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)

Standard
hacker spaces, Technology & Startups

A Nigerian Hacker’s Wish (4): Business Models

“How will this generate income?”

“Can it stay afloat?”

“Is this economically viable?”

These questions and more are what I get tossed at me whenever I pitch a new idea or project. To the average Nigerian startup founder, the most likely answer to such questions would be “Google adwords/adsense”, which is the most popular ad network in the world today. Since a business model based on advertising might not be the best option for some startups, I have listed below some business models that Nigerian startups can adopt.

1. Subscription: This means charging users of your site right from the very beginning. This requires a lot of gumption and courage as most would be users might not be so well disposed to paying for a service that has not yet tried and tested. Also most web users have been spoilt by the FREEMIUM model which is the most popular business model on the web, hence it would be extremely difficult to get those kind of people to pay for what you have to offer. The success of the SUBSCRIPTION model depends on some factors:

(i.) Your Product: Can your product offer enough value to would be user’s to convince them to pay for it?

(ii.) Means of Payment: How easy is it to pay for your service? In a place like Nigeria, where e-commerce and e-payment platforms are either complacent or not interested in offering mobile/web payments, this can be a huge challenge.

2. Incentive Marketing: This business model involves offering discount coupons to users as an incentive to using your website. The income generated from this is shared between you and the merchants/advertisers.

3. Affiliates: This is a variation of the advertising model, and it works by having the website owner advertise goods and services for merchants, thereby providing customers to such merchants and taking a percentage of the sales generated.

Standard
Technology & Startups

A Nigerian Hacker’s Wish (3): Funding

The average hacker here in Nigeria has almost zero access to funding for his startup, from either angels, venture capital firms, banks or even the government. At best if his idea looks promising, he might be able to convince friends and family to invest in his startup i.e. if they have the means to do so. But to face the facts, most hackers might not be able to go this route so I have listed some ways to circumvent this barrier.

Alternatives to Traditional Funding

1. Grow Organically: This mostly depends on the idea behind the startup. This is one reason why I am against hackers creating clones of popular websites here in the Nigerian web space. The idea behind any would be Nigerian startup should have the innate ability to grow organically, i.e. it should be a viable idea and should be able to generate revenue immediately from the time of launch. This would allow the startup to stay “lean”, prioritize on features and stay focused on what is absolutely necessary to the growth of the startup.

2. Freelance: Another word I could have used is to “consult or offer consulting services” i.e. provide services to individuals or corporate bodies based on your skills set. e.g. web design/development, database administration etc. This will allow you to plough back money generated from this activities into the startup, allowing it to stay afloat until it starts to generate income of its own.

3. Day Job: I am absolutely sure this is the path most hackers here in Nigeria are on. Having a day job means the hacker has access to steady income out of which he can dedicate a certain percentage to the daily running of the startup until it starts to generate enough income for him to take the full time plunge into it. One advantage of this path is that you as a startup founder gets to keep your 100% equity stake in the startup.

Since angels, VC firms, banks and the government are still blind to the gold mine they have left fallow in the form of web startups in Nigeria, I just have this to say: “Let’s become so good, that they can no longer ignore us!”.

Standard
programming, Technology & Startups

A Nigerian Hacker’s Wish (2)

In part 1 of this series, I wrote about a place in Lagos where I could code without thinking about power cuts from the power company, my laptop battery dying, my generator running out of fuel or my inverter battery running down. I made this point number 1 on my list because of its relevance to flow and a hacker’s productivity.

What is Flow exactly? According to Wikipedia:

Flow is the mental state of operation in which a person in an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and success in the process of the activity. Proposed by Mihály Csíkszentmihályi, the positive psychology concept has been widely referenced across a variety of fields.

According to Csíkszentmihályi, flow is completely focused motivation. It is a single-minded immersion and represents perhaps the ultimate in harnessing the emotions in the service of performing andlearning. In flow, the emotions are not just contained and channeled, but positive, energized, and aligned with the task at hand. To be caught in the ennui of depression or the agitation of anxiety is to be barred from flow. The hallmark of flow is a feeling of spontaneous joy, even rapture, while performing a task although flow is also described (below) as a deep focus on nothing but the activity – not even oneself or one’s emotions.

A hacker being in the Flow while coding is usually at the peak of his productivity. Flow is that elusive state in which a hacker is so immersed in what he is working on that he looses all sense of time and space, everything else is a blur, as he has “tunnel vision” on the problem he is developing a solution for. To most hacker’s who have to hack at work, they will tell you that they hardly ever if not never get into the state of Flow, which is why the 37signals guys will tell you that the typical workplace is antithetical to productivity. Flow once gotten into is very easy easy to break out of and harder to get back into once distracted.

How to stay in the Flow

1. A conducive workplace, i.e. a place where the hacker doesn’t have to think/bother about mundane things like infrastructure, e.g. power, Internet etc. Also the hacker should have all the stuff he might need during the hacking session like food and drinks, notepad and pen, reference materials and manuals at arms length  to avoid breaking out of the flow just to get these stuff.

2. Avoid distractions like emails, IM’s, phone calls, co workers, meetings etc and also have a certain period of the day when he can code for a solid stretch of time without interruptions.

3. If the hacker is in a noisy place with lots of people, using high quality noise canceling earphones would be ideal as it would serve the dual purpose of shutting out external noise and also dissuade people from talking to you.

Standard