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Ifeoluwapo Odedere: If Facebook Started in Nigeria

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Imagine Mark Zuckerberg was a Nigerian, living in Nigeria. He’d have attended Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) where he’d have had the idea for Facebook (or Slumbook or whatever). Excited, he will develop a website and test it with a few of his roommates (and squatters). This is great! They will tell him. Emboldened by these comments, he will go on to expand the capabilities of the website to involve all the students of OAU. The popularity of the site will be so much that OAU’s archaic servers will shut down.

Enraged, the VC of OAU will call Mark and sharply reprimand him for ‘wasting precious time’ when he should have been studying. Then he will go on to recount how Great Ife (OAU) always produced First-Class students who could compete academically with their peers from all over the world (emphasis on academically). Mark will then be given a two-week suspension to cool his blood and serve as a lesson to other non-conforming students.

On his return from suspension, Mark will face a series of semester exams, a consequence of the just concluded NUT strike which has forced lecturers to rush their schedules. After his exams, the NUT embarks on another strike – this time, for six months. The strike will provide Mark with the time he needs to refine the website he has created. By this time, students from UNILAG and Covenant University would have started using the website which has been named The Facebook.

Seeing a future in The Facebook, Mark would decide that it’s not worth it going back to school. He has just read about Jason Njoku – the iRoko boy and Sim Shagaya – the e-commerce sage, and he is convinced that he can achieve something similar, if not better. So he decides to quit school and invest his time and energy in building The Facebook, which he believes ‘will be a service to the world’. And this is where his problems will begin.

You see, Mark will have a hard time convincing his parents about his ambition. They won’t understand why anyone in his right mind would drop out of OAU when thousands of students were struggling to gain admission there. His enraged father will stop supporting him financially and Mark would have to leave home and stay with a much older friend. Away from the shelter of the university walls, Mark would experience the wrath of PHCN in full – constant power outage will interrupt his software development process so that he is only able to write a few lines of code every day. But Mark, a believer in his vision, will be more than willing to pay the price of petrol to fuel the china-made generator that powers his friend’s house – at the cost of at least N800 daily. This will be in addition to the N25,000 monthly to renew his 50GB subscription.

After 3 months of contending with erratic electricity supply and ridiculous internet fees (and speeds), Mark will finally complete his project, now renamed Facebook. The site has over 100,000 active users daily and doesn’t look like it’s going out of fashion soon. At this rate, it’s probably going to be the next Linda Ikeji or NairaLand. You’d think that should be a cause for rejoicing but Mark is broke. Stone-cold broke. He needs to do something fast. He will visit a certain hub for techies only to find out that it is overflowing with inventors looking for investors. Next, he will take his proposal to MTN, GTBank and Dangote to name a few – in hopes of attracting the much needed direct investment but no funding will come.

‘This website has the potential to be the next My Space or NairaLand’, Mark will tell the executives. But they won’t get it. Here’s why – it will take at least 3 years for the investors to see a sizeable return on their investments. That’s if they are lucky. Nobody waits that long in Nigeria. Other investors will be concerned that he’s a drop-out. He does not have a fancy degree – the likes of an MBA or a PhD or a GCFR.

A wonderful piece of invention that could literarily change the world and make its investors rich has just been brushed aside like it was a piece of groundnut wrapper. Elsewhere in the world, the US for example, investors would have latched on to this idea and would have been bidding in their millions. Here in Nigeria, Mark will be struggling to convince rich but blind people about the potential of Facebook.

At the end of it all, there will be only one option left for Mark Zuckerberg. He will have to swallow his pride and go back home to meet his father. And with that Facebook will die. Actually it will never have lived.
This is a true story. It is the story of most startups in Nigeria. Every day startups die and vibrant ideas perish in infancy… all because they do not receive the much needed funding that would have made a whole world of difference. Special thanks to the local investor who sees only short-term gain where there should be long-lasting institutions.

