Innovator

Business District in Lagos, Nigeria. Image Credit: (BuzzNigeria

Nigerians shouted and the electorate voted with their feet and ushered in a change in government. This change came in the guise of President Muhammadu Buhari, a former Military Head of State of the country. Amongst much fanfare, President Buhari promised change; which will directly alleviate the suffering of the common Nigerian, as well as improve their lives. The wind of change presently sweeping the nation comes with the hope that business opportunities can improve under this new government. While we await the manifestation of President Buhari’s plans for his country, here are 6 business areas that must be explored:

Oil & Gas: Nigeria is the 12th largest producer of petroleum in the world and the 8th largest exporter, and has the 10th largest proven reserves. Petroleum plays a large role in the Nigerian economy, accounting for 40% of GDP and 80% of Government earnings. This is the numero uno of investment opportunities, however, investing in this sector is no mean feat. As with economies all over the world, oil and gas is a market dominated by a small number of oligopolists. This means entry into it is minimal to near impossible, but if you have the capital investment to get in, your returns will be astronomical.

Renewable Energy: Even though Nigeria’s economy is now classed as the largest in Africa, unfortunately, electricity supply in the country is at best epileptic. Past governments have tried but failed to solve the problem with power generation fluctuating between 1500mw and 5500mw. If the new dispensation is to be believed, then investors and entrepreneurs must actively look at finding lasting solutions to the power generation problem in the country. Renewable energy is the wisest solution.

Renewable energy is generally known as energy that comes from resources which are naturally replenished on a human timescale such as sunlight, wind, rain, tides, waves, and geothermal heat. This type of energy replaces conventional fuels in 4 areas and one of which is electricity generation. The abundant supply of sunlight, wind and rain in this west african country, can only mean that with the right innovation and investment, power generation can be very lucrative. Wind turbines and solar panels must surely be considered and business ideas associated with both must not be discounted. This market is open in Nigeria but requires a significant amount of investment to be considered credible.

A few challenges await entrepreneurs or investors looking to go into this kind of business. Obstacles include (1) the cynical nature of Nigerians; this is due to the fact that many Renewable Energy companies have promised but failed to deliver in the past, (2) lack of support by past governments to assist companies who invested in renewable energy. However, there is every reason to be hopeful with the new government. (3) the technology has  not been completely tested for the Nigerian environment. If all this is taken into account, there is no reason investors in renewable energy won’t make a killing and smile to their banks.

Security and public safety: This is a major problem in Nigeria. The bane of armed robbery and street violence in the recent past has now been compounded by the emergence of terrorism and kidnapping. Most foreign countries now advise their citizens “against all but essential travel to” more than 10 states in the country. But in the midst of all that chaos is a business opportunity. The current government is aware of the country’s security lapses and as such business ideas that can improve the general safety of Nigerians must be considered. To make a profit, ideas that are simple, straightforward and non complicated should be pushed forward. It is important to understand that entry into the security and safety industry in Nigeria ranges from low to high investment, and as such returns will mirror the level of investment. I believe very strongly that Nigerians can invest in their own safety by coming up with security and safety innovations and make some money out of it.

Anti graft/ Anti corruption: If you want to make some money by doing business in Nigeria, this is it. The major campaign slogan for President Buhari was “Change” and the promise to significantly reduce corruption in his country by tackling it head on. Some countries have termed Nigeria as ‘the most corrupt nation in the world’ Rightly or wrongly, things need to be done to promote transparency in the country. President Buhari promised a reduction in corruption and was overwhelmingly voted into power based on this promise. With that in mind, there is an astronomical level of expectation placed directly on him (and rightly so). Any entrepreneur or investor worth his salt should seriously consider anti corruption ideas and innovations. With the present level of expectation, this is a ball Mr President cannot afford to drop. Entrepreneurs working in partnership with the government (Federal or State) will no doubt be successful in any business venture related to anti corruption.

Training: From banking to agriculture; from customer service to road safety, training (at all levels) is beneficial to any growing society. Nigeria should not be different. Short, sharp bespoke training combined with appropriate training facilities are lacking in the country. Nigerian entrepreneurs together with foreign investors can look at this area and devise solutions that are profitable but at the same time helpful to Nigerians. Captains of industry, Heads of Departments and even Chief Executives can benefit directly from training packages bespoke to their industries to align with the ever changing face of global business. Training providers can make a significant impact in Nigeria thus making training a major investment opportunity.

