Life as an entrepreneur is brutal. You are alone. No friends, probably no girlfriend, no savings, no nice food in the refrigerator, no popping champagne in nightclubs, no frivolities. Nothing.
You have a deep, complicated and intense relationship with a sole entity: your idea, your business. That’s it. Lonely times. This was my life for the six years preceding University. Life as Jason Njoku the entrepreneur wasn’t just brutal, it was catastrophic. Six years, ten failed business, zero credibility.
I’m not ashamed to admit my failures; something that cannot be said for other entrepreneurs out there, notably African ones. The stigma around discussing personal failures is toxic amongst my community.
People fear failure, they disapprove of failure, they don’t talk about their own failures -– only the failures of others. It’s a stigma that must be broken if we stand any chance of bringing on and encouraging the next generation of young, African entrepreneurs who will power the continent into the cultural and commercial behemoth it deserves, and has the potential, to be.
I’ve never been afraid of admitting and confronting my failures in a public forum, in conversation, in blogs or in the media. The failures are part of me and there’s nothing I can do to change that.
On the day I closed on the first round of VC funding for iROKO, I recalled my days running a magazine in Manchester, when the team and I would scratch around for a few quid to buy a sandwich. Some days we found the cash, other days we didn’t. I think about these days and I contrast them with the exciting media empire that I’m growing at the moment. My early failures make today’s success even more delicious.
There are so many smart, hard working, exciting young men and women who have the potential to do something amazing and use their skills to start a business, start a movement and spark a revolution in Africa. But too many are paralyzed by fear of failure and a fear of what their parents or peers will say. Believe me when I say that the rise of Africa won’t happen if we fear failure or wait for someone else to do it for us. We must act ourselves.
So why do I regularly regurgitate my life journey in public? It’s cathartic, certainly. It helps to contextualize what has been the most exciting and frantic period of my life. But more than that, I hope it helps to fracture the stigma of failure amongst young Africans, as well as normalize the spirit of entrepreneurship amongst them -– on the continent and across the Diaspora. If I can do it, millions of others can as well.
More about Jason Njoku and iROKO
Jason Njoku is CEO and Co-Founder of iROKO Partners. He was born in London and graduated from the University of Manchester in 2005 with a Chemistry degree. In 2010, Njoku came across the global phenomenon that is Nollywood and realized the industry had considerable issues with distributing its content to a worldwide Diasporan audience. In an attempt to solve the distribution problem, Njoku moved from London to Lagos in 2010 and started his quest to bring Nollywood movies online. Nollywood Love was the company's first online platform.
In early 2012, Njoku and his business partner, Bastian Gotter, closed on a funding round totaling $8 million. The capital was used for content acquisition and building a dedicated site for movies, www.irokotv.com. As of June 2013, the site has a movie library of 5000+ and a user base of approximately 1 million unique visits every month.
iROKO Partners has offices in London, Lagos, New York and Johannesburg and a staff of around 100 people.
Follow jason @JasonNjoku.