29 Aug 2016

I Contemplated Suicide Too: My Heartfelt Letter To 'Dear IT Entrepreneur'


Dear fellow Nigerian Entrepreneur,

My name is Siji Olawumi, aka Sijinius. I am a blogger, online trader and IT entrepreneur (Credicoins Network cofounder), and I have my first degree in Medicine and Surgery. I have always been passionate about computers and the internet from the get-go and I even got a prize in computer science back in JSS 1.

By SS3, I had the option of becoming a 'Yahoo-Yahoo boy' (like most of my secondary school classmates) but opted instead for Internet entrepreneurship/legitimate online means of money making. Back then, if I was not online playing chess or learning Forex trading, I passed time surfing numerous websites and learning about the likes of Bill Gates and Michael Dell, and hoping to become as rich and successful one day. I never knew that I could have taught myself programming, moreover my dad never really supported my 'computer/internet ambitions' -"Medical Doctor's father" is a far more glamorous title, you know. I eventually graduated as a doctor and came back to my first love seemingly late.

That introduction should suffice, now let me get down to the gist of this letter.


The idea for this letter came about when I read that a seasoned programmer and fellow entrepreneur was about to shut down his two-year old startup- showroom.ng, set up to furnish Nigerian homes and make 100k millionaire carpenters by 2020. He had poured his all into it, and the husband and father cried like a baby. My main purpose of writing this letter is to let you know you are not alone in your depression, if you are at such verge.

It is not news that Nigeria's economy is in recession with companies closing down and others moving out of the country, people are losing their jobs and IT companies such as Uber and Jumia are reportedly struggling too, with Konga laying off staff regularly. (Successful global internet biz models being replicated elsewhere are not so immune to the economy of their host country).

Yet, you probably also read recently that in this same economy, Linda Ikeji (yeah, the same 'ordinary gossip blogger' who refuses to buy her domain name) makes N600 million annually, and is moving -Linda Ikeji Media- to bigger offices. Na wa oh! Na real wa!!
Linda Ikeji's old, and her new offices

Where I used to see Glo Adverts, I saw "The Elevation Church" adverts
The Nigerian IT world is different just as Nigerians are a unique people. A gossip blogger is more likely to succeed in the Nigerian IT ecosystem than an IT expert or ecommerce retailer, just as a pastor in Nigeria is also more likely to become a multimillionaire than a true business entrepreneur. It is because of who we are as a people. We consciously and subconsciously seek, value and readily believe the mysterious, superficial and superstitious (and anyone who gives that to us) before we consider (paying for) substance/real value and truth.

The other day on Lekki-Epe expressway, where I used to see Spar and Glo advert banners (on street light poles), I saw banners of "The Elevation church". Our economy has moved into the charity industry. If you are considering starting a new venture, think Charity, or Gossip industries first!
(i am not kidding oh. You can pay me for the free biz idea tip later. *winks*)

Depression and Suicidal thoughts flow freelyI had my eureka moment on the idea credicoins.com July of 2014 while serving as a NYSC corp member. It had been -SaveMeCredit- a third part of 3 vaguely developed ideas which I had nursed since 2009.

The other two are: LendMeCredit (which Glo does today as Borrow Me Credit), and RationMeCredit (yet to be done by any company in Nigeria as of today). They are all personal finance concepts I developed while still in Medical school and needing help with managing my pocket money which was fast being gulped by (an unbridled penchant for buying) telco recharge cards.

Before we graduated, I had already decided to abandon my Medical practising license for the ideas (and I did not even register for the permanent one immediately after NYSC).

I was foolish! ...Not because my medical certificate is more valuable than these ideas, but because I was throwing away the bird in hand, for 'billions (of birds) in the bush'. [The bush is even still in my mind. lol]
I wanted to be the next Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Jobs and Michael Dell that I had always read about.

I had no savings, but an overzealous drive to succeed. As I mentioned in my last blog post, I had to choose between learning programming at that point in 2014, or simply becoming a blogger/'e-marketer', and then raising funds from investors to employ programmers. It seemed easy to opt for the latter, So I started blogging right away, came down to Lagos (from Kano) to follow my entrepreneurship dreams. I dove in with blind optimism.

But I was wrong. As we proceeded, I was making too many mistakes.
I had heard counsel but not heeded it.

Then, I became as depressed and suicidal as Nigeria's economy!

Entrepreneurship is about chasing YOUR dreams, not another's!
Entrepreneurs sometimes miss the whole point of entrepreneurship when they chase another's dream instead of their own.

You don't have to be a Steve Jobs or Bill Gates or Oprah Winfrey. Do your thing; be your own person.

And once what you do is no longer fun, regardless of whether you are presently making a ton of money, or hemorrhaging investors' funds faster than a bleeding Femoral artery, step back and reconsider your life's mission and purpose.

[My life purpose is to live so SIMPLY and so SUCCESSFULLY (yeah, I know those two don't go together in Nigeria.lol) that I encourage others to simply be successful!]


WHAT ARE YOU DOING (/building/selling/etc), REALLY?

What are you living for?

While you are eating to live, be careful not to cross the line and begin to live to eat...or worse, live, simply to be eaten!
You must feed your family first before you plan to feed others. And if at any time you can't do that with one/multiple source(s) of income, quit all till you find that ONE income. That is the foundation principle of personal finance.

And yes, it is ok to quit to survive!