Entrepreneurship: Entrepreneurship is ESSENTIAL for the sound and sustained economic development of a country therefore entrepreneurship development is essential too since entrepreneurs contribute to the national income. Entrepreneurs create upward social mobility, change, development and NEW BUSINESSES. It is my opinion (and many others) therefore that these ‘national treasures’ must be protected, promoted, supported and encouraged. As stated earlier, Nigeria is considered the largest economy in Africa, until recently, this was not the case, but the Nigerian GDP now includes previously uncounted industries like telecoms, information technology, music, online sales, airlines and film production. Industries that were single handedly created, nurtured and sustained by entrepreneurs without government support.

Entrepreneurship must be encouraged in Nigeria and in return entrepreneurs must develop themselves. It in encouraging that entrepreneurship come naturally to the common Nigerian who need little or no motivation to start a business. But these guys (and girls) need honest but hefty financial backing in order to sustain and grow their entrepreneurial flair. I have come across business ideas that could quite simply change the way Nigerians live, but the lack of support and finances have stymied the realisation of these ideas. Quite unfortunate really.

If President Buhari keeps his promises to the Nigerian people, this can only mean business opportunities will abound and lead to an improvement in business and investment during his tenure. We are praying and hoping.

Kole Obasa

Contactelle – A must-have for growing businesses.

Any individual or business seriously thinking about acquiring a Contact Management System or software for their clients/customers or staff must seriously consider Contactelle.

Contactelle simply allows you to securely store, manage and communicate with your contacts via email, SMS and social media (twitter) whether friends, customers, members, clients or even your email.

It does more!!! Simply visit their website and be amazed at this piece of genius.

 

This is why I choose Apple. To stand out and be successful, every business must have 1 of 2 things: they must be cost leaders or they must be different. The truly successful businesses have both qualities.

The leadership and direction of Apple under Steve Jobs was truly revolutionary and should be the template for many businesses today.

Enjoy the video.

Steve Jobs on Innovation. Click to play the video.

 

 

Got a business idea? Where do you begin?

Got a business idea? Where do you begin?

 

Here’s a proven initial action plan:

Identity – The product must be identified in order to have a relevant presence in the market place. For any product, it is wise to incorporate a company (a partnership or sole trader registration can also suffice)

Registration can help with ensuring your preferred name is registered and not taken by someone else. A registered company is liable to relevant taxes, so ensure you do your research before registration. Following this, extensive research must also be done to ensure an idea like yours does not already exist. If it does, what is the competition? What are their weaknesses? and how can you beat them?

Branding – This is the core of the business. Your product must have a solid logo, banner, name and presence. Reflect carefully about names that will resonate with consumers and customers alike. Your logo must be catchy as this will be what your product will be associated with……Forever!
Protection – Your business idea must be protected in order to stand a chance of success. Protection comes in many guises but there are 4 main types:

  1. Patent – A patent protects new inventions and covers how things work, what they do, how they do it, what they are made of and how they are made. Patenting costs between £230-£280 and can take up to 7 yrs to come out, but once patented, nobody else has the right to your idea.
  2. Trade mark – is a sign, which can distinguish your goods and services from those of your competitors (you may refer to your trade mark as your “brand”). It can be for example words, logos or a combination of both. TM’s cost £170.
  3. Copyright – this automatically protects your idea. It’s free, but you still need to make it official.
  4. Design – simply protects the shape of an object. If this is relevant to your business idea, then you need to strongly consider this level of protection.

Marketing and Promotion – Once the identity and branding has been done, you can then start the marketing and promotion process. I’ll advice though that some form of protection is in place before any marketing is done just to deter anyone from copying or duplicating your idea. Marketing is an ongoing aspect of business. You can never have too much marketing or promotion. There are several channels for marketing and its best to utilise the free ones initially. Facebook, Twitter, Linked In are all sure-fire ways of promoting and marketing your product. I suggest a Facebook page as well as constant tweets about the product to build fan and follower base. The more followers you get on these platforms, the more users you get for the product.

Business plan – a complete and comprehensive business plan will be needed regardless of the type of support needed. Business plans are very important documents to keep and maintain not just for investors but for the entrepreneur too. Any business plan needs to be regularly updated in order to know what stage any business is at, next steps to take, updates on your competition and market trends.

