Where Are The Justin Biebers In The Nigerian Tech Space?

Editor’s Note: I am very happy sharing this post, as I have always asked question on what WizKid (Nigeria’s Justin Bieber) is doing with his money and why he is not making ‘enough’ leverage on his brand. This post was first published on BoardroomNG, and it puts things into perspective. There is also a call for Nigerian business that need growth funding at the end of the post. Enjoy.

Very few professions have the ability to take someone from obscurity to popularity, actually, cult-hero status like entertainment and the arts. And very few people typify this marked transformation as much as Canadian-born Justin Bieber, arguably the biggest pop icon in the last couple of decades.

The 18-year old’s (hard to believe he’s just 18) resume is stellar. According to a recent Forbes article, Justin Bieber, Venture Capitalist, he has sold about 15 million records since his debut in 2009. He grossed $150million in 157 tour dates. His biopic, Never Say Never, shifted $30million in its opening weekend and $100million in box office total. His fragrance, Someday, pulled in $60million in retail sales during its first six months in the market. These have helped Bieber to personal earnings of $55million in the past year and believe it, some $108million over the last two years. By any measure, this is an absolutely amazing return for a boy who’s mum was uploading his video on YouTube to get some attention a few years ago.

Having spent such a short time in music and with age heavily on his side, nobody will blame Justin Bieber if he decides to just chill and suck it all up. Even if he’s a chronic spender, it will take a good number of years to waste the wealth he has amassed. After all, most of his mates are still basking in the euphoria of being able to buy booze and a couple of drags with a legal ID.

But Bieber isn’t satisfied, preferring to push his myth beyond music. He has located a conspicuous parking lot in perhaps, the biggest of them all – Silicon Valley. According to the Forbes article referred to above, the singer has shifted millions of dollars into about a dozen tech start-ups in Silicon Valley. Some are Tinychat, Stamped, Sojo Studios and Spotify. Yeah, the same Spotify we all know. Bieber is already there. The size of these investments is put somewhere at $3million.

By the way, Bieber isn’t the only Hollywood star with interests in Silicon Valley. This is a new model of wealth creation in Hollywood that has caught up with others, including Ashton Kutcher (who runs an investment fund).

It’s not such a far-fetched idea. Entertainment is a fast-cycle industry. You sell tons of records today and tomorrow you find yourself struggling for airplay. When you are on the top of your game, you have two things that every business needs – a stash of cash and a huge fan base. Bieber’s numbers are impressive. $108 million earned in two short years, at the last count, over 26million followers on Twitter, well over 40million facebook fans, and the video for Baby, his breakout song, had well over 700million online views. This market size will cost a company billions of dollars and quite a good number of years to cultivate.

The question we ask is where are the Justin Biebers in Nigeria? This is street wisdom! You have millions of fans and all you do is get them to vote for you to win awards or retweet their adulations of you. Common!

The strategy is quite simple. Take a position in a business you can sell to your fans and promote it as aggressively as you promote your entertainment. There is no brand cannibalization here. You are not only using your acclaim to promote your business, but these businesses also promote your entertainment career, by putting you more in the faces of your fans. Sounds like heads you win, tails you win. This is not just equity for endorsements. These are serious deals and as a businessperson, you should be ready to put your money where your mouth is. This is cash for equity.

Imagine WizKid taking a stake in iWantAirplay Nigeria or Tiwa Savage taking equity in Confectionery start-up, Cookie Jar. Or imagine Genevieve Nnaji promoting a clothing e-commerce start-up she partly owns. These are huge opportunities for wealth creation (for both the entertainers and owner-managers) and they exist in retail, technology start-ups, agriculture, to mention a few. What’s more, this is national development. as it will boost employment creation.

The role of personal brands in driving businesses is tremendous and small businesses can do with entertainers’ huge fan-base. It’s something that can only be bought by loads of money over a long period of time, luxuries small businesses cannot afford. Entertainers’ social media presence alone provides tremendous market opportunities.

Fame is transient and we have seen some who had real wealth in the past and are now broke, busted and disgusted. It’s good to remember this. All the time!

WANTED!  A NEW SMALL BUSINESS-FINANCING MODEL is a series of conversations on the possibilities of evolving a new small business-financing model in Nigeria, that emphasises capital currently in the hands of private citizens. You can be a part of this conversation by commenting on the articles published on by submitting original articles to be published, through info@boardroomng.com. You can also follow us on Twitter (@BoardroomNG & #smallbizisbigbiz) and on Facebook (Boardroom Nigeria).