Nigerians with 1 head and 1 brain are able to create value within the country, and attract investment to help them stay afloat. So being the die-hard optimist, I’m not going to let the World Banks report define my experience. l want to put myself in the shoes of those faced with no other option than to start businesses in the difficult economic terrain.