Costs – In order to be able to determine the type and level of support, its important to put a figure on the business idea. Every investor, Venture Capitalist, Bank or loan company will want to know the product’s associated costs and how much investment you’ll need in total. This can be worked out by determining the costs of production, maintenance, servicing, admin, salaries, marketing & Promotion, miscellaneous expenses etc.

Investor or loan support? – It is imperative to determine the kind of support you would need to push this business forward. There are advantages and disadvantages to both. Getting a loan is much more straightforward however, banks RARELY give loans any more to start-up businesses. There are several loan companies that are designed for new start-up businesses; all they need is financial projection, business plans, cashflow, profit and loss accounts etc. However, with any loan you have to pay back! Which leads to investors and Venture Capitalists. It’s extremely hard to get one these days especially in the current climate, but it can be done. There are several ways to hook an investor. I’ll talk more about investors next time! Just know that if the product is good, the product is good. Investors will not shy away from a good product.
Follow these simple steps when considering bringing a business idea to market.

Kole Obasa

Business instincts should flag up stop/start signs during startup.

Business instincts should flag up stop/start signs during startup.

Instinct is every entrepreneur’s greatest asset.

Starting up a business as daunting as it is could be ridiculously easier if entrepreneurs learn to trust their instincts.

The rigours of bringing a product or idea to market is enough to dissuade the weak-minded – company formation, idea protection (patenting, trademarking etc) marketing, promotion, finding investors or loans are just some of the processes entrepreneurs have to go through.

There are several books, articles, blogs that will tell you the perfect way to bringing your product to market and while some of them might be right, the average entrepreneur always look to consult with some sort of consultant or the other during startup.

The trouble is that the biggest and the best business consultant reside in us all; that is our instincts. Never discount your instinct in business. Your instincts tell you if your idea is simply an idea, if it will be accepted by consumers, if its viable and if to put an end to it all if it’s haemorrhaging.

Startup success vary from person to person; the most successful startups have a few things in common but the biggest trait of successful entrepreneurs with successful startups is self-belief, which is a form of instincts.

There is nothing wrong with consulting with specialists during the process of starting up, but first and foremost, you must listen to your instincts. That is your greatest asset.

Kole Obasa

Image courtesy of businessgross.com

Image courtesy of businessgross.com

Its not Tourette’s, its just me venting.

It’s impossible not to notice the daylight fraud being perpetuated on entrepreneurs and start-ups these days. On one hand they tell you to run wild with your idea, entrepreneurs rule the world, there’s nothing like working for yourself bla bla bla.

You then decide to allow yourself be bitten by the entrepreneurial bug and at that moment in your life, I can tell you that your struggle has only just began. By that, I don’t mean the general cliché you hear from successful entrepreneurs spitting advice from their 50ft yatch moored somewhere in the Bahamas about how tough it is to truly bring a product to market or how to strike the right work-life balance bla bla bla. I’m talking about the real struggle of actually having no damn person believing enough in your idea to want to invest in it.

I’m talking about the struggle of having a brilliant idea, and all you have asides that, is your proverbial manhood in your hand. I’m talking about NO INVESTOR, NO FUNDS, NO FINANCE, NO GRANTS, NO BACKING, NO BACKING, NO DAMN BACKING.

Too many people patronise entrepreneurs these days; nobody is out to help us. We just need to help ourselves. I’ve had a look at every single Startup assistance, Loan Company and broker. None, but none of them really care about your needs; it’s just about the bottom line y’all. Is that not enough to make you want to say F** F*** S***???

Explain to me how all Startup loan companies want you to give your blood in order to get money from them? How investors want you to give your soul to get investment? And how brokers want to have 99.9999 % shares in the company you have not even incorporated because they have done you a favor by connecting you to an ANGEL INVESTOR? Did you say ANGEL??? DEVIL DEVIL DEVIL. F****** H***

You are a startup for a reason, you don’t have any f****** money, but a brilliant idea that could rock the world. Such a shame that most will let your ideas die than to invest in you and your idea. You know why? Because no one f****** cares.

So, are you a budding entrepreneur? Do you have a wicked startup idea? Or are looking to one day work for no one but yourself? You need to get lucky because no one really cares. But guess what, you can do it!!!