Photo Credit: Dreamstime | Kiosea39 

Ifeoluwapo is a Brand Strategist and the Author of Musings of an Analytical Mind. He loves to challenge conventional thinking and is a firm believer in the coexistence of aesthetics and quality. Connect with him - @ifeodedere

41 Comments

  1. teegal

    June 8, 2015 at 10:51 am

    Well said! This is the absolute and Bitter truth about my country! You nailed it bro, wish the Rich yet blind can get to read it too.

  2. bb

    June 8, 2015 at 11:19 am

    Hahahahaha odedere you no nice at all

  3. Uby

    June 8, 2015 at 11:30 am

    Brilliant article.

  4. EllesarisEllendil

    June 8, 2015 at 12:03 pm

    “This will be in addition to the N25,000 monthly to renew his 50GB subscription.” Bruh just subscripe to Swift Essential Plus.

    Personally do not agree with the article, yes thousands of startups do not flourish in Nigeria, but neither do they do so in America. This is just a Nigeria bashing article, I know Nigeria isn’t perfect, but I thought we stopped believing the rest of the world was paradise too when we at=least entered University.

    Mark should have also just squatted in the hostel with a friend and enjoyed free University Light, I could countermand all the points made, but it’d be a waste of time.

    Many people fail daily in Nigeria as they do around the world, there is a reason why sucess stories are so very rare.

    • olu

      June 8, 2015 at 2:01 pm

      If you know the truth but you choose to ignore it ….you are on your own

    • Chino

      June 8, 2015 at 3:20 pm

      You made your points…hoha!

    • the Bull

      June 9, 2015 at 2:40 am

      i agree with the article, in summary it is more difficult to gain investment for IT based ideas, in Nigeria, no one is bashing Nigeria here it is a fact, can you compare the amount of venture capitals in America to Nigeria? most of our most successful IT businesses are backed by foreign investors. Rather than burying our heads in the sand and pretending everything is rosy in Nigeria, let us accept the truth sometimes.

    • Ifeoluwapo Odedere

      June 9, 2015 at 3:13 pm

      Spot on! *Thumbs up emoticon*

    • Ifeoluwapo Odedere

      June 9, 2015 at 3:15 pm

      Nigerian bashing? Really? I don’t think so. Success stories are rare all the world over and I agree. But they are even rarer here. It’s a game of proportions. What proportion of startups make it ‘here’ versus ‘there’ ?

    • Job

      June 13, 2015 at 6:33 pm

      Don’t let us throw away the baby with the bathwater, Ifeoluwa has made some cogents points that if attended can bolster starting a business in Nigeria, and statistics by the world bank put Nigeria at the index of 170 on a scale of 1-180 on the ease of doing business in Nigeria. Even the Campus power you spoke about is now erratic but while it is hard, it does make us stronger and like you I believe that good things are coming out of this country.

  5. Mz Brown

    June 8, 2015 at 12:42 pm

    when i was working in a bank and my team was asked to come up with brilliant ideas, of course there would be a rewards, and so the competition started. for some,it died really fast because everytime they came up with something awesome, they would realise somebody else in the same bank or even in another bank already has that same innovation. in fact my boss worried that maybe we were not being secretive enough and people were stealing from us but that was not it. we concluded that everywhere in the world, 500 people are actually thinking the same thoughts as you are the very minute u concieve the idea. My point to EllesarisEllendil is even though he exagerrated a bit, its just the real situation. I came up with an idea for an app and i was put on a team with ppl who also had something similar and they were working on it,ive left now but not sure that app and its awesome details is in existence. im sure someone somewhere in nigeria has come up with something like Facebook and snapchat and instagram but did not go too far with it because nobody believed in him, he barely had money to take care of himself, and yea, data rates are really annoying. so he drops d idea, follows the trend and gets a 9-5.

