If you’re an active internet user, or you consult that machine to search for stuff, chances are you would have come across Nairaland. Well, Nairaland is Nigeria’s biggest indigenous website and only Facebook, Yahoo, Google and blogspot are more viewed than it. Put better, it commands more visits than Twitter and Wikipedia in Nigeria. It also bests sites like Punch, Vanguard, Guardian etc. It is the seventh most visited website in Nigeria and among the top 1000 most viewed sites in the world. Nairaland records more than one million views everyday.
But behind this hugely successful online site is one young man called Seun Osewa. He is an indigene of Ogun state (this state has more firsts than any other state in Nigeria: Abiola, Obasanjo, Awolowo, Soyinka, e.t.c
Like Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates dropped out of Harvard to pursue their interests (Facebook and Microsoft), Seun also enrolled as a student of Obafemi Awolowo University (oops, Great Ife, we rule!) to study electrical engineering in 1998, but he did not finish. No, he wasn’t rusticated. Too brilliant to be. But an account has it he left to do the “Bill Gates” thing.
How did Seun conceived the idea for Nairaland?
How did this young man, who was just around 22-23 years then, think of starting a forum that will later become Africa’s numero uno? Let’s hear from the horse’s mouth:
“About 2 years earlier (2003) I had attempted to start a web hosting business, but after 3 months I could only boast of one customer, so I ran out of capital and the business died. It would probably have succeeded if I had managed my capital more wisely or raised more money as I got many hosting requests I couldn’t satisfy later that year.
After that first failure, I was encouraged to get certifications and a regular job, but I couldn’t go back to that kind of path after tasting creative freedom, so I kept researching business ideas and presenting them to friends and family, but no capital was forthcoming to carry any of them out. I did this for less than 2 years. (The last idea was a site for sending SMS messages. I picked up Python to implement it.)
Eventually, I decided to start a web forum, because it was the only idea that required no additional capital: I already had internet access and a $15 per month VPS graciously paid for by a family friend. I created 3 forums in November 2003 (one for higher institution students, one for IT discussions, and one to cover the emerging GSM industry; the Mobile Nigeria Forum at MobileNigeria.com).
The Mobile Nigeria Forum took off, so I relaunched it in February 2005 with the assistance of Mr. John Sagai Adams, who posted a link to the forum on his mailing list and participated enthusiastically in those early days. Other mobile enthusiasts like Mr. Yomi Adegboye pitched in to make the site a success. In a month or so, the forum had about 300 members, but the growth potential didn’t satisfy me.
I decided to start Nairaland when I noticed two odd things about MobileNigeria:
(1) Despite its narrow focus, it was the only Nigerian community that gave a voice to Nigerians at home. Most other Nigerian sites were owned and dominated by Nigerians in the US or UK. They covered only issues of interests to Nigerians abroad.
(2) The off topic section of the forum, covering topics outside telecoms, like romance and jokes, was becoming more vibrant than the Mobile Nigeria Forum itself, suggesting the need for a more general-purpose Nigerian forum.
This gave me the confidence to take forums like Naijaryders and Talknaija head on by starting a general purpose discussion forum with a strong bias towards issues of interest to Nigerians at home. I felt that such a site could attract enough traffic to make enough money from Google adverts. That’s why I started the Nairaland Forum.”
For Seun, The Story is not all about success
In this 2006 interview, he narrated how all his businesses before Nairaland failed
” All my business projects before Nairaland were failures, except the one that became Nairaland. My web hosting business failed after just 3 months because I ran out of money, while I couldn’t execute many other projects I researched due to shyness and lack of capital. My blogs and the mobile phone forum that preceded Nairaland were successful but not profitable. However, it was on that foundation that Nairaland was built.”
What you can learn from Seun’s story
- Persistence – Seun laid his hands on several online endeavours but were not successful, but he continued trying many things until Nairaland became a success.
- Promote others – I recently started a discussion on Nairaland on online ventures that were started on Nairaland or which Nairaland contributed to their success. He has also promoted some budding web designers that advertisers patronize for banner production.
- Learn from others: Seun’s Nairaland has been Nigeria’s biggest forum for many years but he caught the bug of direct advertisement late, when some even less visited blogs have started raking in millions from direct ad sales. Well, Seun came to the game late, but he is assuming market leadership even in this opportunity now.