Mark Zuckerberg we know, the once upon a time boy that started Facebook, a platform to share pictures and poke fun at hot Harvard chics, is now a multi-billion dollar enterprise. With a net worth estimated to be $40.9 billion as at 10th Of October 2015, Mark, who clocked 31 in May 2015, is one of the richest young people in the world. He became a billionaire at the age of 23. Shout out to Zuckerberg, but he is not the subject matter for the day. Let’s proceed.
Now, Facebook, you know very well and can hardly do without, stalking profiles and liking even ugly pictures, never worry, a dislike button is on its was; Google, you visit everyday to search for answers to some at times funny questions like “When will PHCN have sense?”; Youtube, you watch videos; Yahoo, you have an email account with; but have you ever given thought to one website that always turns up anytime you search for anything Nigerian? Does Nairaland ring a bell? Moat probably Yes!
If you’re an active internet user in Nigeria, or you do resort to search engines in times of confusion, chances are you would have come across Nairaland. Well, in case you don’t know, Nairaland is Nigeria’s biggest indigenous website and only Facebook, Yahoo, Google and blogspot have more views than it. In other words, it commands more Nigerian visits than Twitter and Wikipedia. It also supercedes sites like Punch, Vanguard, Guardian etc. It is the eighth most visited website in Nigeria and among the top 1000 most viewed sites in the world as at October 2015. And behind this hugely successful online site is one young man that goes by the name Seun Osewa.
Who is Seun Osewa?
Born in a God-knows-where some 32 years ago. He is an indigene of Ogun state ( hold up! this partcular state has more firsts than any other state in Nigeria, the likes of : Abiola, Obasanjo, Awolowo, Soyinka, wetin sef?Na only dem?). He lives in Ogun state and has refused to move to Lagos, the “happening capital” of Nigeria.
Haha! Is he another drop-out?
We know Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates dropped out of Harvard to pursue their interests (Facebook and Microsoft respectively), Seun was also an Electrical Engineering student of Obafemi Awolowo University (oops, Great Ife, we rule!) from 1998 to some 3 years after, so sad he did not finish. How come? OAU is known for rusticating students with the speed of light if your performance is boring. But No! , he wasn’t rusticated. He was just too brilliant to be. But an account has it that he left to do the “Bill Gates” thing, what boldness! This piece will probably ginger some already-tired-of-school guys to be like “Mehn! If someone must make it big in life, school has to be shunned! See big people now, they never finished school, I think I need to think twice and get out of this school to pursue my dream”, which dream? If you are not sure of yourself, never think of it! We only hear of the few that left school and made it, there are a million others that left and got their lives ruined. Taking for instance, brother Ajanaku in my hood, he left University in part 3 to focus on his fishery business, thieves came one day and emptied the whole fish pond, he is now a truck pusher in Onitsha, hoping to make infinite ends meet. Be wise!
In an interview with him, he narrated how all his businesses before Nairaland failed
All my business projects before Nairaland were failures, except the one that became Nairaland. My web hosting business failed after just 3 months because I ran out of money, while I couldn’t execute many other projects I researched due to shyness and lack of capital. My blogs and the mobile phone forum that preceded Nairaland were successful but not profitable. However, it was on that foundation that Nairaland was built.
So how did he hit the Nairaland jackpot?
How did this young man, who was just around 22-23 years then, think of starting a forum that will later become Africa’s numero uno? Let’s hear from the horse’s mouth:
“About 2 years earlier (2003) I had attempted to start a web hosting business, but after 3 months I could only boast of one customer, so I ran out of capital and the business died. It would probably have succeeded if I had managed my capital more wisely or raised more money as I got many hosting requests I couldn’t satisfy later that year.
After that first failure, I was encouraged to get certifications and a regular job, but I couldn’t go back to that kind of path after tasting creative freedom, so I kept researching business ideas and presenting them to friends and family, but no capital was forthcoming to carry any of them out. I did this for less than 2 years. (The last idea was a site for sending SMS messages. I picked up Python to implement it.)
Eventually, I decided to start a web forum, because it was the only idea that required no additional capital: I already had Internet access and a $15 per month VPS graciously paid for by a family friend. I created 3 forums in November 2003 (one for higher institution students, one for IT discussions, and one to cover the emerging GSM industry; the Mobile Nigeria Forum at MobileNigeria.com).
