By Olufemi Omotayo
Whenever start-up entrepreneurship is mentioned in Nigeria these days, many assume technology and the many hubs supporting it. In Lagos (where everything seem to happen), there are a number of labs and hubs for building of mobile/web apps – or any other technology-based innovations. However, there are supports for other industries, especially in agriculture and creative enterprises. Steve Jobs had his foundation from the latter.
Nigeria’s Steve Jobs
You would think the late co-founder of Apple Computer, Steve Jobs was a Nigerian when he died a couple of years ago. Such was the outpour of emotion – almost everyone had something to say about the innovation icon. For a society that thrives on hypes, the social media was awash with quotes, photographs or whatever represented what Jobs stood for. And there was anticipation once the idea of his biography movie was mooted.
That movie is now out, starring, Ashton Kutcher, and simply titled: “Jobs.” However, the jury is out that “the Steve Jobs story you should see isn’t told in ‘Jobs’: ‘Jobs’ the movie is worth seeing, but falls short with omission of Steve Jobs’s real transformation or later, greater achievements.” Indeed, another movie about Steve Jobs is being made by Sony. Oscar-winning screenwriter Aaron Sorkin is currently writing the script, and Apple co-founder Steve Wozniaki has already signed on with the project as its technical guru and official advisor about all things Apple.
Despite its shortcomings however, it is refreshing for the business minded, or anyone who wants to “change the world” as Steve Jobs set out. Since many young Nigerians are choosing entrepreneurship these days, this movie is highly recommended. How did Jobs take his company from his dad’s garage to the stock exchange in less than a decade? This first of three lessons in the series should help the start-up entrepreneur in today’s Nigeria.
Jobs movie brings our hero to life but also exposed several aspects of his life that many would not want to associate with. In Nigeria, education is regarded and reinforced by all. And it is considered abnormal to ever think of dropping out of school. But that was what Steve Jobs did! In the film, he wandered around the school like a hopeless person, or ‘NFA’ (No Future Ambition) as they are called here. He was obviously bored with school, only sneaking into classes he found useful. Jobs just didn’t want to conform to what everyone else does. He wanted to find himself.
Besides dropping out of school at age 19, Steve Jobs was fully entrenched in the hippie movement of his days. While he grew up in Los Altos area of California, the city witnessed a youth subculture with unconventional appearances having long hair and beard. They rejected conventional values and often took hallucinating drugs. Steve also took LSD! Any young person with these attitudes will be deemed “lost” in Nigeria.
Steve Jobs was restless. He got a job but could not work with his colleagues. Once he returned from India where he sought spirituality, he imbibed simple lifestyle. That made him to prefer to walk with no shoes on – even in the office. His frustrated boss (who also called him “@ssh*le”) gave him the task to build a difficult game. When Steve could not fix it, he engaged the help of his school friend, Steve Wozniak (“Woz”), who loved to work with gadgets. In that sense, we see Steve using his network to good use. But how about lying to his partner about the fee paid? While he was paid $5,000 for that job, he told Woz it was $700 and gave him $350. That’s 50-50, right? No! You would struggle to get support in Nigeria if people cannot trust you.
Steve Jobs also had other character flaws, but that is not the essence of this article. For instance, he refused to accept the pregnancy from his girlfriend, Julie. Not much was said about this, except a scene where Jobs saw her chatting with another man. Many Nigerian societies regard rejecting pregnancy as the height of irresponsibility. Steve was also fiercely domineering! He always wanted to have the last say over everything. He would surely struggle to get followers as a young start-up in Nigeria.
So, how can a young Nigerian start-up entrepreneur become successful like his beloved Steve Jobs? Being a fan led you to buy innovative products like: iPod, iPhone, iMac, etc. that has made you “iBroke”, right? Well, you can use some nuggets from the life of one of the world’s greatest entrepreneurs ever. Good deal, if you ask.
What you should understand is that all those Steve Jobs’ experiences were instrumental to who he eventually became. With a desire to “put a dent in the universe,” he never underestimated the power of vision to move a brand forward. And as he quickly built his team, he told them: “We’re gambling on our vision, and we’d rather do that than make ‘me-too’ products.” Apple co-founder, Wozniak was captivated by Job’s vision to “put a computer in the hands of everyday people.” Nigeria is a large country with enormous potential. What is your big vision?
As a young person, do you do what you love, or just conform to societal dictates? No, you should not stop attending school, but make sure it is worth it! If you are a science student but love acting, by all means attend the classes. Steve Jobs was a happy-go-lucky person. He loved beautiful things, which made him to attend calligraphic classes, even though he was also fascinated by the growing computer industry of his time. How does computer relate with calligraphy, you ask? Neither did Steve know at the time. Later in his life, he said: “creativity is just connecting things.” What and what needs connecting in Nigeria at the moment?
One of the most important lesson you can learn from the life of Steve Jobs in the movie Jobs is being business-savvy. Ability to easily see business prospects where others don’t is fundamental to success. When Woz presented their invention at the Homebrew Computer Club, many potential investors walked out, but that did not deter Jobs. He followed up and immediately proposed business partnership to an astonished computer shop owner, revealing better profitability as bait. Sealing deals surely rank as one of his greatest attributes. You have a start-up? Have you considered leveraging on others to grow? When will you approach them?
Steve Jobs was also not getting carried away with success. Whenever he got an offer, he stood his ground. But arguably the most important quality from the movie is the persistence of Steve Jobs in getting results. He was impatient with anyone who did not follow the line. When he needed funding, he did almost the impossible. After many failed attempts to gain venture capital, Mike Markkula invests in the company which allows them to move forward. However, the critical question is whether there are such VCs in Nigeria?
Comments are welcome!