Saturday, November 1, 2014


If you own a business start-up or plan to set up one soon, there is a good chance you have come across this statement: “Over 70 percent of businesses do not survive the first two years.”
Start-ups are challenging, and if we are focusing on the wrong things or applying mundane strategies, we are not just shooting ourselves in the leg; we would be using a semi-automatic weapon to do just that, thus crippling the whole thing even before the first step at progress is ever made.
So how do we focus on the right things? That question has so many valid answers and I am yet to discover all. However, I have a few and would like to share one that would help you understand what to focus on in your start-up sojourn.
Here is it: See your start-up operations as one of these two orientations majorly, transaction-oriented or engagement-oriented.
Start-ups that fall into this category would want to worry about quickly sealing deals as it were, because that’s what actually brings in the revenue. Money doesn’t come from customers spending time interacting on your platform, money comes from them actually paying, so you would want to speed up processes that lead to paying and forsake any technology that slows that, no matter how “engaging” it may be .
cancelon dot com
Hotel booking online: a transaction-oriented operation
A simple example of a transaction-oriented operation is a hotel booking service. This is highly transactional; no time to beat around. I simply need to get somewhere nice and comfy to lay my head and perhaps have a few meetings. But then, a typical idea of hotel business meeting technology, of which online hotel booking is the most common, would miss this. This is because its executors would be more concerned about  engaging the customers via their great looking website (wasting time) rather than getting them closer to the goal (booking and paying ) as fast as possible – which is what brings in the dough.
You only win when the hotel wins. You do not win when online visitors look at the nice banner pictures of the rooms of different hotels, navigate around and read about this hotel and its facilities (so much of time wasting). Executing online hotel booking this way is a great ruin from my standpoint – it depicts an entirely different business model and should not be fused with online hotel booking.
Remember what started it: Customers that need to spend some time away from home, and have a meeting or two. How have they done it before you built your shiny hotel booking website? They walked into a hotel of choice and at the reception, they book and pay; they don’t check the rooms or ask about the history of the hotel (we assume they may know or may not; it really doesn’t matter).
They simply walk-in, book and pay. Transaction completed.
Replicate that model online, have the hotel know they have an extension of their business on the cyberspace and have them pay you for carrying out more transactions for them, then you can maintain doing loads of that and have a business; a tech business.
You’ll be getting paid for how many customers you bring in. Not how many of them clicked around.
Another classic example is a taxi booking service. It follows the same model as I have explained, but I would like to give it a bit more context as I have, in the past, thought of developing a mobile solution around it.
App for Metro Cabs?
Just like most techies today, light-bulb! What if people could get to book taxis online?
Yeah! Great idea.  Let’s do this!
I built the thing half way and I thought, “how do I even push this, how do I make money?” Now, this was a time when Red cabs, Metro cabs and co were all still shiny and new; they had just started business.
Eventually I discovered it was all a sham, since delivering value (getting customers to pay a cabbie) was going to be the toughest thing ever (My solution was mobile web back then, but it was pretty good).
Why was I going to fail hard if I had gotten crazy about it and continued with the development?
I was slowing down the transaction process via my app.
Most folks that need a cabbie would rather call or text one at best. Even the best apps that would pick your location via GPS and display a picture of the cab you have booked and even give you GPS tracking are not sustainable in my opinion. Online taxi booking service is not an engagement thing majorly; it is transactional, and it needs to be fast.
A sustainable solution would be phone call and SMS, which can deliver a good enough experience for less cost than a mobile app today.
My point exactly: For transaction-oriented start-ups, identify what delivers value and get that done ASAP and repeatedly.  Forsake “cutting-edge” technology and get it done the fastest way possible. Speed is the keyword in transactions.
Start-ups that fall into this category are the toughest to develop into self-sustaining businesses, but when a good model is discovered, they return on a massive scale. Here, stakeholders deal with users mostly and not customers.  This is pretty difficult because users don’t pay. Only customers do.
So we find most start-ups trying to convert these users to customers, or trying to find another paying entity to sustain the business start-up.
Music services like Spinlet, Spotify, Jango radio, Deezer etc, all fall into this category. Stakeholders definitely want to worry about good interfaces for their applications and focus on things that would allow long lasting engagement with it. The aim is to maintain the interest of users and basically get them hooked.
Unlike transactional, it’s a much slower process towards capturing value so engagement is really the key here. In traditional business, I could liken this to a good customer service and experience.
Other examples would be instant messaging/chat services, social services and premium games.
In IM services or social services, users simply want to interact with other users, communicate, share photos and videos and gifs, comment, like, plus, tweet, pin, keek,  e.t.c. The ability of these platforms to do these things are what keep the users there, and because value is only created when users get on board, it does not sound right to make them pay. Without them your platform is dead. A social network cannot exist without people – this, my friends, makes it tough.
So how do these kinds of start-ups capture value that would be sustainable?
Most of them turn to advertisement, which makes advertisers the customers. Some offer extra services to users, in this case some of the users are converted to premium users (customers), and in other cases some turn to big data business.
The point here is start-ups in this category have to keep doing what they are doing to maintain the engagement between users. If the engagement stops, the show is over.
Whatsapp with a revenue model?
This is why I think Whatsapp may be having a pretty hard time monetizing its service. They have a good number of users which they are trying to convert to customer status; I am one.  I don’t know how far they have gone with that and since they are bent on not turning to ads, it may be really tough to make Whatsapp self-sustaining.
Paid advertisements, in some other cases, may be the sustaining model, since there is a good chance of making large impressions on the users. However it needs to be properly executed to yield returns, else they become intrusive and ruin engagement.a
By the way, ads are coming to Instagram soon. So far it does not generate any revenue. It would be interesting to see how that comes through.
Free games that have no in-app purchases clearly fall into this category and have potentials for very interesting money-spinning models.
Apart from in-app purchases or game currency, look out to Rovio (Angry Birds guys). Those folks developed a successful merchandise business from Angry Birds, and I hear there is a movie in the making – which just means more dollars.
There are some that fall in between; one need to apply a right mix of the way things work in both worlds to execute successfully.  e.g  E-commerce services.
So next time when you think about start-ups, try to place them in one of these two categories and hopefully it helps you understand how you should go about your execution and your potential for success.
I’m not exactly sure how this sounds to the average tech person, but if you see things in a different perspective, please let us get talking in the comment space below. Additions, subtractions, and feedback are also welcomed.
This article was published on and

