Failing forward: The case of Celestine, tiketmobile and more

If you’ve put your ears close to the Nigerian technology community, you must have heard the latest gist about one Celestine and his startup TiketMobile. Happily for me, his case stirred up a lot of necessary conversation and discussion about the challenges of the Nigerian technology ecosystem. I am of the opinion that we need more of issues like this to take us to the promise land. It all started with Cele publishing a post about a $5000 grant he received from Tony Elemelu Foundation and how the lack of “investor’s” money crashed (or is crashing) his startup. Then, Jason Njoku added heat to the discussion just before the dust Celestine’s post raised could settle. That was exactly where the digital punches began.

Celestine for one, received more digital punches in the past few days probably more than anyone else in the Nigerian tech ecosystem so far. I can’t remember a conversation of this magnitude all focused on one person.

Now, I have chosen to ignore the possible causes of Celestine’s startup failure in this post. As would be seen in this post, whether the grant was too small is not my business neither am I concerned about his decision to reject Jason’s “fuckability” money. He could have failed either ways. Jason is no God and his money guarantees no success. Maybe, he could have done more with the $5000? I wouldn’t know.

Celestine/TiketMobile failed, so what?

What stood out for me and what I choose to talk about is the bashing Celestine got over the past few days. It’s been amazing how people can crucify a twenty-something year old guy for his startup mistake failure in a country dominated by innumerable adult failures. What’s more disturbing is the calibre of people throwing these digital punches with their  array of “I told you so tweets/posts“. Truth be told, many of the guys throwing digital punches at Celestine failed at one point in time on their journey to creating wealth for themselves. In fact, many of them are currently failing, but their case is not just in the public scene. We’ll soon find out!

Companies fail in Nigeria everyday as much as they do globally. People who should be a motivation (and point him in the right direction) to Celestine rather ganged up and decided consciously or unconsciously to throw digital punches at him, calling him an idiot and even suggesting a coffin for him. All in the name of failure. Where were they when he was creating his path? Perhaps they were waiting for such a time? People who add nothing to the ecosystem asides the ego reflected in their tweets and sometimes unguarded outbursts on social media about issues they know nothing about. 

Wait a minute, let’s talk about others

Celestine case is not the first. It reminds me of a post published in 2010 about “Nigeria’s Best Startups of 2010“. Where are all the startups on that list today? I won’t even waste time in pointing you to other lists containing already defunct startups, which were at some point “promising” or “best”. You see, such is life here in Nigeria and everywhere. Failure knows no-one.

Hey, you can’t point fingers at Celestine. Where’s yours?

Did I mention that most of those companies were founded by the old bullies throwing digital punches at Celestine? Where is that ad platform that is supposed to be competing with Google ads in Nigeria? In fact, a popular blog I know recently ditched it and a friend who recently tested the platform came back to me with bitter stories. Unfortunately, stories like that are not in the public scene, probably because they’re yet to “run out of money”.

Where is that music platform founded by an overlord which is supposed to be giving Jason Njoku’s Iroking a run for its money? Where is that Twitter clone which supposed to be the base of conversation locally? Oh, where is that Twitter based ad platform? Certainly, all have faded into thin air. Some of the sites are not even online any longer let alone be in existence in offices on the streets of Lagos. These are just to mention a few.

It’s about funding, but not so much about funding

Oh, well, where is Dele Olojede and 234Next today which reportedly got millions of dollars (350, I think) as capital. All wasted gone and I heard he even ended up owing staff. His case is enough to say with or without funding startups can fail.

My failures. It matters less afterall

I, for one, have equally failed terribly several times in my attempt in creating wealth for myself. At age 17, I founded an investment club which failed woefully due to mismanagement. In 2010, I started a digital store in Ogun State, which did well at some point, and later failed flat. I shut down the store after few months. Coming online, I once started EventCanyon (way before some of the ones we have today), which admittedly became dead-on-arrival. Of course, no-one heard about it. I started ITKnowledgePlanet which also failed. I ran a bulk sms platform (before it became pure water) which failed after 2 years. Let’s limit it to those, because this post can’t even contain my failures. Those who are close to me already know the stories. Mine wasn’t just in the public domain.

As for me, those failures are my stories and they are certainly what shaped (or is shaping) me today. I have learnt from the failed attempts I’ve had in my short life more than the fancy schools I’ve attended. In my case, I learn more from doing (and failing) than from any other thing (including talking, tweeting etc, like many do). I fail, I learn and I move ahead, saying next despite criticisms from friends and families. I’m already on another attempt before I head to the farm. The lessons from the past attempts have been valuable.

What is important is not the failure per se, it’s our response to it. At the end, no one will care how many times you failed. What will matter when your Aha! moment comes is the one idea/product/service that brought it. You must have heard that life is 10% what happens to us and 90% how we take it. That’s exactly how I see life.

One final note to Celestine and anyone in his shoes

During the past few days, I have been approached by my friends to share my opinion on the TiketMobile issue. My response to all remains the same. It’s less of technology and more of life. Celestine needs to learn from the mistakes (if any) he made in his attempt with TiketMobile and move forward as fast as he can. He needs to ditch the past and whatever happened (or is happening) to TiketMobile and run with the main vision he has for himself. Celestine needs to decide how his comeback would be. After being put in the spotlight, he has the best chances to prove his worth. It’s left to him to decide whether, this will be proved with TiketMobile or a new idea the good Lord will drop on him. He also needs to understand that not everyone who smiles from afar is worth dining with. Celestine needs to understand that not everyone who has been labelled “industry leader” is on his side. In fact, most are actually are not. Choose who you dine with.

Dear Celestine, not that this post matters at all, but, please, say next. We’ll be waiting for what your next attempt will be.

Technopreneur. Chief Hustler at 1Plify. PhD scholar [Technology entrepreneurship]

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