10 kobo tips for Nigerian Pre-Startups!

I am usually very careful when using the word ‘startup’. The growing tech media in Nigeria have adopted the word ‘startup’ wholly as it is being used in Silicon Valley for every tech idea someone’s trying to execute. I am of the opinion that this generalisation isn’t fair for most ‘startups’ in Nigeria.

According to Wikipedia:

“a startup company or startup is a company, a partnership or temporary organisation designed to search for a repeatable and scalable business model…A critical task in setting up a business is to conduct research in order to validate, assess and develop the ideas or business concepts in addition to opportunities to establish further and deeper understanding on the ideas or business concepts as well as their commercial potential”

You don’t do the above with water and air. You need some resources which include some tech skills (depending on what you’re trying to achieve), some cash and human resources (business guy or guys, mentors etc). While it is possible to start with an idea, usually ideas alone are not enough.

There are two categories of ‘startups’ in Nigeria.

The first group, you can actually call the startups. They deserve the sticker ‘startups’. There are actually only a handful of these in Nigeria as at today. They actually have some resources to throw around. They have a handful of developers and they can go to market very fast. Because they have some resources to play with, they launch startups serially, with all their startups running from the same pool of resources. These group know their numbers, they have business guys and can brandish graphs, stats and figures to prove their point. These group can actually afford to go from idea to execution and they represent the people behind the startup rhetorics/wave in Nigeria. But they are sadly very very few.

(PS: These guys are also domain hoppers. They have probably registered all conceivable .ng domain names)

The other group (startup-wannabes) consists of young, talented, ambitious and often inexperienced folks who have the raw ideas of changing the world. They are hip, skilled in one of two programming languages, they are often in touch with the latest in tech. They have broad knowledge of technologies but not deep enough to create something outstanding. Off course they sabi clone too.

These group however haven’t learnt the art of execution. They tend to start multiple projects without seeing any of them through. They jump from event to event, project to project, idea to idea, depending on which catches their fancy at any point in time. The folks in these group launch Betas that stay Beta for many months, and even years with no concrete plans for the next level.

Also, rather then wait it out with one good idea, they move on to other ideas without spending enough time to see their first idea/project gain traction. Unfortunately, they also call themselves startups. Putting themselves in the same category as the first group. This group should rather be called pre-startups. Some can graduate to startup level, while others just implode.

Enough said. I have 3 advice for the second group, the pre-startups. If you think you or your ‘startup’ fall in the second group, take note of these things. Unfortunately, folks with plenty tech skills tend to fall into the second group. So this advice is for me as well.

1. Starting and not finishing

I hardly visit Facebook these days, but when I do, I read through silicon Africa and Creative Tech groups. On these groups, I see a lot of hurriedly executed projects discussed that never gets finished. Some of them very good and others, not so good. A handful of them go under even after people have taken time to give them ideas on how to make their product or service better.

Its either the Facebook or twitter login is not working or a page outrightly says “under construction”. I tried one with an invalid email and it got the email registered. This is totally unfair on users who are trying to check out and possibly sign up for the service. I’d like to see more projects actually get completed. A nice sounding domain name is not enough, we need to learn to start finishing whatever it is we start guys.

2. Trying to do more than one thing

Another reason ’startups’ in the second group never make it to production is because they try to do many things. They try to add many assumed features which delays launch. I look forward to when startups wannabe in the second group focus on one thing and do it very well. Off course, it is natural to be afraid a competitor will clone your service and add your missing features. Yup, but then, competition is good and you’d better launch with 1 functionality and gain some users rather than not launching because you aren’t ready with the 65th feature.

3. Terrible UI

Common guys its 2014!. I have also noticed we have a pathetic UI problem. There are templates written all over the sites launched by these second group of startups. Arguably because of limited time and resources and not having a dedicated UI Engineer. Templates are not bad, it’s the art of beautifully integrating them into your own logic/functionality that is still missing.

If you are short of UI designers or you can’t afford one, frameworks like Twitter Bootstrap and Zurb foundation are out there to help you out. Please use them.

Early 2000 web design

First, if you are developer reading this and you’re not subscribed to Hacker Newsletter, you are on a long thing. Its a regular collection of the best write ups you’ll ever read in tech  - Subscribe to Hackernewsletter.com here

This write up is inspired by this Article I saw on Hackernews. Reading through, I felt nostalgic and decided to write a list of things that got me excited doing web design on the early 2000s.

1. Yeah, Marquee was indeed Awesome.
This is a one

This was one of those things you learned to use that made your website stand out. Getting a piece of text and make it scroll across the screen., in any direction you wanted. When you used this, you were regarded as a master developer. It was so cool. And like everything web though, overuse started making it clunky. Eventually, we had folks write articles on why it was bad to use marquee, so we stopped.

