Startup Africa News had an amazing interview with Chidi Nwaogu, a serial tech entrepreneur from Nigeria, co-founder and CEO at Publiseer, and one of the 10 finalists of the Jack Ma Foundation’s Africa’s Business Heroes (ABH)


Q: For those who don’t know you, tell us in a few words: who is Chidi Nwaogu, and what is Publiseer?

My name is Chidi Nwaogu, and I’m a tech entrepreneur and software developer, who started his entrepreneurial journey at the age of 16. Since then, I have built and sold two tech startup companies, which include LAGbook, a social networking platform that garnered over one million registered users within three years and was acquired by a Canadian tech company in January 2013. Today, I’m one of the founders of Publiseer, a digital media company that works with independent African creatives, to help them earn above the minimum wage and live above the poverty line from the sales of their creative works.

Q: How did you get to know about Jack Ma Foundation’s Africa’s Business Heroes (ABH) prize competition, and what did you do differently to be selected among the Top 10 outstanding African entrepreneurs this year?

I got to know about Africa’s Business Heroes competition from a couple of entrepreneurial friends in the ecosystem, who have emerged in the Top 50, Top 20, and Top 10 of the previous competitions. They all had something amazing to say about the competition and how it had helped them rethink their entire business model and set them on the path of success. I felt if ABH could do this for their businesses, then it would do the same for mine, so I decided to apply for this year’s competition, and I must say, it has been more than I bargained for. The entire ABH journey has helped me refine my business model, market strategies, and value propositions. For me, every entrepreneur who made it to the Top 50 is doing amazing work, so I’m grateful to be part of the Top 10.

If I am to guess what I did differently to be selected among the Top 10, then I would say it was my humility to listen and implement the feedback of the judges and mentors. I think being teachable helped me get this far.

Q: What lessons have you learned from the ABH program?

One important thing I learned from the ABH program is that to build a successful business, then one shouldn’t focus on breadth, but on depth. Focusing on the number of customers one can acquire is nothing if the quality of the services that you offer to them is less than exceptional. One should be focused on the quality of their value proposition and how scalable it can be. Rather than thinking about the number of users or customers one has, one should be focused on the number of satisfied customers instead. This is because the number of satisfied customers will determine if the business grows.

Q: How do you plan to use the experience and lessons from the program, to impact local business in Nigeria?

Our mission at Publiseer is to make sure that every creative earns above the minimum wage every month from the sales of their creative works. And thanks to the ABH program, we have included this as our North Star Metric. This means that it is our sole mission to ensure that every creative on our platform earns at least $50 every 30 days from their creative works on Publiseer. At the moment, this is about 80% of creatives on Publiseer, so we are working hard to ensure that this becomes 100% in the next two years. Also, thanks to my ABH experience, we are working on the value proposition of Publiseer Pro, which aims to provide more value to the Top 20% earning creatives on Publiseer, in order to keep them on our platform.

Q: The ABH initiative is ongoing for another 7 years, who is eligible to apply and what tips can other startups take note of to enable them to participate next year and in the other upcoming editions?

Every entrepreneur that is solving a big enough and urgent problem with a big, bold solution is eligible to apply for the competition. My advice to every entrepreneur applying for the competition is that they should be humble enough to listen, teachable enough to learn, and be ready to let go of what doesn’t work and embrace more innovative ways to solve their identified problem. Also, they should be truthful about the stage of their business. If your business is running a loss, be truthful about it. ABH is not looking for businesses that make millions of dollars. No. My business doesn’t make millions of dollars every year yet, but I was selected as one of the Top 10. ABH is focused on the potential of your business and your vision as an entrepreneur. So, be truthful about your revenue, but be bold about your vision.

Q: How do you plan to use your share of the money you will be getting in November this year from the ABH?

We intend to use the grant to scale. We will use it to secure partnerships with more online retail stores and digital service providers (DSPs), especially those in Latin America and the Asia Pacific region. Very recently, we partnered with Libri and iReader, which are leading DSPs in Germany and China. We intend to secure similar partnerships over the next couple of years, in order to get our content to every platform that matters and generating more revenue for our creatives, for these DSPs, and for Publiseer as well. Also, we will use the grant money to start distributing content in other languages, especially African languages. At the moment, Publiseer only distributes content in English, and most recently in French, thanks to the grant we received from Institut Francais. So, we are working to start distributing content in other languages like Swahili, Arabic, Portuguese, and more local African languages, making our content truly diverse.

Q: What problem is your business solving in Africa, in Nigeria, or your community?

