I am always inspired by both startup founders and ideas behind what they do. It is a different thing launching a startup and another thing taking decisions that make it grow.

In this post, I evaluated 6 ideas from 7 founders that might inspire you.

  1. Hire people that are more intelligent that you are.

When it comes to hiring, Mark Essien of HotelsNG has a radical idea. For him, it is not enough depending on the likes of Jobberman, PushCV or ShortListNG to get the best applicants to fill up his team slots. This is because hiring is a challenge especially if you want skills that cannot be put on a CV.

Mark has demystified the process. In his blog he shared the details of how he hires for his startup. Even CNN picked up the story of his hiring experiments.

His unconventional interview starts with a tweet:

And he proceeds to shortlist for interview with weird questions that look like they are unrelated to the role.

What you might not realize is that Mark wants people that are smarter than him for each role he fills so he comes up with a unique attribute for the ideal candidate and test his assumption using idealistic/user behaviour question. He detailed the process here.

Hiring is a critical issue that determines how fast you might grow your startup. Even iROKOtv attempted the unusual in its recent engineering positions’ recruitment. They did this by giving away N1 million to winners of complex engineering tests. Most likely, you don’t have that size of budget to throw away. That’s fine, but you can still copy other effective systems used by Teachable to hire for growth teams; adapt how Noah Kagan hires the best person in the world or explore how you can use LinkedIn to hire friends of connections.

  1. Crunch data, make intelligent decision and keep hustling.

There are so many things to learn from Jason Njoku of iROKOtv. I have written about why I think he succeeds by x-raying posts from his personal blog and recently I wrote about how his startup will probably outdo Netflix on Nollywood content.

One of the key lessons from Jason is that he is a data freak (just check this).

Thinking with data requires intelligence/analytics tools. For example, the analytics tracking section of this report can easily show you what analytics IROKOtv is using to gather its business intelligence. But there is a harder part. You must be able to turn your business intelligence to a strategy.

  1. Create the “Hero Effect” with your startup story

The spotlight here is Iyin Aboyeji of Andella. In this medium post, and Wall Street Journal he masterfully weaves the story of his startup as the “messiah” story for software developers in Lagos.  Many founders are also creating this kind narrative and it (almost) works all the time depending on how well the story angle was used and the effectiveness of the PR.

Take for example how Anakle leveraged the UBER rebranding opportunity to tell the world how they were flattered to have been “copied” by UBER.

anake uber logo comparison SpokenTwice.com 6 lessons learnt from founders

Why it looked like another post to click “like” or “share” button on, it holds a strategic positioning especially if you know what went into UBER’s re-branding according to this WIRED article.

Given the choice (if money is not a problem) you will most likely choose Anakle for your next project since their “thinking” is as good as UBER’s – By the way, Anakle is a great agency.

  1. Be bold to take a stand……even if it might hurt your foot.

Olumide studied medicine before he abandoned it and went on to found Gloo.NG in 2012.  He is one of the startup founders who are taking stand against cash on delivery model (COD) for ecommerce startups.

As I wrote in a previous article, instead of succumbing to what was prevalent, GlooNG designed an incentive that locks in customers to a subscription model (its VIP programme is similar to Amazon Prime that has improved Amazon’s revenue by 40%).

Today, that stand might not hurt his feet as much as Konga or Jumia are hurting (with over 50% of their orders being delivered via cash on delivery).

What you might not know is that the likes of Jumia, for all their revenues, are still unprofitable, whereas a niche startup like Gloo.NG might already be enjoying positive ROI just because it took a bold stand.

  1. Pay attention to your paying market audience, not endorsements and tech buzz.

I work with a talented team at a #FINTECH startup with offices in UK and Lagos, Nigeria. Currently, it is the only Nigeria payment aggregator that processes transactions in multiple global currencies including USD for clients across 4 continents. Yet, when i speak to a lot of developers in Nigeria startup community, the name VoguePay hardly rings a bell.

Here is an unofficial answer to that.

VoguePay understands that it is building a financial solution for SMEs and focuses its outreaches to that market. Of course, it will still be a good idea to invest in PR and programmes that get your name out in the tech media like this recent interview. However, what seems to matter to VoguePay in the last 3 years is “evangelising” the paying market through partners programmes, word of mouth, lean marketing tactics etc. These are not sexy tech PR at all but they work.

Is it really working?

Absolutely. VoguePay is crushing all notable ROIs with minimal investments in tech buzz. At the core of VoguePay is initiative like this Facebook post and customer video testimonial contest.

I prepared this Alexa stat last year to compare the traffic performance of selected “vocal” startups in the payment space with VoguePay. Paga was actually the undisputed winner, with a little mark ahead of VoguePay‘s traffic count.

Alexa traffic comparison for VoguePay, Paga etc

Because of my informed position, I am also aware that the transaction numbers is also one of the highest in the space with monthly transaction volume hitting 100s of million.

To put that in perspectives, check Paga’s numbers.

  1. Pick a niche and be the new leader.

PushCV launched it career service in 2014. At that time there were established market leaders. But in 4 months, the startup went from an idea to become the most trafficked job website.

On their “about us” page, the mission of the startup implies that they are building human capacity in the labour market by positioning themselves as the largest pool of pre-screened candidates in Africa.

So, instead of competing head to head with others, especially JobberMan as the No.1 job website, PushCV succeeded in positioning itself as best pool of verified and work-ready job applicants. I wrote about this in detail so I will avoid repeating. They created a completely blue ocean strategy which made them to dominate a new niche that they created for themselves.

Those are the six lessons I learnt. I believe there are some lessons you can apply to your own startup. Good luck implementing any of them.

Feel free to share your views in the comments.

    2 replies to "6 Heart-warming lessons I learnt from 7 Nigerian startup founders that will inspire you"

    • Sunday

      Great write up full of useful insights. I have been following your blog posts even on Radar.

      • oluwole

        Thank you Sunday,

        And your service rocks too. Of course, I know about KudiSMS

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