2. BrainBench!

If you were not a Brainbench certified HTML guru, you didn’t know your shit.  It was a bragging right. You even had the logo on any website you designed. I had that shit on my CV back then looking for a web design job during my early university semester breaks. It was the right online test that tested how you combined the HTML tags, making sure the title tag doesn’t come before the opening head tag.

Be a brain bench certified HTML guru, learn how to copy and paste javascript codes from the internet and you are suddenly an accomplished web designer.

3. View Source

I guess one of the things that made the art of web design popular back then was the fact that you could right click in the browser and view the source of all web pages on the internet. After learning HTML, the next natural thing to do was to start viewing sources all over the place. It built confidence to know an effect was achieved with the HTML tag you just learnt.

Even though developers still view source today, it was way different back then. Back then, it was like viewing the source code for Windows OS.

4. Type HTML from tag to tag.

A lot of folks, including myself started writing HTML with notepad. It was one of those ‘languages’ you write and you felt like a real geek. It was cool and it was a bragging right. I even remember teaching a couple of folks how to write HTML and I actually told them writing by hand was better.Write it, save it as .html and open it with internet explorer, and keep refreshing the page anytime you update the notepad.

Overtime we got to learn about Microsoft frontpage and eventually Dreamweaver. If you’ve mastered HTML though, like a Brainbench master, (LOL), you won’t need a WYSIWYG editor (Like they were called then).

5. Ampersand &anything;

Apart of the non-breaking spaces   to add space between any two texts, there were also a ton of similar relics used aggressively back then. While some are still in use today, these were the hallmarks of web design then, beyond the regular texts. Some I can remember from my head include:

&nbsp – Space
• – bullet
© – copyright, still used today
&reg – registered trademark
&raquo – >> In place of bullets

Nigeria’s Tech Talent Problem

Phew! Writing almost a year later!

I had a discussion with a friend recently. He has this grand idea that will change entertainment in Nigeria and to launch, he needs a website. A web app if you may. My friend is a very good graphics designer. He already has a mock up of what he wants the website to look like. He presented it to me and it looks great.

Just like any useful web app though, my friend needs developers/programmers to write the functionalities for the website. I’m aware of the acute shortage of good developers in Nigeria myself, however I had thought what my friend wanted to build isn’t too difficult, he’d easily find one or two developers to whip it together. I personally could have helped if my hands weren’t so full. To maintain this blog sef na war.

A few days after I took my friend to meet a potential partner/investor in his idea, I asked what his timeline for launch was. As a proponent of “release early, release often” I buzzed my friend on google talk on why he hasn’t launched his website already. Here is part of our conversation:

Me: Dude wassap when are you launching?
My friend: Soon
Me: How soon?
My friend: After $5000. I need $5, 000 plus to pay the foreign developers.
Me: Uhn?!!! Oin?

Yeah, you read that right. Five thousand dollars.

Continue…

Downtown Soweto and other places!

I visited South Africa  last December and was glad I did. A beautiful city with a rich history of struggle and of hope and eventually, of reconciliation. I didn’t understand the depth of South Africa’s diversity until then. South Africa is where you’d see a white-german-indo-african man. Now that’s rich. After visiting the Apartheid Museum I came to relate with why Mandela had to choose the negotiating table rather than gun against those that stole 27 years of his life. It’s a complex mix.

One thing that still baffles me though is why there is still so much Xenophobia in South Africa. I would think for a country with such a history, they’d be the world’s model for tolerance, especially to people of their own skin color. Above all though, SA is a country to visit. It has so much to teach the rest of the world.

My trip wouldn’t have been complete if I hadn’t visited So-we-to! Continue…

Lagos Theatre Festival 2013

The Lagos theatre Festival 2013 held at the Eko Hotel Lagos. It was a beautiful and refreshing break from the Lagos hustle and bustle.  Having acted in stage plays while at the university (of Ife), the plays gave me a nostalgic vibe and I hope someday to get back on stage!  In my next life, I’d pick the stage rather than Engineering Mathematics :-).

Enjoy some of the shots I took. Couldn’t remember the names of the cast, but will update this post if I get them. The pictures are Copyleft 2013. Meaning you can freely use and distribute. Acknowledgement would be nice, but not required.

Ola Rotimi’s Grip Am 

Grip Am

Continue…

Twitter Spoofing

I have a feeling this has been around for a while.

I got this direct message email (supposedly) from a real account I follow on Twitter. It goes like “someone is spreading terrible rumors about you”.  As I do not consider myself a Hollywood celebrity I didn’t take the message seriously. However I sought to find out where the url led to.

I signed out of my twitter account on the browser to make sure I do not have an active twitter session in my browser and I followed the URL. Just like I expected, it was asking me to login to my twitter account. I glanced at the URL and I noticed the anomaly.

http{}//twivvter.com/g/verify/?&account_secure_login

I tried to navigate to the base url for the site (http://twivvter.com) but it went nowhere. This is a classic case of spoofing to fetch people’s valid twitter usernames and passwords.

Continue…