Come on folks. Let s not be too naive nor emotional. Lets look at reality. The cold harsh reality.
i) SF is not the paradise one makes it out to be. Its ruthless and folks get screwed all the time.
What do they all have in common? Founding team member was forced and / or screwed out of the company. Do you honestly think in the age of the unicorn most SV employees aren't sitting under layers of preferences shares and ratchets? Please. Google it. The information is there if you wish to see it. Look for the downside protection language.
ii) Risk capital in Nigeria is materially different than the western world. I have probably had 10+ different employees fired for stealing from me. Not bad work nor even incompetence but straight up theft. Like inflating supplier deals or taking kick backs from producers. This is rarely something you have to factor in the west. Ever. If you did. They would be in jail. In Nigeria. Nothing happens.
All asset classes in emerging markets and especially Nigeria operate at a value discount. Why. Nigeria is pretty lawless when you are used to actual law abiding things. There is a reason why 100% of the venture capital raised in Nigerian internet startups are NOT allowed to come directly into Nigeria. No one is a fool.
iii) I have spoken to pretty much most startup founders in Nigeria. It is a nightmare. You cannot even begin to understand the true emotional horrors of building a startup. 90% fail. You lose so much in the eyes of your peers in a place like Nigeria. For the victor to not share the spoils is ridiculous. I can see how Bezos, Zuckerberg et al are handing their equity back to employees. Their not. They earned it.
Thats the beautiful thing about capitalism. When its your turn you can do as you please.
iv). There is a social contract between employer and employee.
In Nigeria this is broken. Its very common for most SME's to basically not pay their staff. Big companies and the actual government don't pay their workers. This is wrong. And for all intents and purposes illegal. But its standard faire in these parts. I believe most of the tech ecosystem in has avoided that fate. One thing I know. Most even if they are forced to have mass layoffs. Try to make their people whole. With a little safe on the top.
v.) No one owes anyone anything. If you want salvation. Go to church. Being angry doesn't adjust your bank balance. Go ahead. See. Have you seen it?
If you want to build awesome things and growth wealth. Then do that. But you will be unhappy. It will take 10+ years if you are one of the <1%. Whereas If you want to be happy. I would strongly suggest you don't. Find something where you can balance work life balance. But 100% of the stress and sacrifice you have to make in order to be CEO goes towards your happy family life.
vi.) A good founder CEO leads a team to greatness. A bad founder CEO leads a team off a cliff. Or never leaves the comforts of his/her dreams and bedroom. But the biggest challenge is finding a market. That isn't easy in anyway shape of form.
What it takes for technology companies to succeed: fierce, often unpleasant, founders able to make hard choices and place unpopular bets.
vii). When I started Iroko I gave up 50% for an initial investment of £500. Granted I did all the work and Bastian funded significantly more than that in the end. Sweat vs Cash. I believe he is happy with his investment. I am happy that I had someone willing to give me £500 when I literally didn't have it. You know what. Cast around. Most people are busy solving their financial problems to free up some of their hard earned after tax money to invest (most likely lose).
No one in London or NY offices have side hustles. That's a uniquely Nigerian thing. Now that may be because of terrible employers. But it can't be everyone.
viii). @akindolu welcome to the founders club. Last time we saw I told you quite literally that you haven't suffered enough. That you are still early. Go and build a company in SV? Its easier than Lagos. Or perhaps not. YC black founder tweetstorm on racial biases
I know you are a young ambition person. I have no doubt you will lead us into a brighter future of labour and startup culture in Nigeria. I am so pumped to see Revova do well. As you know I have always given you the time whenever you asked. And obviously tried to be helpful where I can't.
ix). I personally know and saw Mark Essien, Fikayo Ogundipe or Lanre Akinlagun go through brutal emotional anguish just to keep their heads above water. Just to survive this startup thing. Layoffs. Rejection after rejection from 'interested investors', family doubt, personal doubt. Everything. But no. Fuck all of us and our efforts.
When you quote people building companies. If you plan to be in Lagos or Africa. Find others from within the actual lands you wish to change. Sam Altman. Patrick Collison. In Nigeria there are no lessons to be learned from them other than product purity. Anything to do with market. Forget it. They probably still think Africa is a country.
We use stripe at irokotv. We have a transaction volume of $3.5m+ through their systems. My black Nigerian Harvard educated product manager tried to go to their SF office to have a chat, spend some time, explain some of our challenges. He literally didn't get pass the receptionist. They gave him a branded mug and sent him on his way.
x). Things you experience in Lagos. You will experience no where else in the modern world. The people and cultural challenges are just fucking taxing. Its a horrible horrible place to do business. Fucking terrible. I speak for not just myself for most of my startup CEO's who attend my little impromptu support groups. Yes we meet a few time s a year to support each other through this bullshit we call an internet market in Lagos. And we are supposed to be the fortunate ones.
Finally as my Chairman Victor Asemota once wrote. Lagos does not love you look outside. The climes have changed and its brutal. Survival first and foremost. Because no one really wins when we all fail.
Anyway. Why are folks not building big, interesting startups?
I could speculate on real estate or go ahead and invest some. Which I am actually doing by the way.
Minus everything I said above. I still believe in Lagos and Nigeria. I have money. If you have something that makes sense. Send me an email at jason [at] spark [dot] ng
Sigh. I told madam I wouldn't be on this radar thing.