Thursday, October 9, 2014

My MEST Story

Prior to MEST I was a startup idea junkie.. hopping from one idea to another. Thankfully I have something I think is worth chasing after.

Choosing to enroll at MEST for a 2 year program was a tough choice, but the value was hard to ignore. I also realized that, if I was to succeed in any venture, I needed people. The hardest part of this whole puzzle was going to be people. Good people; building a formidable team and starting a venture together. I realized I had to think people and relationships as all in life balls down to the connections you are able to make early on - Your network is pre' much your net worth. Inside joke inside :)
Enrolling at MEST did not seem like the obvious thing to do. I would like to think the average person in my situation would not have chosen to signup for MEST, considering the duration, but I thought 2 years is worth everything. Seemed long, but heck...time flies really fast these days.

The goal is build a profitable company and MEST facilitates this greatly. Best of all, I get to do so with brilliant people.

Not many things are as good as a community of fine people who share a similar goal. By creating an atmosphere of knowledge, collaboration and learning made possible by the MEST team, working to facilitate your success, Meltwater increases the odds for reaching your goals. Just want I needed.

Having proven their value over the past years by evolving mere mortals into software entrepreneurs, some featured by the world's most prestigious startup event, TCdisrupt, you cannot but expect that this is a big deal. From MEST I expected the BEST entrepreneurial training anyone could find on the continent.

Day 47 and the challenge is on. It's been like ball juggling and the balls are in my court, It's left what I do with them. The experience so far has been challenging and fun, in a right mix.

What is quite amazing at MEST is the collaboration culture. This was very reflective during the selection process. The team were out for the finest individuals, those with the greatest potentials. Sieving out these people was a collaborative process that involved the people themselves, that, in itself emphasizes the value the organization places on collaboration.
"It starts and ends with people" - Jørn
I love people, I #lovemest .

Would keep you posted. Ciao!

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Want to fast track your startup? start building a Community

This post was first published on
fast track your startup
If this startup game was a matter of how cool or awesome what you are offering is, then a lot of folks would have conquered that word “Startup”; but it’s not – It’s essentially how you get the bucks to roll in.. cool or no cool.. just show us the money, then we know you are ready for business.