  6. @edDREAMZ

    June 8, 2015 at 1:55 pm

    a.k.a EDWIN CHINEDU AZUBUKO said..
    .
    Ifeoluwapo Odedere yu are so fu-ing brilliant and yu need a grammy for this i swear…..
    .
    .
    ***CURRENTLY IN JUPITER***

  7. titolu

    June 8, 2015 at 3:56 pm

    Brilliant piece, powerful imagination well harnessed.
    A bit hilarious and exaggerated on the surface, but below, is a bitter truth, of the challenges and huddles an entrepreneur in our great nation has to face and overcome before hitting it big….(if he is lucky + other factors).
    @ EllesarisEllendil, try to understand, Ife may have exaggerated some facts a bit, but these exaggerations are called hyperbole, and it’s absolutely allowed in Literary pieces like this..
    Also for a record, these issues are real and true. In fact, some small businesses do not even experience these much before packing up!
    God help our country.

  8. Xtie

    June 8, 2015 at 4:12 pm

    You sure hit the nail on its head.. Every investor wants quick returns on their investment and as such cannot invest in an idea that may survive or fail…. This is so discouraging.. I have this idea and I have been everywhere trying to source for funds but to no avail…I have resulted to surfing the Internet trying to look for govt and corporate grant in order to bring my idea to life. Does anyone know of any grant currently going on?

  9. Deborah

    June 8, 2015 at 6:20 pm

    This sad but true…It is important the we as youths and future wealthy peeps would be able to take up the ideas of the younger generations when the arise. It is obvious the generation of our parents have failed us big time; however we have a choice not to follow the bad example set for us. I hope when I’m older and with means, when such a Mark comes to me, I would not turn him down like it has been the tradition of our elders.

    • Ifeoluwapo Odedere

      June 9, 2015 at 3:11 pm

      Deborah, I pray so too. It’s interesting that most of our oppressors today fought for freedom decades back.

  10. molarah

    June 8, 2015 at 6:49 pm

    Expand your search outside the country. There are several grants/schemes targeted at innovators – I know Google has one. Keep searching and don’t give up. Sometimes you may have to apply several times and to several schemes before you finally get selected. Also, be mindful of what you share – ‘code’ your core information as much as possible so it does not get stolen.

  11. Foluke

    June 8, 2015 at 7:23 pm

    True

  12. anonymy

    June 8, 2015 at 10:21 pm

    I agree with all of what you wrote but I believe there is much more to it. There are two sides to the story; the developer and the society. You focused more on the society and I agree it is the more important given a developer with the right amount of passion.

    Not only does our society not support innovative ideas, we also do not have the infrastructure to be truly innovative! That is very crucial. Facebook was largely possible because of the existing Harvard infrastructure he could leverage. In Nigeria, there is almost nothing. No power, no affordable decent internet access, little data to work with, few really good developers to form a team with, and so on. But like you stated, most importantly, no belief in the person. Nobody is ready to take a risk with you but will be ready to parasite once you make it. Like you stated, but to put it in a another way, no time to be a start-up! Ironic!

    Developers also do have some fault too. Most are driven by money and cannot wait enough to be good enough to make the money. Somebody once said that it takes a decade to be a really good programmer, and I kinna agree. It is one thing to be able to code, it is another thing to be able to code well. And trust me, it is DIFFICULT to write good production-value code! Start-ups need money no doubt, but the developer must be able to run on a small scale pending arrival of venture capital.

    Lest I go on a tirade, though promising, we have not yet witnessed an IT revolution in Nigeria. Until power and internet, and socieconomic status improves, it’s hard to see that revolution happening soon.

  13. Mostest

    June 9, 2015 at 1:57 am

    The reasons businesses may fail in Nigeria, far surpass lack of electricity or funding. It’s simply ignorance and greed. Ignorance in the sense that no one really identifies a problem and seeks to solve it. People delve into business because my friend said it will generate high returns. No knowkedge of the market or how to push it. There isn’t an investor alive who will see a sound business plan and not invest. How well do you present your figures? No one will invest in an “idea” that hasn’t been properly planned. We all have ideas, but hardly know how to go about bringing it to light. Everybody just wants to do business, anyhow, and more often than not, a copycat.

    Greed in the sense that your first profit must go into buying a Range Rover. Or opening a branch on the island even when your target market is on the mainland. Or flying business class to get supplies for your business, from which income I wonder!