Entrepreneurs need to work real damn hard, put themselves out there, network and GET LUCKY, to have a chance of investment or success. A good friend of mine summarises it succinctly: “when I see the word #Investor all I hear is rejection. For me the only option is 2 hustle my way to that million”
 – 29/07/2014. 
I have sacrificed a week of my life to research this. I dare any Angel investor and broker to prove me wrong. No one really cares. I also dare any Startup loan company to prove me wrong. No one really cares about your idea; they all care about their bottom line.

I totally understand that following the recession, most investors need to be careful with their money but they also need to trust Startups. I mean c’mon guys. Most Innovators will die with their ideas and startups, why?? Because no one has 100% trust in it. This is Wrong, so wrong. Makes me wanna scream: THIS IS SO F****** annoying!!
Every Business need to make money but don’t disguise yourself as one trying to help Startups if you are only interested in Numero Uno.

Oh, also, startup and investor jargon is so unnecessary. Do you want to invest in my idea? Simple Yes or No will suffice, Thank you for not wasting my time you F****** W****

Pitching your idea to investors should not be an assessment of your presentation or oral skills. A good idea is a good idea PERIOD. Entrepreneurship is for everyone, entrepreneurial success is only for a lucky few. That needs to change.
I know of a Hungarian dude who designed the Google glasses 2 years ago. Never got to see the light of day because no one believed in him.
Us Entrepreneurs are the most critical bunch known to mankind. We pride ourselves on the help and assistance we render up and coming entrepreneurs, but deep down, we really don’t care.

I wish I could help every Entrepreneur, I wish I’m superman. For once, the British Government is somewhat blameless in this (emphasis on ‘somewhat y’all). There are some good initiatives to kick start entrepreneurship in the country, its just that its been taken over by rogue Venture Capitalists, brokers and F****** investors and investment companies.

There is an initiative called the NEW ENTERPRISE ALLOWANCE. This is supposed to assist anybody willing to start a new business with a grant of £1000. Are you F****** kidding me? £1000???

£1000 to all new entrepreneurs is nothing short of insulting. Tell me, what business can you start and sustain on £1000? in this difficult economic times? The New enterprise allowance should be given on a case-by-case basis. You can’t simply give £1k to everyone with a business idea. Some startups require £500 to begin, while others require close to £100k. Somehow both figures are not the same.

Would love to see entrepreneurs thrive in this country. Kids of school age should be encouraged to be creative by doing business too.
Not everyone can be a Doctor or Scientist. Heck, some people just want to trade. Can that be wrong? I have never used my Aviation degree, not once in my life. But I constantly use my Self-taught Business degree.
Met a graphics designer last night who needed £7k to startup, she ended up getting £1k from the govt. Obviously the startup folded. Surprise F****** Surprise.
I am sick and tired of tips and advice on getting funds for startups. The only thing startups need is practical solutions on getting these damn funds. Everywhere you turn to these days, you’ll find someone giving tips and advice on Starting up, on Funding. All equals = No practical solutions!!

If you are lucky enough to identify a grant provider from the millions available, there’s always a catch… North of England Startups only, age 24-30 only, non-construction only. Oh, F*** OFF!! 
Another pissed off friend said: “The only way is to raise it yourself man, to me start up funding is a myth. Don’t even waste your time paying $$$ to brokers as well”
 Its a vicious cycle with one GOLDEN RULE — The rich will only get richer, the poor will only remain poorer and the rest of us just need to catch a F****** break.

Ok, maybe there are days you wake up angry at the world. Just pissed off with everything and everyone. Today is one of those days, tomorrow might be too.

Kole Obasa

Graduation

It always occurred to me that even though there are so many of life’s fundamental questions that remain unanswered, there still seem to be an active support or following for a particular course of action.

Why do a degree course when you could simply get into the work force and build your way to top management in a couple of years time? Or why do a degree course if you will end up in the middle management sphere at most? Reasons for this ‘anti’ argument vary greatly. There are many reasons students find themselves tied down to academia for 3 (maybe more) years of their lives.

It is fascinating sometimes to hear the various reasons people give for being in higher education. Many of us have no other option than to study. African and to a large extent Asian parents find it sacrilegious, a taboo even to not attend and successfully complete a degree program. Some even have their career paths and indeed degree courses chosen for them. Having a ‘good Degree’ represented a sense of pride; a sense of belonging, and an opportunity for a social standing that is unparalleled. A tidal wave of consequences would normally await the wards of many who wouldn’t rethink.
This stance can be justified though since in many parts of the world, a first degree is not even enough to get you through the ever revolving doors of employment, talk less of not even having one at all.