First, our lawyer, and then my friends saw the unwholesome desperation to succeed...at ANY cost
Our former lawyer, a friend's uncle, Barrister Tope Adebayo was the first to notice and point out (to my friends) my desperation to SUCCEED AT ALL AND ANY COST. I was not considering a lot of factors dispassionately and logically. I did not even want to get married till 'I had succeeded'.

This had become a problem for me, really.

While motivational speakers might tell you that (kind of drive) is good, you begin to wonder why "successful people"- billionaires and a lot of entrepreneurs commit suicide. In fact, entrepreneurs die (mentally and physically) as much as startup death statistics.

Mike Alfred and Ilya Zhitomirskiy commited suicide
All this often happens when you swallow too much self-help and optimistic motivational books without provision for 'failure'!

In fact, I had tried so hard that I developed a 'get-rich-quick mindset' and gambling tendencies.

Dear entrepreneur, "What price are you willing to pay for success?" "What price can you (and your loved ones) really afford to pay?"
Those two questions are similar but very different. You might need to think about your thoughts to truly answer them. The earlier you do, the better for you, and your loved ones.

The grass always looks greener at the other (person's) side; but offline reality is totally different from online
...especially in Nigeria!

And I am sure that if God was to reveal to everyone the real life conditions of so many admirable 'social media Richie-Richs living the good life', we will marvel. The online persona and impressions people create (to show off and oppress others) is mostly 'make believe'. They themselves wish they live the life portrayed on their social media accounts.


What we don't realize is that most successful people did not set out to be who they presently are- they got lucky! Zuckerberg did not start out to be 'billionaire Zuckerberg' neither did Bill Gates. So we should quit trying to keep up with the Joneses.

The truly rich are either not showing off (purposely), or they are just being themselves. True success needs no announcement. True success hides itself till it is revealed naturally.  If we continue to try too hard, we might break(through), or, be broken, or, be crushed to bits! Really, is it that important?

My cofounder Bowale Banjoko, and most CNL's shareholders reside abroadI have a great company of friends who have been with me (in the entrepreneurship boat) by virtue of investments -of cash and (meetings) time.
Mostly, they understand what it means to start a global Fintech company in present day Nigeria with no savings and without being a programmer, and they have really done a lot to make the Credicoins dream a reality, within their financial capacities.

Though other times they don't (even though they think they do), and who can blame them...?

Until you have alighted at MMI Airport, and come into the shores and reality of this country -without 24 hours light, cheap and reliable Wifi, good roads and affordable opportunities for entrepreneurship- it is so easy to run an IT startup from abroad. (Even the 'New York-based startup; Andela' had its other C-level managers in Nigeria.)

And like I had to sincerely tell them when announcing my decision to quit, "you will most definitely go insane -yeah, crazy- trying to build a global IT company from inside Nigeria without (enough) cash". It is actually easier and better to (be the one to) send money than to (be the one to) spend the money...especially when the spender's cash is not significantly involved. (A creditor is always above and better than a debtor).

My uncle once said to me, "The best businesses to found are those you can start and maintain solely on your own money." #thinkgossipblogging lol

Credicoins is a first in many respects, but I don't want to also be the first Nigerian IT enterpreneur to commit suicide because of his idea. So, I quit (or suspend/pause, whatever)! Life is not an Olympics race- it is an individual journey, and God has a plan for all of us collectively, and also individually.

We are simply pencils...that can be sharpened, broken in two, or crushed to bits. Our health (which isn't only physical but also mental) is important. So also our relationship with friends, and spouse/children, and extended family -we are not islands, no man is! We must nurture them and maintain a safe balance always.

Credicoins sample profile page

The way forward is back, and Flat is the new Up!
Finally, dear IT entrepreneur, I salute your courageous hustle, especially if you reside in this 2016 Lagos, Nigeria where the cost of a bag of rice is now above the minimum wage.

If you give up it does not mean you are a coward. And it does not necessarily mean you have failed. It can mean like Thomas Edison, that you have only just discovered another way in which it won't work. Or maybe 'its' time was not ripe. Or like me, you need to step away to unlearn, and to learn, and hopefully relaunch, if God wills.

I am not giving up now because I have a medical certificate to fall back on. I am stepping away because when you are on the wrong path, taking another step forward will not make it right. You have to turn back.

Sometimes the way up is down, or flat/sideways (as my friend and fellow blogger Olafusi Michael said recently).

Sometimes, the way forward is back (…to paid employment, to life before entrepreneurship). Think about your thoughts, and these too.

God bless your health and hustle. Your best (startup) is next.
All the best!!

Sincerely yours,

[I also posted this on Medium]

Update (30/08/16)

I said that the economy of Nigeria has moved into the 'charity industry'.

And the Lord said to me that it is not a mistake that money has moved into the church, so much in Nigeria.

The mistake is that the church (leaders and members alike) are doing the exact same thing the Nigerian politicians, and unbelievers generally did with the money that made it flee from them (-acquiring needless material possessions, subverting justice, neglecting the poor and widows, etc).

He said, "Money is a servant. And money flows- it is currency. Money always seeks a responsible and prudent master. When the custodians of it (whether political leaders, economists, accountants, pastors, etc) are frivolous, and wasteful and wicked with it, it leaves their hands to the TRUE custodians."

Money, as a servant, always seeks its true master that knows its purpose. THAT IS THE MAIN REASON THE WEALTH (human and capital) OF DEVELOPING/AFRICAN NATIONS ALWAYS FLOW TO THE DEVELOPED NATIONS.

Money finds its (true) level.

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