    Watch shark tank and see how to answer the hard questions. What is your personality? Can you manage people and relationships? What are your projections? Just as investors seek short term returns, sadly business owners seek short term gratification.

    • Ifeoluwapo Odedere

      June 9, 2015 at 3:07 pm

      Hello Motest, the picture you painted is rather simplistic – it doesn’t address the real issues entrepreneurs have to battle with. It’s true that ignorance and greed make businesses fail but there are a whole lot of capable people out there who are not being given a chance because like ”Anonynmy’ said, our society lacks the kind of structure to nuture them.

  14. Chinma Eke

    June 9, 2015 at 8:51 am

    So true!

  15. ssah

    June 9, 2015 at 9:29 am

    every nigerian parent wants to give birth to either doctors, lawyers or engineers. They can manage nurse if the child is female. God forbid that any child should go into hairdressing, music, catering, etc.
    Even nowadays, the parents who try to be 21st-century compliant say things like “ok, you can still learn carpentry but you have to study law also” hence, identity crisis.
    In a way I can understand why parents do that but……….at the end of the day, its not about them at all.
    When I finished law, I gave my pop my certificate and then i’m currently pursuing my own dream.

    • Ifeoluwapo Odedere

      June 9, 2015 at 3:03 pm

      That’s a bold move Ssah – one that many are afraid to take. I wish you success in your chosen vocation.

    • ssah

      June 9, 2015 at 4:39 pm

      thanks @Ifeoluwapo

  16. Burbash

    June 9, 2015 at 12:00 pm

    Apt! Thoughts well penned down

  17. Teawine Penner

    June 9, 2015 at 5:38 pm

    “On-point analogy”!!
    However, we should strive to make the best of our environments, rosy or thorny!

    teawinepenner.wordpress.com

  18. anonynous

    June 9, 2015 at 6:45 pm

    @mostest. I can assure you that people aren’t that ignorant. People know the problems that exists and some seek to solve them, but the enabling environment to help them do so is not just there. There are soooo many hurdles to scale when starting up a business in Nigeria that the thought of it can be discouraging. Only the really big fishes can swim, the small fishes drown. It takes plenty hustle to get things started and when it comes to IT, if at least constant power and internet access is not readily available to a developer, then he is just wasting his time. Your statement regarding living large does not reflect greed, rather, it reflects mismanagement. And why would people not be greedy? The ones that successfully launch have such huge overhead costs that they must make instant profit, investors are not going to wait decades for their return on investment. Your reference to shark tank may not be very appropriate. When it comes to IT, NOBODY can predict what the outcome of a start-up will be. The truth is there are many more start-up failures than successes and many did their due diligence. Launching a start-up is like sowing seeds, you never know which will germinate and bear fruit, but someone must give you “land” to plant. That “land” is difficult to get in Nigeria.

    • Ifeoluwapo Odedere

      June 10, 2015 at 11:12 am

      I love your analysis Anonynous. Hope @Motest gets to read this.

  19. David I. Adeleke

    June 10, 2015 at 6:52 am

    “Mark will be struggling to convince rich but blind people about the potential of Facebook.”

    Fact: Rich but blind people. They have the money but lack the vision, discipline and selflessness to see it multiply through other people. The very sad but true tale of life, and entrepreneurship, in Nigeria.

    • Ifeoluwapo Odedere

      June 10, 2015 at 11:14 am

      You’re right David. Let’s hope when we get the baton, we don’t let a generation down.

    • Qball

      June 10, 2015 at 3:28 pm

      David tell us how you feel. Resorting to name calling is not the solution.
      Question is did you show them (Rich people) the potential in that startup? No rich man/woman would see an opportunity to make more wealth and turn it down, cos all they ever think about is how to make more and more money.

  20. Kokolet

    June 11, 2015 at 12:38 pm

    Nice piece Ifeoluwapo.May i add that after he must have been rejected and frustrated by all, his father will then advice him to either be a footballer of a musician as this is the trend in our dear country now.Brilliant and excellent ideas die everyday because of lack of support, its very disheartening.