Joseph Barisonzi has this to say
startup vitamin poster: The Path to greatness..

The title of this blogpost, was the title of a talk by Community building authority, Richard Millington of FeverBee during a tech meetup event at Google campus London. The main content of this post, however are my processed thoughts on the subject. Though I will share 6 snipping points from the talk.
  1. Build communities, not audiences.
  2. Talk about the community, not the brand / product
  3. On how to initiate discussions: Ask a Question, don’t just give information.
  4. Build relationship with key people
  5. We interact in Niche groups. Friends and families first, then people with common interests –that’s a strong one.
  6. There is a difference between a [social] network of people and a community, one has no common interest and the later does have.
Our everyday living as humans thrives on Communities and if we can apply some principles of communities to technology startups in this digital age, we would have much better results.
Today, Technology allows us to create communities that have more diversity than the offline communities we create as humans. Notice the subtle irony in that. It’s powerful!

To the core of the matter – Fast tracking your startup, a.k.a Triggering Traction.

You have to totally dig that this is a marketing game.
Here is my point exactly: You are starting a technology business, a startup as it were, understand that the most critical thing to your survival is getting your customers to pay. You must find them and get them to pay. Hard stuff.- This is why advertising is worth A LOT.

Finding your customers and getting them to pay is the most critical thing – If so Why not do it FIRST.

The convention today, especially for technology startups,  is to have the idea, do some research and all gather all what is needed to begin execution and then begin execution.
The mind is naturally focused on getting the obvious work done. Without considering the most critical thing -the reason why you will be in business, if you ever get paid, that it: the paying customer.
This is the whole point of the Lean Startup-Get-outta-the-building-Customer-development chants you probably may have been hearing.
Tackle your riskiest issues first. The goal of a startup is to de-risk your startup ASAP.
Sigh. God bless Ash and co.
Bringing this back to community building, with a mind of having your first customers – you don’t make that so obvious by the way.
You’ll have to  discover a common interest that would resonate with the members and that your startup idea can relate with.

A few examples.

Felix: Edge of Space Jump
Felix: Edge of Space Jump
Redbull has a strong community and they rarely talk about the drink. The common interest is Extreme sports and that's what they really focus on. We all remember the Felix dude that jumped-off the edge of space.
Nike, the sport brand, has a solid community too. The common interest here is running.
The goal with the community is to foster engagement and interaction around that common interest. - That is like gold.
You will discover insights basically. A perfect platform to "customer develop" the members, but the aim should be to sustain and guide the interactions as much as possible to the point where-by the discussion nearly focuses or focuses on a point where your offering can solve a problem or meet a need. These are the moments you don’t want to miss.
By doing this the members discover the need for your product almost by themselves, you really did not bring it to them in their faces – which when they notice you are marketing, they activate their marketing guards, then it becomes tougher to sell.
By them discovering it as a result of committing their thoughts to something they are already interested in, selling would be easier, you would spend less on marketing, really.
However, community building is a skill on its own.
At this point, you have early adopters within reach. You can now offer the minimum viable product/offering, which becomes a way to demonstrate traction and begin business, weather by bootstrapping or via investment.
That, versus completing the product and them blasting everywhere with ads- “Hey this is a product x that does magic y, you will like.. bla bla bla” -You may likely do that for a while before anyone answers you. Reason being that, the process of selling is in stages.
You as a person don’t just see a new product and say “Chairman, take my money, I like you already” – rarely happens.
The process involves you getting the message clearly, then getting interested, then thinking about it, e.t.c
You don’t face that hurdle using the community way, they are passed naturally and quickly since interest exist.
The community way to building startups offers much more. If it is just for the feedback, that’s valuable enough. With the feedback, you involve those you are building the product for in the building process.
They would naturally accept it when they see elements that reflect their thought patterns or personality, that again, versus you and your team building the product from only your own thought lines and assumptions, and pushing it unto user. You are pretty much saying “This is what we think you need, this is what you must do and this is how you must do it and you must do it this way” and most of the time we are wrong.
Your community can be online or offline, the point is fostering the interactions – However you do it, really doesn’t matter.
So yeah.. ! That’s it on fast tracking startups via community building, I expect some thoughts would oppose to this, it would be nice to know what you think instead 
-Is there anything more critical than finding your paying customers?
If any, someone please enlighten my thinking.
PS: This post is supposed to be a follow-up post to this piece about 2 interesting ways to think about startups, I lost the points that connect them. Still a good piece to read.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

The Gospel According to Lean

It is quite amazing the resonance the Lean Startup community outside Lagos is effecting.
A bit of thanks to LSM people – I think this is finally catching-on here.

