14 Feb 2015

How To Build A Billion-Dollar Internet Company


I must confess that this article is a little premature (should have come under the subsection on having an online business in our 40 different ways to make money online series). But seeing that I am in the process of developing and launching my billion dollar web company, let me give you the whole concept.

I hope you have read my article In search of Nigeria's first internet billionaire, if you haven't, please do as it will give you an idea as to why I am writing this article.

If you look at my Linkedin profile, you will see that one of my goals in life is to be an internet billionaire. I sometimes regret not having learnt programming as a child instead opting for medicine. But I still do not regret being a medical doctor- I only regret studying medicine in Nigeria and that particular school because of the incessant industrial strike actions between ASUU and the Federal Government of Nigeria, and other factors that made me spend more than 7 years to get one degree.

Anyway, back to the topic. To build a billion-dollar internet company, you need to study those ones that are presently billion dollar companies and ask yourself 'what did they do, or what are they doing that has made them billion dollar companies?' (Remember this is also one of the shortcuts to becoming a millionaire or billionaire.)
There are guiding principles:

  1. You must create a website where millions of people visit daily without being cajoled to because they see value in visiting it. The key to this is in ensuring that you create a community, and allow each member to express himself or herself there freely, and try to be the best at it. #think Instagram, Facebook, eBay, Nairaland, etc.

    I will quickly explain some examples.

    Let us start with Google (Nigerians, it is pronounced 'guh..gle', not 'go..ggle' oh.lol). When I first used Google in 2001, I was astounded at its search speed compared to yahoo! search. I still remember that fateful day in my computer school's cybercafe when someone said try go..ggle, it is very fast. And I saw "this search took 0.01sec", I was flabbergasted. It was simply out-of-this-world. Since that day, I have never thought of any other search engine before Google.

    Someone asked Google how they did it? Their reply was; "In that time and age of internet evolution, the norm was to keep people on your site. And the longer they stayed, the more money you made. We simply reversed the norm. We wanted a site where people will come to but not spend time on it at all. We wanted it to be a search site that directed them to other sites very quickly." Today, Google is the #1 internet company in the world. Of course, there are other search engines, but Google is the best at it.

    Facebook is another classic of creating a site that allows people do their thing. Facebook allows each person to have a profile and say what they like when they like. What amazed me about Facebook was when I heard the founder Zuckerberg's vision. He refused to sell his company in 2007, 2008 and 2009, till he eventually took it public himself. He says he wears a grey turtle neck T-shirt everyday because (I paraphrase) "When you know that billions of people are dependent on what you do and how well you do it, then you don't waste precious time selecting a different shirt every morning." What vision! He thinks in billions, little wonder he is a billionaire.
  2. You must create an app that offers a service so ubiquitous and functionally applicable across cultures. That is the only way it will cut across many countries and populations.
    #Think internet apps such as Uber (taxi service), Candy Crush (games/entertainment), Farmville (games/entertainment), etc.
  3. You must provide a service that people can't do without, literally, in this day and age. #think Snapchat- social media/chat/matchmaking services, Whatsapp- text messaging/social media, Getty Images- photography, Apple's Itunes- Music, Zynga- gaming, Youtube- video entertainment, and so on.
  4. You must have a target niche in mind, and also a target population when starting out- marketing directly to that population from the outset. While you are thinking global, start by narrowing down to a particular niche and population first. It is your success with that population that will drive it into other populations. Zappos (started by selling only shoes online, now sells clothes), eBay (started with just online auction), Amazon (started with selling only books), Facebook (started marketing to students of Harvard and other graduate schools), Alibaba (started in China, recently had the largest IPO on the NYSE), and many others started out like that. This gives room for growth.

    It was my very good friend Dr Osundolire Seun that mentioned this to me. We were young medical students and desirous to legitimately make money online in 2005. We tried very many things together, and then he eventually started his forum- Forum Citizens, and I am about to start my company too.
  5. Know what you can do, and what you can't. That difference is the thin line between success and failure. If you attempt to do too much too soon, either at the onset or along the way, you will end up failing. For example, don't offer people free things if you can't keep that promise should the traffic for it explode. Go up one step at a time. The mistake I see many start-ups commit is in trying to become very big too soon. There is a thing called 'the process of time.' And as Warren Buffet said, "You can't get a baby in one month by getting nine women pregnant." Surround yourself with the right set of experts/expertise, and avoid pessimistic people like a plague.

    Also, don't sell too soon, or get too complacent. Myspace comes to mind each time I think of this point. They disobeyed the law. Sometimes, it is not the fault of the founders but the investor who buys the vision/company over- running it into the ground after sacking the founders/visioners.

    I once heard of a couple who sold their internet business for $800 million dollars, only to come back to buy it about 3 years later, for $8 million dollars.
  6. Finally, believe you can do it. And then do it. It amounts to nothing if you have the best idea in the world but do nothing about it. Take your dreams by the 'horns'. Learn everything you need to know to be the best, and be the best at what you do.

    Like I told you in the article 'How to be an expert in anything in 3 years and make money from it', it doesn't matter if you are not even an expert at your dream today...you will grow with it.

    The summary is this:

    Wish you all the best building your billion dollar company. And if you are Nigerian, as I said in the other article, the race to getting Nigeria's first internet billionaire is already on.... If you are on the race, I hope it will be you! But I am coming right behind your heels. lol.

    See you at the very top.

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