In December 2017, I quit Interswitch and teamed up with a handful of friends to launch a venture studio. The goal was to nurse a few ideas, find the ones that show promise then raise money (and a team) for them and spin them off as startups. I don't think it has worked. For a number of reasons. Here are the lessons I have learnt in the process.
Today is more or less my last work day at Interswitch. Okay, technically, it's 31st December, 2017. Sunday. But hey... It's been a very exhilarating ride. Time to go try something new.
Seems there's a steady flow of movement of tech talent from Nigeria to the world at the moment. What can Nigerian companies do?
If you are in the kind of industry where you create a product that requires multiple players in your value chain to adopt it at once to be valuable, the business development or sales process can at times be hard. I had a recent version of this experience and learnt (re-learnt) a new trick.
This is an attitude I am also only just learning to inculcate. Often product designers are tempted to start from how a piece of technology works, then start trying to cobble a user experience around it. In this article, I propose a step by step approach to go from idea to happy users (or customers).
Once in a while, I get the opportunity to speak with PMs around me. Here's a deck I often talk around. Hopefully, you can extract some sense out of the half-formed thoughts.
When an idea or principle is in it's raw form, the purity and intensity of it burns and inspires. I have noticed though, that in the course of trying to take such a principle to a larger populace (for wider impact), the core essence of it is usually watered down.
Every company needing to get into a new area has to take a build-buy-partner decision. If you go with anything other than build, you take the risk of irking the internal forces. How to deal with this?
This is one that troubled me for a long time. Why would God think it's a good thing to scatter people trying to build an architectural masterpiece? Here's my interpretation of what really went down at Babel that year...
I don't believe a Product Manager that will be effective can play strictly by the book. It's always hard to get EVERYONE on the same page. At times, if you want to move forward, you've got to just do it. It's easier to seek forgiveness than to seek permission in a large group.
In theory, a Product Manager spends so much more time covering all aspects of the product that she's in the best position to have a well rounded view for how the product should function and be used. This makes a lot of PMs become overzealous at times and get ahead of themselves completely designing a product's features and then they get an argumentative roadblock when they try to get others to agree to their approach. Here, I propose a way to get round it.
As a company becomes financially successful, it becomes harder to innovate and break into new areas; often because of various factors including risk aversion, organisational bloat, opportunity sizing, etc. Everyone accepts that this is dangerous to the long term health of a company, especially in technology. Here I propose an approach that can particularly suit tech companies.
Looks like in 2016 Nigeria, fintech is the new e-commerce. Something new (or two, or three) is launching every month. Here are some of my notes the proponents of these ventures may find useful.
Having been watching from afar the kinds of moves Hotels.ng is making, I think I like what I'm seeing and this for me is a "salute post" from the back of the audience gallery.
When a startup just raises money (at times for the first time). There are usually so many pendings to clear out. Like getting a real office (at last!), having official cars with the company logo on it, etc. But is there another way? Can those very pressing needs wait a bit till one is sure revenue is sustainable? Or at least chances of raising next round is guaranteed?
Too often I hear customers and business leaders ask the product manager to get more features into a release. But really, is that what the product needs at this time? Do more features hurt or improve the product?
After spending the last two years anchoring strategy at Interswitch and pursuing partnership opportunities, one of those "partnerships" has evolved into something more and I'll now be moving on to a new role.
Bots are the new rave. You know, that intelligent conversation you can have inside your favorite chat app that will then execute a service for you. Here, I postulate on various ways this rave could end.
Had lunch with a (new) friend recently who asked me this question. I had never given it thought before, and I really struggled to answer. I think it's a profound question to ask oneself. It may help in charting a course for the next 15.
I know they didn't ask me and they probably have folks waaaay more genius-y than me recommending what features they can add, but please, humor me. Right? So, here are the list of feature I'd love to see on Twitter
What makes the most crucial centre of the product? The fancy algorithm? The Unique technology capabilities? The unique customer experience? No, it's not all these. It's the underlying product vision.
There's a pattern I think I've noticed. The relatively larger (or better funded at least) tech companies in Nigeria either have their primary engineering teams abroad, or they ship down senior ones from abroad to oversee the development process in Nigeria. Could this be that Nigeria doesn't have the talent to build a mostly regular product? Or what we have is talent and little top-level experience?
In the past 12 months or thereabouts, there's been news after news of aggressive cost cutting measures by the new companies on the Nigerian tech scene. I take a jab at why this is so and suggest there's a better way.
I'm of the opinion that as more people are embracing the "startup" culture, there's a need for some mechanism that makes it possible for investors to get their money out at a reasonable profit without negatively impacting the business. In this piece I suggest some form of internet based stock exchange.
What are we all doing here? What's the end game for this "upandan"? Everything must have a reason right? Right!?
Two people, same business, roughly same results so far. But the difference? One has so much "packaging" overhead and the other is an obscure little operation. Which will you invest your pension money in?
Too many apps and "startups" these days doing stuff that makes the heads of most reasonable people spin. What does "Yo" do again? But on closer look, maybe the phenomenon of meaningless apps and companies is not that bad.
Is the discipline of product management art or is it science? This is one of the standard discussions in PM circles
In recent times, GTBank's 737 banking has been the hot product in the Fintech space in Nigeria that quite a number of us have looked at with longing and expectations of how it can be extended to cover more use scenarios. In this piece, I look at lessons a product manager can extract from the execution of this service
How does one take the little one has to get ahead in life? Recently 2 stories hit the Nigerian internet, one about a lady graduate who couldn't get a job and stood at a street corner till she got noticed. The other about a guy who cleans windscreens all dressed up like a business man... I take a critical look at the similarities and differences of both scenarios.