I actually had 2 people ask me in church today to know more about Lean Startup. I really did not expect to talk lean in church, but then I had to do an explanation to one of them right there, He seemed to get the idea about the whole #custdev feedback loop.

I had another person give me a direct call yesterday, spent 5 minutes 23 sec explaining Lean Startup to him. Also posted comments on Facebook to give little explanation as to what Lean Startup is.

Just so we are clear in understanding, here is a bit more detail to it, not exhaustive I must say – which is why you should get Eric Ries’ Lean Startup Book at least for your first Lean Read. It is available here.

Would talk about 3 concepts in Lean and how they tie up.
First, a bit of general information about Lean Startup.
The Lean Startup way of doing things is radically different.
It in a way goes against the norm of what you expect in traditional business, enterprise or anything that involves spending resources.
It speaks for eliminating chances for waste -waste of time, money, skill, cognitive power and resources in general.
It is not a cheap way of doing things and then, it involves creating a system of experimental and validated learning.


This argues that whatever ideas we have is an assumption, an assumption that is invalidated- Period.
You got the idea in the shower or anywhere, consider it an invalidated idea.
This means you can’t place a huge bet on the outcomes.  You simply can’t say exactly what would happen if you executed the idea. So goes any knowledge in relation to the the idea –invalidated.

A quick example. The weather is so hot now, and I assume children in the neigbourhood would love iced lolly or ice cream to chill them, so I get the needed ingredients and I make Iced lolly.
Time to sell, and I get no sale, or few sales.
This could be the cause – Say about half of the children the neighborhood could perhaps have recent history of tummy upset and mummy thinks no sweet stuff until you are good to have them.
The other half, perhaps buy Ice-lolly at school and mom says “you can only have one a day” or some silent hidden reason.
These are very very hard to predict scenarios which one would never know except you validate your assumption by developing your customers before starting out.
That sounds a bit basic, still some folks still assume a whole lots and miss it.

Customer Development

Delivering products and services people want is linked with good customer development.
The term may be new, but it in fact means interacting with your customers. Some folks may mean it to be market research, or survey but it is not – at least not in that sense.
Surveys and the likes aim to get you information which you don’t know.
Customer Development aims to get you information anyway, whether you know it or not, it is an assumption in the first place, remember – and it gives you more – it is in the facial expressions, the emotional reactions, the pupil dilation, (if you can catch that), the voice tone e.t.c.
In essence, customer development validates or invalidates that piece of assumed knowledge via the feedback you get –which is not biased.

Back to the Ice Cream guy. Let’s call Him Sam.

He stood a chance with good customer development. Had he done it, he would have gotten useful information (Feedback)  and apply it to re-strategize.
The women tell him “Our children have tummy upset” and he could go back and make plans to include non-sugar/low-sugar Ice-cream/lollies in his options.

 I imagine him coming back to the woman saying “No worries madam, I have non-sugar Ice cream that has Vitamins A, B1, B2, B3 and C.. Perfect for you Children, infact it would stop the tummy upset :)” – He stands a good chance.

For those who buy at school, upon discovering that through customer development, he could spend half the time at school.  The Children, seeing Uncle Sam their neighbor who sells Ice Cream would want to buy from him.  The Feedback would have eliminate the possible waste of resources.
In the case he is unable to meet the demands, that would be known early-on before investing into the venture.


Feedback is gold. It must be crafted into the whole system of your business. It is  like the compass of your business-ship. If your customers says no. It’s a no- no. They say yes and nod with it. Move fast.
But come back soon and ask again.
The average person would conclude (assume) uninformed that Ice-lolly/Ice-cream doesn't sell well in his neigbourhood, but with feedback, adjustments could be made and the true potential of the market is realized.

By the Way.

If you look at the concepts of  Lean Startup from a business plan standpoint, you may realize planning so long into the future is high risk. 3,5,10 years+  business plans are probably a sham. The rate of change these days is just crazy. Have what you want to achieve in view, but be flexible on how you get it. Experimentation is the new planning.

Yeah, that’s it – the Gospel according to LeanStartup – Enjoy the Journey