The Mobile Nigeria Forum took off, so I relaunched it in February 2005 with the assistance of Mr. John Sagai Adams, who posted a link to the forum on his mailing list and participated enthusiastically in those early days. Other mobile enthusiasts like Mr. Yomi Adegboye pitched in to make the site a success. In a month or so, the forum had about 300 members, but the growth potential didn’t satisfy me.
I decided to start Nairaland when I noticed two odd things about MobileNigeria:
(1) Despite its narrow focus, it was the only Nigerian community that gave a voice to Nigerians at home. Most other Nigerian sites were owned and dominated by Nigerians in the US or UK. They covered only issues of interests to Nigerians abroad.
(2) The off topic section of the forum, covering topics outside telecoms, like romance and jokes, was becoming more vibrant than the Mobile Nigeria Forum itself, suggesting the need for a more general-purpose Nigerian forum.
This gave me the confidence to take forums like Naijaryders and Talknaija head on by starting a general purpose discussion forum with a strong bias towards issues of interest to Nigerians at home. I felt that such a site could attract enough traffic to make enough money from Google adverts. That’s why I started the Nairaland Forum.” (CP-AFRICA.COM)
What’s with that year 2005?
I just saw Seun say he started Nairaland in 2005. How come most successful online ventures around today started between 2004-2006. Facebook, Youtube, Twitter, Mashable, Techcrunch, Linda Ikeji, Bella Naija, and other Kings and Queens of the Social Media space started during this period. Why? Well, only Eduregard, the heir apparent, started in 2015. The year 2005 was a very blessed year from all indications, where was I then? Probably, in some streets playing soccer, Christ!
Seun the contrarian celebrity
Fame, money, power and respect we all love and seek. But to my surprise, Seun just doesn’t appear to like the celebrity status. I thought people use money to buy fame until I knew Seun, he uses money to run away from fame! I know people that will pay to meet Seun Osewa in person, but he has refused to show himself. With the largest African online forum under his control, more than half a million people that depend on his online website to make their day, Seun can easily wield power if he requires one. But all those appear not to be his niche. A case in point: when he was listed by the organizers of The Future Awards in the controversial “Nigeria’s 100 Best” list, which presented him with an opportunity to dine with the celebrities in Aso Rock (what some people will pay millions to get), it didn’t even freak the Ota-based geek. Rather, he sarcastically commented on Jarus’s Facebook wall when he raised a criticism of the TFA list that, “oh, it’s a good list because I saw my name there”. Oh, he only saw his name there, he didn’t partake in anything – a free ticket to visit Aso rock. Such is Seun’s abhorrence for fame. So anti-social is Seun that the car he drives is not even in public domain, while some small small adsense bloggers and online entrepreneurs flaunt their second-hand cars all around.
Recent trends on Nairaland
- Seun, couple of years ago, dumped google adsense and other third party adverts for direct advert on his website and I sense his income must have tripled, given the gale of customers he has.
- Seun also recently opened physical office for Nairaland, predictably, in his Ota enclave
- Seun’s Nairaland is now an employer of labour, with at least 3 people on his payroll. I think he should have more
Top brands that advertise on Nairaland
- Elephant Cement
- First City Monument Bank (FCMB)
- Grace Schools
- And lots more…
He may not be a billionaire yet, and can’t afford to give much to charity like the likes of Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates of this world, but he does appear to recognize empowerment. He has organized some entrepreneurship competitions on Nairaland, and given out more than N500,000 in prizes to winners. He has also promoted and given exposure to some upcoming Nigerian internet entrepreneurs and designers.
Lessons from Seun’s story
Persistence – No one grew to fame over the night. Seun laid his hands on several online endeavours but were not successful, but he continued trying many things until Nairaland became a success. We children of nowadays are fond of expecting millions in less than a month of blogging, does it happen as such? I doubt.
Promote others – Nairaland has contributed to the success of so many things. Nairaland is now a den for hungry bloggers to spam with their blogspot links. What surprises me most is the fact that all external links on Nairaland have no blank target palava that makes the link open in a new tab on browsers, no matter what the link is about, it opens on the same tab.What generosity! We should learn from this. He has also promoted some budding web designers that advertisers patronize for banner production.
Don’t take steps too fast – Seun’s Nairaland has been Nigeria’s biggest forum for many years but he caught the bug of direct advertisement late, when some 2-day old blogs will start spamming their own blog with flashy “Advertise Here” banners, like say na by force. Well, Seun came to the game late, but he is assuming market leadership even in this opportunity now.
That should be all about Nairaland Owner (Seun Osewa). We shall all make it and get people talking good about us without our consent. Hope Seun reads this. #Peace
Reference : Jarushub