Stumbled on a few tweets by Valar Afshar this morning that were very instructive. I found them eye-opening in showing disruption of specific industries by presenting charts that drive the point home.
To inspire people to pursue a course of action, it helps to show them someone "like them" who has gone down that road and has achieved what they hope to achieve. It seems it's sort of hard to find such a role model in the tech world for the Nigerian undergraduate?
Vision. Mission. Strategy. Team. KPIs. Roadmap. Budget. Assets. Liabilities. Etc... Would you have a more fulfilling experience with your time on this planet if you lived this way?
It is often assumed that Product Managers have the primary responsibility of coming up with brilliant and creative ideas for features, customer experience scenarios and new products. This assumption is far from accurate. Mostly. In the area of idea generation, the PM gets better mileage by fostering an environment that let's others come up with great ideas that she then works to validate.
We all want to constantly express creative ideas or come up with solutions that are perceived to be creative to specific problems. Maybe creativity is more of grunt work & deliberate pre-practice than flashes of genius?
I struggled to answer this question. And it made me wonder if I was okay or I needed a visit to Yaba left.
It's important to be clear on which part of the value chain for a specific problem-solution domain your business sits. This way you can properly optimize for that position while keeping an eye out for people that may be trying to encroach into your corner...
Don't get sucked into a thousand little irrelevant activities; rather, identify the key levers that significantly impact your product's success. Maintain insane focus on your vision. Guard your product positioning jealousy
A product Manager has to wear many hats and be part of many things. For such a role with diverse responsibilities, we have all come to accept that one who will do well must pack a Swiss army knife. But of all the blades in the knife, which is the most crucial?
We all get those text messages and emails that say "CBN wants you to update your card". So, I got one and Sandra thought we should have some fun and yank the people's chain a bit...
In the past 5 years, there has been an outpouring of all sorts of digital services into Nigeria. But so far, the market has not been penetrated enough. Maybe there's a way to fix that...
The way my reading habits have evolved over the recent years might be a representation of changes in the bigger world and predictor of where the world is going?
Netflix announced yesterday that the streaming service will now be available in a number of countries where it was not before. Including Nigeria. The usual "disrupt" crowd has started getting excited again. Let me jump into the kpotokpoto too...
It's generally believed that Pay On Delivery constitutes between 70% and 90% of all ecommerce sales in Nigeria. Why is this so and is it sustainable? What may the current online retailers do to survive?
Look around you. A lot of the new ventures grabbing the buzz in Nigeria today and getting funded are led mostly by people who have gone off to live abroad and come back home. It's true. It's real. I'll throw some ideas up in the air as to why I think this is so.
In the past 6 years, I have had to source for product managers to join the team. Here's a compilation of some of the questions I often use at interviews.
Think about it for a minute. It can help to unearth your deepest aspirations and motivations. Helping to shed some light and make you question if you should be doing what you are doing today.
I posit that for everyone who gets out of bed in the morning and hits the road to get about the day's business, it's one of four things that's motivating him/her. Having a clear self-awareness of which of the four can help with focus and career planning.
As a product manager who would do well, one needs to realise that the work is not done when you ship the product. That's actually when it starts.
I have 2 answers I often give to people who notice that I am often dressed in black. The one I choose depends on which I think will be funnier at the time.
Watching my Twitter timeline, I have been seeing a pattern. A tech big Bros somebody dishes out advice to supposedly younger starry-eyed ones. And the younger ones asking Bros to support the movement or keep his advice to himself. Or herself as the case may be. My take? It's the cycle of life. Why fight it?
Companies like Stripe, Braintree, 2CO, etc represent the proposition to make it easier for developers and new(er) businesses to integrate consumer payments into their digital services. This is very much required in the mature markets where they focus their operations. Unfortunately, the Nigerian market has not reached that stage yet and while the same need is here, the demand is not sizeable enough to attract highly capitalized businesses like that to jump in feet first into Nigeria
I feel I'm kindof stating the obvious. Watching how things are playing out, it seems safe to assume that in 5 years or less, the Nigerian tech scene will produce a few interesting exits or funding rounds that permit founders to take cash off the table or businesses that grow to become true cash generation engines.
I was struggling with a dilemma. To leave Celtel and re-join Interswitch. It would have been a simple choice, but all sorts of background stories made it difficult. You see, I just left Interswitch to join Celtel not up to 12 months ago...
After watching too much of 24, we decided to fool around and make an action movie. Just too funny.
The concept around credit cards had always baffled me. Didn't make sense to me at all how someone would ask you to come borrow money, and all you have to do is pay back 10% every month. Then Omotunde joined us to lead our M&A activities and one day, we got into a Q&A. He helped shed some light.
The benefits of providing brilliant customer relations far outweigh the problems. Just give your customers a great experience doing business with you and you’ll end up with positive PR and ultimately more customers soon enough
If you can create your business processes, then manage to give it some open ends that make the judgement of your team important, the benefits to team morale and overall creativity in the execution of business functions far outweigh repeat-ability and business continuity.
If you are in the process of creating a product, ask yourself ‘what can I do to make it allow others spread it for me and also benefit?’. Also if you are already in business and you are trying hard to ‘protect your turf’, re-think your strategy and see how you can create ‘some kind of platform’ around what you do that allows others to also play.