Editor’s Note: Celestine Ezeokoye co-founded and currently runs Tiketmobile, an application looking to disrupt transportation in Africa, allowing travellers easily find, compare prices and buy bus tickets, a first of many tech companies he’s looking to build across Africa. He studied Computer Science at the University of Lagos, and represented Nigeria twice at the Microsoft Imagine Cup. He has decided to share his experience with other (aspiring) founders in the ‘Start-ups On’ series. You can read his first – Start-ups on Decision, and follow him on twitter or his blog.
There are two ways the market can react to a product launched by a start-up: it’s either they grab it and sign-up with vigour or they act cold towards it. Putting it simpler, the market is either ready for what you have to offer or it’s not.
A little history:
In 1997, SixDegrees.com was launched. It was supposed to be a social networking site that creates relationships between the users using a model of social networking known as “web of contacts” model.
It was named after the six degrees of separation concept and allowed users to list friends, family members and acquaintances both on the site and externally; external contacts were invited to join the site. Users could send messages and post bulletin board items to people in their first, second, and third degrees, and see their connection to any other user on the site. It was one of the first manifestations of social networking websites in the format now seen today. – Wikipedia
According to a 2007 paper by Boyd Danah M. and Ellison Nicole B., SixDegrees.com was the first social networking website with most of the features found in modern social networking websites. When in 2001 SixDegrees.com discovered that it had failed to create a sustainable business model, it closed down. In hindsight, the founders believe that SixDegrees.com was just ahead of its time.
Fast forward to today, creating a social networking website with all these features is easy breezy. You don’t need any hard work to explain to anybody what it does or why they need it. you just create it – it explains itself.
Not all start-up products are like that, especially if you are creating a technology product for a market that is not so technology inclined – like the traders at Oyingbo market, Ebute-metta Lagos.
I happen to be working on a product that the market is not yet ready for. Almost everything currently doesn’t work. We have to create a workaround for major “basic” tasks like accepting payments. We have to discover what our market needs and how they would appreciate our service, then go back and re-integrate. We don’t have any comparisons to put our product against; none on features, price, etc. We are basically building the standard.
When working on such a product as this, there is a big risk that one is preparing a market for others to reap the benefits. Take heart if you find yourself in this position. It is inevitable and someone has to do it – that someone just happens to be you.
However, I believe that with putting in the required resources and the right strategy, a pioneer start-up can reap from where they sow.
Not so long ago, Eedris Abdulkareem tweeted that he is the reason why nowadays rappers earn a living. If you look at our market space from the perspective above, his tweets are not so far from the truth. On the flip side, 2Face Idibia is a pioneer lyricist who is currently reaping the fruits.
Right Strategy + Required Resources.
[image via Flickr/ vgm8383]