Op-Pieces

Yomi Adegboye: Why are so many tech startups faking it?

Kachwanya.com has an article that throws a huge spotlight on the habit of startups in Kenya putting out misleading figures all in a bid to look solid. One could take his article, replace all references to Kenya with Nigeria or Ghana, and the article would remain valid. An excerpt from said article:

For Start-ups in their quest to show the world that they are doing well, the norm is to exaggerate the numbers, be it the money thing, the website traffics, the number of app downloads, and even the number of employees.

Here is a tweet by Ghanaian, Edward Tagoe, in response to Kachwanya’s article:

 
So, Ghana is caught in this too. And it doesn’t start and stop with pitches. Here in Nigeria, people go out of their way to buy SUVs from funds they borrow and scrounge for – just to look the part. Lies are fabricated around a lot of things. I don’t get it. I wasn’t raised that way, so it is hard for me to do or even understand.

Some months ago, I began to write on the struggles of entrepreneurship in Nigeria. I decided to start putting out stories of my own struggles, so people stepping into the field know what to expect upfront. Sometimes those stories contain no solutions, but the information is useful. Usually, people wait till they have stuck it big before telling their stories. In my opinion, that needs to change.

Funny though, when I write about my struggles in business, many people assume that I am kidding around. I had a chat with World Famous Lammy a few weeks ago, and she mentioned to me how someone said to her that Mister Mobility is rich, yet he pretends not to be. Thankfully, she corrected that impression. Yes; I have made money over the ten years I have been in business. But I have also lost money.

The present car that I drive was purchased brand new in 2008 at the cost of N1.4 million. It was paid for in full upfront. My plan was to change it when it clocked 4 years. Unfortunately, I have been unable to. Things have been far from rosy. That is my story. I will not fake it. It is too much stress to try to put up appearances. There are times I have had hundreds of thousands in my account, and there are times I have been unable to put N10,000 together. No biggie.

Sometimes the cash comes in by the truckload. At other times, the dry season persists and things almost fall apart. There are days that I keep going on only by sheer force of habit, and not because everything is fine. Perhaps it is different for others, but that is my story and reality.

This attempt to keep spray-painting the façade in order to always look shiny will keep messing with us. We are better off admitting the problems that we face and sitting down to address them than to keep putting up appearances. We can do better. As said earlier, I made a decision to start talking about those struggles as an example, and as a way of stimulating discussions that hopefully throw up some answers. I hope that at least a few others will stand up with me.

 
Why are so many tech startups faking it? was first published as Faking It on Mobility Blog

 
[Photo Credit: Merrick Brown via Compfight cc]

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Content Creator. Mobile Connoiseur. Managing Editor, Mobility.ng

4 Comments

  1. It is always tough at this stage. Listening to people like Tonye Cole gave me the needed nerves to face my own struggles. He explained how he couldn't live up to his mates while he built his business in the early years while within seven years, those same mates started looking up to him when they made the decision to go into business and Sahara started to make a big impact around. So long as you don't lie to yourself, it should be fine. Its when you lie to the world and then lie to yourself that there is a big problem.

  2. Dear Mr Mobility , thank you for the brief article but you failed to convince me beyond reasonable doubt that "many" startups in Nigeria fake it, with all due respect i totally concur to your article but you only scratched the surface in this brief post.

    Agreed that some startups go buying big cars & SUVs after raising seed funding or getting outright loans but you failed to justify the title of your article that which rhetorically asks why "So many startups are faking it ? "

    The words "So many" is misleading and unverified. I personally know a lot of startups here in Nigeria that have kept it real. I for a person and as a startup enthusiast have kept it real and lean and the goes for a lot of other Nigerian startups that i know.

    Last year my start up RAMP.com.ng , was fortunate to be nominated long with 3 other Nigerian startups among the 40 top African startups to pitch and launch at DEMO Africa 2013 in Nairobi, Kenya. All four of us, Nigerian startups were as real as it could be. Same goes for the other African startups that participated at DEMO Africa. Some may be faking it, but i can tell you the numbers aren't a majority.

    Just My 2 cents

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