funding, hacking, programming, Technology & Startups

Building your startup on the side is freaking hard.

My typical day: I wake up by 5am every weekday, go through my daily ritual and leave my house by 6am to begin my 10 km commute to work (I am a “factory worker”) to get to work almost an hour later [1]. My factory shift resumes by 8am and ends by 6pm officially although this might extend into late hours of the night on some occasions. I do not work on anything IT related (which factory worker does?) so none of the hours I spend at work contributes in any way to gaining startup experience. After work I start another 10 km commute back home which can extend for almost 3 hours most times no thanks to the crazy traffic on Lagos roads, so I get home earliest by 8pm on a very good day. Most days I am so tired I hardly can code or do anything substantial before crashing on my bed. Most times the stuff I can do are only on weekends when I have some few hours to concentrate.

Building a startup on the side is freaking hard, scratch that, extremely hard. Some people do it but it’s no easy feat.

Pros of building your startup on the side.

1. Focus: when you have so few hours to work on your startup per day you tend to focus and prioritize on what is really important and what isn’t. I work an average of 50 hours at my day job and the few hours left have to be spent with laser focus or I might just wake up and discover that 6 months have passed by. [2]

2. Funding: Most Nigerian founders complain about not having funding for their startup ideas so having a day job will actually allow you to funnel part of your salary into your startup till it starts generating income of its own. I have a relatively well paid factory job so I can bootstrap for now until I start generating real income.

3. Work experience: If you are lucky enough to have a day job where you are gaining skills and experiences that are directly transferable into you startup, all well and good but if you are not like I am, you can learn people management or if your day job is so bad, you would learn how not to run a business.

Cons of building your startup on the side.

1. Burnout: Working nothing less than 50 hours per week on a day job for some years can have a terrible toll on you, your health and motivation to work on your startup. Most times I am so tired I can’t do anything reasonable during the week. This directly leads to my second point.

2. Speed: Most times I imagine and wish that the hours I spend on my day job could be funneled into my side project. I imagine where it would be by now. My startup might look slow and lethargic due to the fact that I barely even have time to work on it.

3. Burning hunger: Having a well paid job can actually make you lazy and take away the hunger to having a successful startup. If on the 24th of every month a substantial amount falls into your bank account with a loud bang, putting your all into a startup might not be topmost on your list of priorities. You might wake up after some years to discover that you have become a boring old fart with a receding hairline and your startup, still a pipe dream.

P.S: Thanks to this article on joel.is for inspiring this post.

Notes:

1. I get most idea’s for these blog posts and write them in my head while driving on my long commute to work. It’s a wonder I haven’t hit anyone yet.

2. Talking about focus: I developed my infamous unofficial nairaland API in less than 20 minutes in a frenzied coding spree.

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critic, hacking, programming, Uncategorized

Why the “noise makers” among us can’t code.

Let me tell you a true  story: I would rather spend time coding than going to a tech meetup https://twitter.com/pystar/status/227405814921568256, [1] I hate the very thought of marketing (I probably just  hate the fact that my sales pitch might get turned down). I guess that’s why my start-up hasn’t  “blown” and that of “noise makers” [2] among us, is a tale in the opposite.  But the thing is this, I could probably code rings around these “noise makers”, who probably cant write a line of code at gunpoint, but their start ups actually make me feel inadequate in a perverse way.

Unless you are building a deep Comp.Sci based start up like Google, you probably don’t need to focus so much on your code but invest heavily on marketing. Most problems here in a 3rd world country like Nigeria that can become viable start ups actually don’t require deep science but heavy marketing and legwork to enlighten people and also give them a reason to actually use your product. [3]

Most good programmers I happen to know are introverted to a certain degree and prefer coding than actually going out and meeting people, so how do you then market your product if you don’t go out? Social media doesn’t count.

Doing a quick and dirty survey of the most “up in your face” start ups here in Nigeria will actually tell you that they are started by non coding techies (if I can safely call them that)[4]. These guys are “noise makers” and thats why their start ups do well. These guys can’t code and probably are not interested in learning how to code because coding is a long tedious and lonely task (unless you are pair programming) and the emotional make up of these “noise makers” wont just allow them to do this successfully.

I have discovered that even if you write the best code with the most bleeding edge frameworks and languages and do absolutely no marketing or “noise making”, no one will beat a path to your doorstop begging for the rare privilege to use your app.

After thinking alot about this “phenomenon”, I can actually say that I agree absolutely with MrBankole when he penned http://techloy.com/2012/07/10/im-ceo-bitch/ . How does some techie who probably has a name for his laptop [5] succeed in marketing his start up? The most successful route I can figure out is getting a “noise maker” as a co founder. That way you get the best of  both worlds.[6]

Notes

[1] Probably the reason why I have never been to any tech meetup (apart the 1st ever barcamp held in lagos “09″) and most probably wont in the nearest future is because of my hectic factory day job schedule and organizers of such meetups refusing to fix events on weekends.

[2] The phrase “Noise maker” as is used in this blog post is actually used in a positive context. A noise maker is someone who is a natural extrovert, a born marketer, with little or no technical chops, i.e. someone in the mould of Steve Jobs.

