I was casually going through the chats in Code Pyramid Whatsapp group and i saw a comment by Sherrif Shittu. I was perplexed because i have known him for sometime, while i remember adding to him the group i can’t recall ever seeing his post for more than six months. Well i quickly used the opportunity to introduce him to the members. “Guys in case you don’t know. He is the founder of switch.ng a company that is in the fore front pushing the tech industry into international territories. Its good to have you here even though you’ve been around for a while”, i posted.
He made a humble gesture of appreciation using an emoji. Then we started discussing and he pointed out that since the recession is over, he hopes to see more thriving startups. I naively replied that i was aware but don’t know how to confirm if indeed its truly over. That was when he sparked the conversation. “I don’t think as techies…our market is not exclusively tied to Nigeria. We can build for the global market”, he wrote. He further posted that, “I like the Chinese way, look to the west, replicate what they have built. Then under-price it and re-purpose it for another market”.
Some members in the group became arouse and started chipping in, one of them posted, “if you can make it, they can fake it”. It then hit me, that’s “international thinking”. I was opened to a new strategy and so i commented to indicate that we are following the conversation. Mr Shittu hasn’t even started, it was at that juncture that he showed us how to capitalize on the first strategy. “With that you are able to teeth up in knowledge, expertise and cash reserve. When you have enough reserve, with the expertise gained, you can then build a competing product. He further sited examples of these, “Uber vs DiDi, Amazon vs Alibaba, Whatsapp vs WeChat”. I also helped with the examples citing, “Uber vs Taxify and Amazon vs Jumia”. However, Mr Shittu reminded me that Taxify was not a Nigerian company.
“A friend who mentored the founder of Taxify was sharing the experience”, continued Mr Shittu. ” Its nothing different, the guy built the tech (which is easy) then recruited people across Africa who he never met”. It was like a scene from the tech series Silicon Valley, having first hand knowledge on building tech products and trusting people to join your team, sometimes people you’ve never met. Mr Shittu further added, “Then they (Taxify) implemented Uber strategy with African nuance. That’s the way forward for us in Africa. But we can’t shy away from building”. A colleague then asked Mr Shittu about the fundamentals of building a tech startup in Nigeria. “Fundamental things are: sustenance, profitability and scale. You can call it SPS or SSP”, he said.
“You can max out a market by going for scale before profitability but you can’t ignore sustenance”, he clearly pointed out. “What if no investors?”, he added. My colleague asked him again, “And i guess we figure out this by building”. Mr Shittu responded, “you figure out by building but when you get a few things right you increase the odd for success”. I then asked him about the essential startup team. He said, “Building a team…whoever can’t come in full time should not be part of the founding team except he is dropping cash. If they can’t change their Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter to the startup, they probably aren’t all in”. “In essence its all about commitment”, i wrote. He responded with the affirmative.
“What can you say about going for experience before building your tech startup or starting a tech startup and learn along the way?”, asked my colleague once again. “when you are founding a startup focus on the team recruiting, not staff. Experience is good but if you think you have a winner..just start and learn on the way. Whoever isn’t committed will bailout at the first challenge”. Mr Shittu emphasized. “So what about scaling”, i added. His response was epic,” that could be devastating for a founder, if there are no differences in skills (complimentary) then we will have a duplication of efforts. Slowing you down essentially, each person should bring something to the table”.
I graciously thanked Mr Shittu for all the insights and quickly asked him one more question about scaling and the best method to do it. His replied that, ” Scale is simple. Whats the best measure of success for your startup? Whatever it is…multiply it to the magnitude of your dream/vision”. The conversation ended with Mr Shittu also encouraging developers to get mentors in their related fields as it helps the journey to be easier. He also dabbled a little into funding, bootstrapping, dedication and belief by founders in their ideas and startups. “My keywords are: we start a company with our hearts but we grow it with our head”, Mr Shittu remarked.