business, hacker spaces, hacking, Internet, Technology & Startups

Why tech startups should not move to Yaba

For all those sitting in traffic right now.
- JASON FRIED

The above quote is from “Remote – office not required”, the latest book from the guys at 37signals. I guess having just finished reading the book and the intense debate that went on here birthed this post.

WHY TECH STARTUPS SHOULD NOT MOVE TO YABA OR ANYWHERE AT ALL.

1. Work doesnt happen at work: We all are guilty of goofing off on facebook, twitter, youtube et.al instead of working. Some employers even go as far as installing blocks to the Internet on office systems (this didnt stop certain adventurous individuals from bypassing it though *cough, cough*).

Programmers, designers etc produce their best work when they are inspired and in a state of flow and this has a 1% chance of ever happening in the office. IM’s, endless emails, co-workers stopping in for mindless chitchat, purposeless staff meetings etc would ensure this never happens.

Inspiration can’t be called up on demand and ordered to deliver. There are days, weeks and even months when I don’t create anything, when looking at code hurts my eyes but oh boy when the inspiration hits, my heart rate would go up, insomniac mode comes on and I just keep at it till its all out of my head. So being forced into a cubicle farm and ordered to produce stuff would be pure torture and a waste of time. Back to the warm embrace of fair lady twitter.

2. Traffic, traffic and more traffic: “Commuting is associated with increase rate of obesity, insomnia, stress, neck and back pain, high blood pressure, heart attacks, depression and even divorce” Study. You wake up very early and jump into the jungle called Lagos to fight the beast called “go slow” and after some hours, bloodied and sweaty you slay the beast and arrive in your office. How long do you think you would need to settle down and then get into that state of mind when you can produce some quality work? driving or commuting via public transport in Lagos can be a really hellish experience, just imagine if your daily commute was a maximum 5 seconds from your bed to your home office?

You could wake up 5am get some stuff done in 1-2 hours, eat, exercise and even go back for a short nap. This is time you would have wasted in traffic. If you live in the Yaba axis, good for you and best of luck if you commute from Okokomaiko to yaba everyday, you would die!!!

3. Yaba isnt the Mecca of Nigerian tech startups: Yaba, Yaba, Yaba, left, right and center (pun intended), thats all you hear. How Yaba is the place to be if you are into technology in Lagos, Nigeria. How CCHUB is the home of all the code ninjas and picasso-ish designers in Lagos. Talent has no hotspot, even infrastructure, i.e. uninterrupted power and fast internet speed found in cchub (my generator, Inverter and Swift modem aka The holy Trinity) and the mainone cable being laid in Yaba doesnt offer a bigger offset to the downside of a long commute.

As an employer, restricting your hiring to a small geographic region means you’re not getting the best people you can. As an employee, restricting your job search to companies within a reasonable commute means you’re not working for the best company you can.

4. Magic doesn’t always happen when we are in the same room location: People who would support the great Yaba march would say that there is strength in the collection of tech heads present in Yaba, there are talent hubs in Yaba (CCHUB, IDEAHUB, UNILAG, YABATECH et. al and other tech companies) etc. Not that I dispute that fact but at the same time we dont need to all move to Yaba to harness these resources.

There are ways we could all collaborate without necessarily being present in Yaba: e.g. github, bitbucket dropbox, IRC, skype, screen sharing, google groups, etc the list is endless.

Some people find the very idea of living in Lagos with her attendant madness reprehensible. Does that mean that those people would miss out on the “gold rush”?

***Original artwork by Mike Rohde***

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hacking, Internet, programming, Technology & Startups

#2,000 and 10 minutes later

I had a domain name I wanted to hock so I decided to host a static site with purchase instructions for would be buyers and point the domain name to it. It made no sense paying for hosting so I decided to use github pages.

