The Fastest Way Up Sh*t Creek [Rant]

I love the Otekbits tech blog (even though I dislike the name) and admire what they are trying to do in the local tech space. It is because of that fondness it would be remiss of me not to point out stuff that I do not like and I have done so in a lot of comments on posts there.

I tried to post this as a comment to an article on Otekbits but the Disqus commenting system was in maintenance mode. I decided to post it now as a separate blog post because I think it really deserves some attention and thought.

I don’t understand the title of this article on Otekbits and the purpose of the Demo Africa contest. Are we doing these events to seek validation from Silicon Valley or to try to grow our own local ecosystems? Are there no mentors and investors in Africa that these startups should "head to Silicon Valley"?

I am very happy for us to play in the global stage but we must stop all this nonsense of trying to seek external validation. These are African startups solving African problems and meeting African needs so why do they have to travel to Silicon Valley?

We can learn from others around the world and compete with them but we don’t need them to “fund us” or provide validation. The same way we are trying to grow the startups in Africa we must also educate investors and encourage mentors to play their part or we will never have a real ecosystem but an extension of Silicon Valley or a place where bored investors come out to try out their luck.

MTN, Econet etc are African enterprises that started from Africa as startups and were funded by local investors then became huge institutions. There is nothing we are trying to do now in the African tech ecosystem that is different from what these giants have done. I am thinking the SubSaharan African tech scene should learn more from South and North Africa than California.

An Ecosystem is not comprised of just startups, there must be a wider support system and I believe that was the purpose of the recent gathering themed “The Lagos Angel Network” which was also misreported by The Economist in an article that did not do any justice to this topic or highlight the challenges of putting this support system in place.

Our local bloggers should not be part of the annoying trend the Western media has adopted of seeing our local tech ecosystem as a novelty or circus. This is serious business, serious people are required to build this ecosystem and that includes the media.

I am happy people like Bankole Oluwafemi have started to call others out on taking hype and snark too far and we need more people like him to keep doing that. We will all also be available to call him out when he strays and that kind of honesty and genuine introspection is what we all need to grow and not “digital high fives” or developing an “inferiority complex” that makes us to seek acceptance and validation from Silicon Valley.

Local angels, mentors, VCs, lawyers, accountants, developers and entrepreneurs are all important to growing an ecosystem. We need to give all of them coverage and encouragement as they all play their own part in making the magic happen. 

If we keep encouraging this Western narrative of treating our startups like infants or toddlers taking baby steps we will end as Seyi Taylor eloquently put it “up sh*t creek without an ecosystem to support us”. Silicon Valley will not save us if we cant save ourselves. I say it once again we should “wake the f**k up”.

[Rant over]


3 responses
Judging by the length of this "comment" it's a good thing Disqus was in maintenance mode. It gets to live here for posterity.

Thanks for pledging to watch my back. I fully expect and welcome the same kind of forthrightness that I intend to bring to the game. Any less would be disappointing.

I haven't quite caught up on DEMO Africa, so I don't have an opinion per se. I definitely agree with the general premise that seeking Silicon Valley validation is silly, but might the "heading straight to SV" have had something to do with where the organisers of this particular event come from? I guess I've got more homework to do.

I'm still working on that project, by the way. It would seem that I got ahead of myself earlier, but it will happen.

When I saw the article "The Lagos Angel Network" too I was really disturbed but if we don't start taking some giant step then who will?
@mrbankole I have been against the glorified "beauty pageants" disguised and startup events which have become commonplace in Africa. Even if the guys who organized the event came from SV we should see it more as a challenge rather than validation.

We should be able to spur our local investors into action by highlighting those who are making a genuine effort to help the ecosystem. We should also educate them more on the benefits of supporting startups instead of buying private jets.

While we welcome genuine external investors interested in Africa, we must get away from this mentality of thinking that SV validation or international media mention will help us grow locally.