[3] Imagine a start up with a Seun Osewa and Jason Njoku combo? yeah I can, in my dreams.

[4] Bloovue, dealdey, IrokoTv, Jobberman, wakanow all have non coding founders. (Correct me if I am wrong)

[5] I am guilty as charged.

[6] Don’t do this alone, collaborate, collaborate. Get someone who can pick your slack and is strong where you are weak.

Steve Wozniak (awesome technical chops) + Steve Jobs (most prolific tech marketer ever) == Apple(World domination)

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critic, funding, hacking, programming, Technology & Startups

Live in Nigeria?(***insert your 3rd world country here***). This is why your startup will fail.

You live in Nigeria or any 3rd world country?, are a techie and thinking of starting a web startup? here are some reasons why your startup is doomed to fail.

1. Your startup is a solution to a “WANT” and not a “NEED”. If you can remember your basic economics, you should know what “WANTS” and “NEEDS” are. Quickly, I would define a “NEED” as something you have to have, something you can’t do without e.g. food, clothing and shelter, while a “WANT” is something you would like to have. It is not absolutely necessary, but it would be a good thing to have. A good example is music.

When developing your startup idea, ask yourself, “is what I am creating a solution to a NEED or a WANT?”  According to the Nigerian Bureau of statistics 60.9% of Nigerians in 2010 were living in “absolute poverty” i.e. less than $1 per day. Do you think that taking a hiatus to create a music startup to enable these people living in abject poverty listen to music amounts to a good use of your time? or “skills”?

2. Your startup is a clone of some popular 1st world website or application [1]. Why would you clone when there are a myriad of problems you could develop solutions for? If you are developing a clone, ask yourself this question “why would anyone use this (***insert the name of your clone***) instead of the main thing (***insert the name of the website you cloned***)?” .

3. Your startup will require loads and loads of traffic i.e. pageviews with gullible people who would be ready to click on Google ads before it can generate income. In Nigeria, there are no VC’s, no Angels, no startup accelerators, no Government support programs, no infrastructure, regular electricity supply is a pipe dream, Internet access is patchy and expensive, in short, “NO NOTHING”. So it kind of beats me why anyone would base his startup’s business model on the benevolence of Google? In between the time your startup comes online to the time it can generate enough traffic to keep the lights on and the servers humming, how would you survive? Do you have some gold bars stashed under your mattress somewhere? If not, why don’t you just develop a product where you can start charging from the very first day? [2]

4. Reading too much of Techcrunch et al. These tech blogs are written by elitist white techies who live in silicon valley where the difference between over there and here is like light and day. Any advice you can glean from those sites just isn’t applicable here in Nigeria. [3]

NOTES

[1] The current fad in Nigeria is creating clones of Groupon.com. It once used to be Twitter clones, bulk sms and then Facebook clones. Why coders still do this kind of beats me. Instead of cloning, why don’t you build on these sites and take advantage of things like Facebook’s “Social Graph” etc and develop innovative solutions? Developing another DROPBOX wont meet the need of the average Nigerian, he has no need for it, and if he does why wont he go for the original? patriotism? please!

[2] Despite the fact that 60.9% of Nigerians live under $1 per day and there are 90 million mobile subscribers in the country with at least 1 mobile phone, these phones have to be loaded with “call credit” by these people because communication has become a NEED and not a WANT. So despite the grinding poverty in the country, the major Telco’s still declare mind boggling profits every year, with Nigeria now having the largest mobile phone market in Africa with 60% penetration. So in order to be successful, develop a solution to a NEED and not a WANT.

[3] Sarah Lacy, a former columnist for Techcrunch, when she came to Nigeria in 2011 advised techies not to read Techcrunch et al. Its of no use, the stories of billion dollar valuations for 6 month old companies that do nothing but count your number of Twitter followers will actually screw with your head. That can never happen here, this is Nigeria, be creative, be innovative, think local but act global.

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hacking, programming, Technology & Startups

Hey you! don’t you dare call me a Hacker!!!

CHANGE OF NAME

To whom it may concern. I, Aito Ehigie Pascal (Pystar) who used to go with the moniker “Computer Hacker”, now wishes to be addressed as a “Code Writer”. This action was necessitated by the improper user and bastardization of the word “computer hacker” especially by main stream media and the attendant negative impression it makes on the minds of those who don’t really know the true meaning of the word.

All documentation, opensource projects, blog posts, forum comments and code repositories remain valid. Github, web2py and web2py groups, python.org,  stackoverflow.com et.al please take note.

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Uncategorized

How to hack Twitter’s registration (using gmail)

I wanted to create another Twitter account for my new project (@forefont) but Twitter’s registration process doesn’t allow would be users to register using an email address already in their records. So this is how I did it using Gmail.
Gmail, allows catchall email addresses i.e. my email address is aitoehigie {at} gmail {dot}com, but if you send an email to me at aito.e.higie {at} gmail {dot} com or any other combination, Gmail still delivers the email to me. Since I had used my correct email address to register my main Twitter account, I just used the combination above, and it was successful.
Try it.

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