Github pages is a way of hosting static HTML pages on github and there are two types:

(1) User pages
(2) Project pages

Steps to hosting User pages on github.
1. Go to github.com/new and create a new repository i.e. assuming you are already a github user.
2. For the repository name enter “[githubusername].github.io”
3. Make the repository pulic
4. Check “Initialize this repository with a README”
5. Click Create Repository
Now it gets technical. Please note that the following instructions are for UNIX based OSes not Windows.
Open your Terminal and enter the following commands:
$ mkdir /path/to/source-code
$ cd /path/to/source-code
Download your newly created GitHub repository and go inside it.
$ git clone https://github.com/username/username.github.io.git
$ cd username.github.io
6. Now create your static website in html inside the git directory that you are in.
$ git add . (This command would add all the tracked files in your working directory into the staging area awaiting commit)
$ git commit -m “1st static website commit” (All your files are now committed to the HEAD of your git directory)
$ git push origin master (This command pushes your local repository containing your local website to the remote repository on github)
After 10 minutes your should be able to view your static website at http://username.github.io/

P.S: if you want to host your static website with a custom domain, “CD” into your directory and run:
$ touch CNAME
Edit the CNAME file with any text editor of your choice and enter the domain name you might have already registered [1] and save it. Re-run the above commands and if successful, you would be able to also view your static website at http://yourcustomdomain.com. [2]

Notes:
1. Registering a dot com should not cost more than #2,000/year.
2. My static website hosted on github pages can be found at http://hacki.ng. Offers are welcome.

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critic, funding, hacking, Life, Technology & Startups

Has the bubble burst? developed a leak? or was there even a bubble at all?

“Today, across my network of companies, I directly and indirectly employ around 200 people. 90% under 27. 150 or so in Lagos but hope by 2015 that number reaches at LEAST 1,000.”
May 7, 2013.

“Today I had to fire retire 13 people.”
October 13, 2013.

What happened in the time between the 2 posts?

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critic, hacking, Life, Technology & Startups

Did Blackberry just commit Hara-kiri?

Hara-kiri
noun: hara-kiri, noun:harakiri
1. Ritual suicide by disembowelment with a sword, formerly practised in Japan by samurai as an honourable alternative to disgrace or execution.

I strongly feel Blackberry committed hara-kiri by releasing BBM as a free app on both iOS and Google Play app stores. Correct me if I am wrong but the reason why 99.9% of people got a Blackberry phone was because of BBM [1] while the remaining 0.01% are the weirdo’s who got it for push email et.al. Blackberry phones are whack, battery life atrocious, their app store is filled with crappy applications.
Why did Blackberry give away their crown jewel (i.e. BBM)? to remain relevant in the mobile space? too late. Back in 2009, it would have been a stroke of genius.
Now that BBM is available for both iOS and Android, would any sane person actually go to a store to pick up a Blackberry phone? NO!!!
If the release of the iPhone dug the grave site for Blackberry and Android put her in a coffin, then the release of BBM just said the final rites and poured sand over the coffin in the grave.
Even if Blackberry wants to transition into a SAAS company and somehow charge for BBM via TELCO’s, would anyone actually pay to use BBM when whatsapp and its ilk are free?

Notes:
1. The sole reason for my short lived romance with a Blackberry phone was basically because of BBM. I was tired of people asking me for my PIN. (covers face in shame).

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critic, hacking, programming, Technology & Startups

You dont know anything

buffer

https://mobile.twitter.com/pystar/statuses/6391239737868289

Look at the timestamp of the image above. I tweeted it in 2010 after reading glowing reviews of the bufferapp on Hackernews, I just couldn’t get why someone would pay just to schedule posts on twitter (they only supported twitter back then). Joel responded to my tweet with optimism about the app. 3 years on, look at the tweet below:

buffer2

This goes to show that we don’t really know sh*t about anything. If you have an idea you think would work, run with it first. Let your target audience accept or reject it and don’t place the power of life and death in the crucible of some so-called expert who probably doesn’t know sh*t about anything,

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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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hacking, Technology & Startups

How @Gidi_Traffic can become the Siri of Nigeria

@Gidi_Traffic pls where is Debonairs pizza located?

These are the kind of messages that @Gidi_Traffic gets these days. And why do people actually tweet this kind of stuff to @Gidi_traffic ? at my last count, @Gidi_Traffic has 26,558 followers on Twitter. And most people who tweet this stuff actually are trying to leverage on the network effects and influence that @Gidi_traffic wields, i.e. even if @Gidi_Traffic doesnt know the answer to the questions asked, once its retweeted by @Gidi_Traffic, one of his followers would actually know the answer.