I use to think I was one of the lucky few in this regard; My father, being an Air force pilot always either made me believe my career in life was completely left to me to decide or he didn’t participate in any discuss regarding it. This made me feel somewhat empowered to do what I felt was right for me. So if I decided not to do a degree, so be it. Right?

Looking back now, it occurred to me the little remarks and innuendo about the Air force being ‘A great way of life” a motto I carried with me and recited all my life was not just a motto, it was me being buttered up to study and either join the Air force as an officer, or study and become a pilot. I remember how as a reward for ‘good behaviour’ my brother and I were allowed into the cockpit of huge military transport planes (C130) almost on a daily basis. We weren’t that well behaved, at least not daily. He would talk about flying and the Air force non-stop and he still does. This wasn’t a punishment, neither was it any form of reward, he was simply nudging us towards a career path he felt was best above all. So much so, I nurtured an ambition to be a pilot all my life (I still do) I also ended up in the military for a short while. My brother came very close.

Some of us do it because it’s the next logical step; it follows a set pattern – primary, secondary and tertiary education. Something that just has to be done. Not because of any kind of pressure from any quarter, but simply because its logical.

Believe it or not, some others do it out of sheer curiosity. Why is 1+1 really 2? What really is the General Theory of Relativity and what does Einstein mean by this? It is true that some in academia will forever strive to conquer the summit of learning. Many are successful! If you think that attaining a Doctorate Degree is the end of true education, think again. Education is constant and continuous, and knowledge is never lost.

There is also the ‘clubbing and drinking’ culture, which also makes higher education appealing to many. Heck, who wouldn’t relish an unsupervised and wild social life? Putting the appeal of this into perspective, one can see a reason for the influx of many to Universities. Party hard, drink harder, play hardest; by the way, there’s the small issue of a degree course to consider.

The harder economic times, the recession as many know it forced the hands of most employers who somewhat unfairly subsequently attached stringent measures to their recruitment drive. One of these measures and in order to be able to stand out from the rest of the crowd was a ‘good University Degree’ as a minimum for entry. Some go as far as requesting professional courses as well as university degrees. The reaction to these sometime draconian measures was an increase in undergraduate numbers. But, there is research that supports a steady increase in salary for recent graduates; so it’s not all bad news. Keeping ahead of the competition has never been more justifiable.

Regardless of the motive, motivation and end result, certain school of thought continually refer to statistics that indicate a steady rise in graduates (at least in this country) Their argument, one might add, also lends credence to higher education being seen as the benchmark of the political leadership in the UK, a standard which is unchangeable or undiluted. To even consider going for the top job, the British Prime Minister, political acumen is and will never be enough. It is surely the norm these days to have a leader who is ‘Educated’ and this extends to leaders of mainstream political opposition as well.

But believing the above statement would mean the land is and will continue to be ruled by the educated elite. This is simply not true. On the other side of the divide, you will find strong argument supporting the notion that so many (particularly entrepreneurs) have made it to the very top without spending a day inside a lecture room. Two or three British names will continually spring to mind when laying down this argument – Sir Alan Sugar, Sir Richard Branson. If we want to go global, then Bill Gates and Steve Jobs will complete the list of names of giants of industry who did not attend university. But are they uneducated? Honorary degrees aside, could even the most worthy academic match these Billionaires toe to toe in any current, global or business issue? I think not, simply because learning and qualifications are 2 separate entities. These guys have learnt their ways to be qualified enough to hold their own in their respective industries. Truly fascinating wouldn’t you say?

This article is pregnant with questions and surely provokes a bout of self-reflection, but then it was designed to be. One thing is clear though, choosing higher education is increasingly no longer a luxury, it is gradually becoming the norm and an undeniable fact is that regardless of your rationale and reason(s), there appears to be no downside to it. It is sure! You win a prize at the end, which helps you massively in your life, and you lose nothing.

So, why are you in higher education? I can’t speak for you, but I can speak for myself. My answer is unpretentious, I have always operated on a simple ethos in life – I have a dream not a plan. In order to attain this dream, I need to attain a good degree. It’s that simple.

Kole Obasa