In the early years of this decade was exactly when I got involved in web technology. I enjoyed hanging around online, making friends, chatting on yahoo messenger and finding ways to connect with Nigerian online. The first option I had then (2004) was faceoffestac.net, then came nairaland.com in 2005, I went ahead to sign up on the site and I must say it really helped me a great deal!
On Faceoffestac.net, I enjoyed the commenting system, iMail and the chat system. It was the chat that was most fascinating! I could chat with Nigerian real-time, see their pictures and in some cases got to know them physically! The site gained traction and the usage was massive but suddenly, it went down, apparently because of heavy traffic which the site owner could not cope with. That aside, the biggest thing I saw was the owner’s (Oleku Konko as he was fondly called) inability to see the intrinsic value of that time. Social networking was just growing no one can really say if it would become a big industry but we young people enjoyed it than any other thing. Right now, the site has lost it!
Nairaland.com also giant that till this moment, no Nigerian site has been able to push aside for more than 4 years now! If there is anything I’m learning now, it’s the iteration part of startup, it’s very good to start small but you don’t necessarily have to remain so! When I joined nairaland.com around August 2005, I was working on a portal with focus on Ogba area of Lagos, I was very happy to find a home, since faceoffestac.net lost itself! I saw fellow Nigerians and we talked our own language (you, know pidgin of course!) and discussed issues that mattered to us. I remember vividly that some of the friends I made on the forum we had to move our connection out of the platform (as in hi5, yahoo messenger and others) and still comment on issues on the forum.
Silently we needed something new, fresh and exciting! Yeah! We needed it but we just couldn’t figure it out, we just couldn’t think about it but we constantly move to other social networks and come back to nairaland. I remember joining voice with Uche Ugo telling Seun to add Technology section to the forum which he did! We were excited but didn’t actually know the next step! I wrote PHP tutorial and took Java tutorial (led by sbucareer) on the site. I made good contacts and get fantastic jobs some of which took me outside of Lagos.
I think if these sites saw the future they would have owned it before Facebook got our attention, now Facebook is growing like wildfire seeming too big for Google, Microsoft and other big tech firm to quench! I doubt if a Nigerian website can actually topple the burgeoning giant, but there is hope since Nigeria now has a whopping 43million internet users and Facebook has only been able to get just 1.6million.
Our lost giant definitely is nairaland.com, even though it still remains a top internet brand in Nigeria, looking holistically I think it’s currently under-valued and may soon lose its place as more brilliant ideas come along! We have QQ leading the way in China, mxit fighting it out in South Africa, Orkut.com in Brazil and Studivz in Germany.
The main question now is what exactly do Nigerians need that a startup can build a solid solution around and be able to capture probably 10-20% of Nigeria’s internet users? What? So far I have not been impressed enough by Nigerian startups, I think something is still missing, I’m thinking! What could it be?