@Gidi_Traffic can become the Siri of Nigeria by doing the following:

1. Retweeting “so-called” unrelated traffic tweets, which would be seen by all his followers and most likely get a correct response.

2. Tweeting those questions asked to people most likely to answer them correctly e.g. crime related tweets to the twitter handle of the Nigerian police, i.e. if they really use Twitter.

3. Biz model: going off Twitter and building a standalone site with Twitter API and allowing people tweet at it and have businesses pay  to have access to those tweets and provide answers/solutions to those tweets. For example, I am hungry and feel like eating pizza, I tweet at @Gidi_Traffic “I feel like having a pizza”, someone who is in charge of the social media handle of Debonairs see’s that tweet, responds to me and I order the pizza from Debonairs. @Gidi_Traffic gets his commission, Debonairs gets a sale and I am no longer hungry and everyone lives happily ever after.

P.S: Anyone can actually become a human-powered Nigerian Siri, not just @Gidi_traffic, the only snag is that you must have loads and loads of followers, i.e. you should be an influencer on Twitter.

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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

2 Reasons why you should start a startup (The Nigerian version)

2 Reasons why you should start a startup

(The Nigerian version)

Have you been thinking about starting an Internet company? here are some reasons why I think you should take the plunge.

  1. You just graduated from university or are about to and you are scared about getting a job which you know doesn’t even exist [1].
  2. Nigeria is a “virgin tech forest” where technology can be used to disrupt almost all facets of society. Almost any idea you develop  can  and will disrupt society for “good”, as there are real problems that technology can be used to solve [2] which Western tech companies haven’t solved and don’t even have any interest in solving. In Nigeria, viable ideas are everywhere, the streets are paved with “idea gold”, pick one up run with it and make impact.
P.S : For the love of God, while you are at it, please don’t create another clone of Facebook, Twitter or another bulk SMS website. And for your business model, don’t make Google Adsense  your primary source of income as I feel that there are ideas that some of the 45 million online Nigerians who also mostly live under $1 per day would be able to spare out of that pittance to pay for your service [3].

Notes

[1]  Actually, you don’t even need to have a degree to start a startup, as most coders I know are self-taught. The unemployment rate in Nigeria stands at 23.9%  out of a total of over 167 million people. Why waste your time looking for a job which is virtually (no pun intended) nonexistent, when you could create one for your self and others, make impact on your society which you definitely can’t do as a “cubicle slave” and if you are lucky, become rich and retire young?

[2]  PayPal has blacklisted Nigeria, why can’t we develop our home-grown version? Also, why do I have to go through semi illiterate middle men called “agents” before I can get a place to rent?  (present solutions in this space suck big time).

[3] This is the subject of a blog post for another day.

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Dear Mr Jimoh

Hello Sir,

Congratulations on your much deserved win @Startup weekend Lagos. While you bask in the glow of your win, let me hit you with some questions before you get a tan.

1. Data: your app is basically useless without the data of artisans. So how do you intend getting the data of artisans seeded into your app? And please don’t tell me artisans would do the profile creation themselves (I can see you have a form for that) you know why? Most of the artisans who are your target demographic are either illiterate and/or wont be interested in creating a profile on your app without them really seeing what value that adds to them i.e. monetary. And if you want normal users to create and rate profiles of artisans they have used, what would motivate them to do so? Whats in it for them to go through the whole process?[1]

2. Business Model: Although your app is quite innovative at least in our local web space, but I cant for the life of me deduce how you intend making money from this app unless you want to go down the very well beaten path of Google adsense? [2] Provided you can generate enough traffic to cover hosting cost and other sundry costs with that, then I wish you guys luck.

P.S: I would be monitoring your progress over time.  Congrats again sir.

Notes

 

[1] A very thought-provoking tweebate was the cause of this blog post and the major thing that was debated was how artisans details would be created on findjimoh.com and who would do the creation. Leaving that power to either the artisans or people who use the artisans would be a major fail, because you would be giving them the power to determine how fast your app would grow and how useful it would be to other users. At least in the beginning, do the seeding yourselves.

[2] Regarding your business model, a little bird just whispered into my ear that you intend making money whenever any artisan is recommended. I really don’t know how that would work. But a simple way I feel you can make money is by having a short code that anyone could text a requirement and have the top ranking artisan that matches that query sent back in response.

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