I am convinced beyond any reasonable doubt that the best time to have a startup is while in school, the best place to place to start your company is right there in your dorm. Over the years, we have heard of the success of people like Mark Zuckerberg, Michael Dell etc, but I won’t dwell at all on their stories. I will talk about people I really know and have access to – young Nigerians with success stories.
Even though I’m not aware of any successful Nigerian startup that started from the dorm room, I know that starting dorm room projects is what has greatly influenced the lives of people like Opeyemi Obembe, Ernest Ojeh, Ahmad Mukoshy and me.
Opeyemi and Ernest started Ngbot in 2004 while both where still students of the prestigious Federal University of Technology, Akure. They noticed they had the same interest in web and related technologies and decided to collaborate on the project.
NgBot actually started as a directory of Nigerian sites. Then the mobile bug started and as with many other youths they picked up interests in mobile. They wanted a place to share the things they discovered, new apps and all that, so they designed a different mobile community site out of ngbot. It was called NgBot mobile.
Ahmad Mukoshy started Aimtech Hosting Company (now re-branded as Gigalayer) – a web hosting company when he was 17 and went on to churn out more startups during his undergrad days at Usmanu Danfodiyo University, Sokoto. He created Yarnable, a micro discussion site and Yrn.Me, a url shortener.
He eventually sold off Yarnable to MobiQube and he still actively maintains yrn.me. Ahmad has been nominated for the prestigious Future Awards based on his work with Yrn.Me in the Innovation (Science and Technology) category
I started my first project, “RiRanWo!” in 2007, mostly for the fun of it. It started as a nigerian content aggregator and later I converted it into a full social media site. I later started Gistcaster in 2009, 2 years into my course at Federal University of Technology, Akure. Gistcaster is a cool way to connect to the latest gist around you. (I thought Twitter was broken and Gistcaster was my attempt to solve it)
I have since moved on to more exciting ventures with what I have learned from these previous attempts.
None of the guys I’ve listed above became Billionaires as a result of their dorm room projects but, all the same, we can safely conclude that starting these projects have helped them immersely.
So.. Why should you do this?
It is a great chance to learn by doing, you move beyond the realm of thinking to doing. Enough of all the motivational, empowerment and how-to books that you have read. One of the things I discovered is that book lessons come alive when you apply them, and for me “cramming my way through a 5-year course”, escaping classes for a real startup life was a breath of fresh air. The best way to learn anything; programming, marketing, how to start a business etc is by doing real life work in that area.
There is nothing holding you back – No wife, kids, bank loans, house rent, to give you financial concerns. Of course, except you decide you needed a Girlfriend.
Is a great thing to add to your CV. In 2010, when I started looking for SIWES (Industrial Training) placement, it was a sweet experience because all I had to say was that I created Gistcaster (even though it had low traction) and my interviwer was immediately impressed. That same Gistcaster is one of the reasons oTeKbits hired me to track and talk about startups.
Opeyemi Obembe, (whom I reached out to before writing this piece) had this to add:
“Dorm startups are hard. You have to sacrifice time and a lot of things. Then there is a high failure rate because of lack of experience and the business know-how. But I encourage students to give it a shot. No matter how the project ends, fail or not, there are a lot of things that will still be gained. If not for anything, the dorm is where you can meet great talents, like minds and be really exposed. It is also that time you can develop yourself the best you can. Most of the tech skills I have now came from experimenting with ngbot and some other ideas.”
In summary, even if it doesnt work, you can choose to count your lessons and try again or quit altogether, taking your new practical knowledge with you. And I can asure you that such a knowledge is priceless and makes you very valuable to any employer out there.