  21. Tooe

    June 12, 2015 at 5:21 pm

    So I studied Agriculture in the university and 2 years before grad I took up tailoring and was doing it actively since then… I have decided to be professional by going to fashion school. Its the only thing I have passion for. And I’m industrious and informed enough to make a head way with it.

    I’m from an average family
    Every time I discuss it with my mum, she’s always like why don’t you take up a proper job, I don’t like the fact that you left nysc to go to a fashion school.
    All this I know its from fear and being a typical Nigerian mother.

    I don’t have the passion to take on any full time job, the little I did (teaching) during nysc ended in frustration for me.

    I don’t even know why I’m sharing this here… This article I guess.
    But shall a young lady do.
    Against all odds… Go in search of a job or take Fashion designing professionally?

  22. Job

    June 13, 2015 at 7:06 pm

    Ifeoluwa, firstly, since I am an Ife grad I can tell you authoritatively that the senate of OAU would hand Mark at least a semester or two suspension instead of two weeks, they might even say he is a “yahoo yahoo boy” so he should be rusticated alongside the troublesome Student Union Boys. In addition when Mark finally decides to quit school and tells his dad, his parents would call a family meeting over him and invite his Aunt , Grandma and Church Pastor so Mark could change his mind. and if Mark had a girlfriend or finacee, he just lost her because in Nigeria, no one wants to marry a drop out not minding if he’s pursuing his dream or not. I would therefore advise Mark to take things easy, he should use the regular ASUU strike to visit YabaCon Valley, Lagos and meet with the incubator and accelerator hubs there for the polishing and probable funding of his idea. He should in the meantime use platforms like Mircrosoft Imagine Cup Competition, Dell Social Innovation Challenge, (sadly no more existing), DEMO AFRICA, and other startup and tech based competitions as platform to launch his idea and lastly he should live off his parent as much as he can( I got this advice from Guy Kawasaki and I think it is very good).
    In verity, starting up in Nigeria is spiritually, financially, mentally, emotionally, psychologically and physically herculean but we know that all things worked together for our good because we love God and are the called according to his purpose and now thanks be unto God who always lead us in triumph and cause the fragrance of his knowledge to spread through us. Incase you don’t know, in Mark needs sound spiritual backup to win For with God we go win na, that’s why Korede Bello sang na #Godwin.

  23. Olusola

    November 27, 2015 at 9:21 am

    i totally agree with the write up here.and its so fantastic as to very much relating it with the sad but factual truth of what is happening in Nigeria.
    @Mz Brown, i just totally relate with your comment cuz i remember when i was an undergraduate and i was thinking about taxi’s and all, i watched my unshared idea get birthed in my very eyes. i was resuming back from weekend that very day and i saw what was tagged “fashola cabs” around. i felt betrayed and wanted to bury myself. another one that happened again was years later, i had another thought of how to ease transportation and i got let down by someone i looked up to as a mentor. he didn’t condemn the idea but he just couldn’t help me get past solving the challenges i would face in solving the issue rather another project was landed on my lap to think of.
    @motest, you probably must have been watching too many foreign shows and i really appreciate your comments. i don’t have an MBA or any specialty to planning business or business models but the truth is, in Nigeria, you need to have more than a business model. and trust me, the writer in a way interpreted the business model a Nigerian Zack would have followed. ” fuel the generator, buy data and the likes” (sorry i can’t quote you word for word). getting through that phase and all, the simple truth is that, NO ONE would have bought into that idea. The who are you factor (graduate, MBA, child of a mogul etc) comes in play. A cousin of mine in the UK came to Nigeria and wanted to do online betting here when it was this popular. Guess what, he was turned down. He was practically told not to operate after having meetings with the regulatory bodies involved. Fast forward, i can see 1960, Surebet, naijabet and so many other outfits running their business and he was turned down after explaining the process of how the whole platform will work. So tell me how we can get encouraged when even our wonderful ideas either get turned down or get hijacked from us.
    Big ups @Ifeoluwapo, keep the message flowing abeg. really appreciate the fact that you have time to even read up comments and respond. that was what encouraged me to read the article with most of the comments. can’t read everything here.

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