Failure? Not Nigerian Startups

NB. If you were above twenty when this meme was still a Royco advert, Sah, Mah, stop calling yourself a yoot.

About every Nigerian youth who has attended a tech meetup or two, visited CcHub and knows what Yabacon valley is, has been, is or will very likely be a startup cofounder.

I know brilliant people who juggle brilliant ideas without dropping the ball, brilliant people who juggle brilliant and not so brilliant ideas, not so brilliant people who have brilliant ideas…you can keep it going in a loop until you get dizzy, trip on it, fall and break your iPhone 7 screen…or would you rather break a limb?

The takeaway is, the average entrepreneur on this side, has a side hustle that has a side hustle #IsYourBooYourBoo? Maybe it’s because as Nigerians, preparing for the rainy day is part of our home training. You have no idea how hard I’m fighting the urge to unlookingly insert a veiled reference to the recent flooding on most parts of the island and throw in those Venice subs but I’ll move on graciously.

Before I tangle with the issue of failure, let me say I do not use the word lightly neither is it my intention to knock off anyone’s hustle. Failure to me is an event, not a person or an idea. Now let’s set the parameters for considering a startup a failure, shall we?

The jury is out on this one. Running out of cash, extremely negative employee turnover, bankruptcy, idea extinction and technology collapse. There’s a few more including defining court judgements, IP issues and cyber security issues but when a startup walks into any of these, the door usually gets shut on them.

In Nigeria, we brag different.

Maybe it’s because we are so used to striving to thrive or even survive in spite of the circumstantial realities and our ever failing governments, maybe it’s because we have a culture that abhors failure. We fail everyday, every single day. With bills, in school, with ideas, milestones, responsibilities, relationships, loved ones and often for reasons beyond our control but we fail still and we must keep fighting. It must not be heard that you, a child of *insert your father’s name* failed at anything.

So we rise. Our national bird should be the Phoenix, not the eagle.

And so I’ll say with both my feet on the table and a double shot espresso (or you know what) in hand that the one true metric for declaring failure on a Nigerian entrepreneur (and startup), is quitting. Nothing less.

Ninety percent of all startups will eventually fail. Nigerian startups aren’t exempt from the real world but the difference is they never really die. For them, failure is more a seven letter word with more vowels than consonants (bet you went back to count that) than anything restrictive. While they may crumble under the weight of one world, they slowly pivot to an alternate universe, integrate themselves right back into the 100 percent and iterate until most of that 90 becomes the 10. I could give examples but then this piece would border on controversial.

Truth be told. Sometimes quitting is way better and easier, sometimes it isn’t but when the society decides (for you) that failure is not an option, then blindly refusing to accept failure, is the only way to maintain street cred. The Nigerian way.