Before Publiseer was born, African creatives found the distribution fees of existing aggregators too expensive, and thus many of them could not get their content distributed by these aggregators by paying for the distribution. Also, the methods these aggregators used to pay royalties were not feasible in many African countries. For example, many of these aggregators paid royalties via PayPal, which is a payment method not accessible to many African countries like Nigeria and Ghana. And their alternative payment method, which is check payment, often have these creatives devastated when their checks are intercepted via mail fraud and stolen with fake IDs. However, the problem is even much global as well. Over 50% of creatives worldwide are unable to get their content on online retail stores and digital service providers like Amazon and Spotify, and those that eventually do, often get their content returned by the end-customers due to errors. These are some of the problems that Publiseer is solving.

Q: Do you think this is the right time for your startup to solve the problem?

Yes. Certainly, yes. African creative content is getting bigger by the day. For example, Nigerian music is becoming global, generating several millions of dollars every year. African creative content has become a very big export. The world now has its attention on African music, literature, and movies. The digital media space in Africa is valued at over two billion dollars with over 500 million active customers, and these numbers are growing very rapidly by the day. According to Statista, this will grow by over 40 percent in the next two years to be valued at over three billion dollars. So, is this the right time for Publiseer to effectively export African creative content? Certainly, yes!

Q: Does your solution fit in the market? (Do people want it)?

Before we launched Publiseer, we went to the market to know what the problems were that independent African creatives experienced and what would be an ideal world for them. Also, as the founders of Publiseer, we were and still are independent creatives too. I am a published author with three books and my twin brother and co-founder is a recording artist with two studio albums, so we understand the challenges that independent creatives experience when trying to launch their career in Africa. And over the years, we have constantly improved our value proposition to ensure that we adequately solve all these problems. This is the reason why Publiseer is very fast-growing, starting in Nigeria and expanding to Ghana, Kenya, South Africa, Egypt, Senegal, Ivory Coast, and Togo.

Q: Tell us more about your team, why are you the best to solve this problem?

Like I said earlier, the founders of Publiseer, which includes me, are independent creatives as well. So, we have first-hand experience of the problems that Publiseer is solving. Also, we have in the past, built and sold two successful tech startup companies, such as LAGbook, so this means that we have got what it takes to mitigate the challenges encountered by African creatives through technology.

Q: How innovative is your startup? (technological/social innovation).

So, while other aggregators distribute to at most 120 digital service providers, Publiseer distributes to at many as 413 DSPs. This means that we ensure that the content of our creatives is available everywhere that digital content is sold online, and thus giving them the maximum exposure that they deserve. Also, while other aggregators distribute content as they receive them, often getting these creatives’ work rejected by the DSPs, Publiseer ensures that we fine-tune their content to industry-standard before distribution, so that these creatives can compete on a global scale in a very competitive market. That’s not all: we protect their content from intellectual property theft and illegal distribution so that the creatives truly own their content. These and much more demonstrates how innovative Publiseer is.

Q: What is the social impact of your startup and what makes you different in the market?

Some of the impacts of Publiseer include:
A. Reduced plagiarism of works owned by African creatives.
B. Increased in-depth and worldwide content distribution for African creatives.
C. Increased the number of African creators earning a living from their craft.
D. Better discovery of talented African creatives.
E. More reliable and transparent monetization system for digital content in Africa.
F. More African content on well-established global platforms.

Publiseer is different in the market because while other aggregators are focused on charging the creatives up-front, Publiseer takes a bet on African creatives, and we work with them at no charge, but for a share in the revenue that we help them to generate. This means we only make money when they make money, which gives them the assurance that we are on this journey with them for the long haul. So, we ensure that at the end of every month, we receive their royalties into their local bank account, which is very feasible for them, and for those who don’t have the access to a bank account, we pay their royalties into their mobile money wallet, which is equally convenient and risk-free.

Q: How are you scaling up the startup and how do you measure your success?

We are scaling up Publiseer by making each of our processes automatic which includes content review, fine-tuning, distribution, protection, promotion, and monetization. Also, we are partnering with more online retail stores every business quarter, getting our content everywhere that matters, and generating as much revenue possible for our creatives, thus delivering on our promise to them: that with Publiseer they can become full-time creatives focusing on the creating process, while we handle the tedious but important business of transforming their creativity into wealth for them.

Q: What advice do you have for budding entrepreneurs and new startups in Nigeria?

Fall in love with the problem you’re solving, and not the solution you’re building. The market is fast-changing, so change with it. Don’t be left behind. Innovate. Embrace change. Be constantly improving on your value proposition. Instead of running after investors to raise funds to deliver on your promise to your customers, focus on improving the quality of your product or service, and your customers will pay a premium for it. Trust me, your customers have way more money than any investor in the world can possibly give to you. So, focus on them.

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Ibn Bacar
A dedicated editor spotlighting African startups, investments, technologies, and the expansive innovation landscape. With a keen eye for transformative stories and a passion for Africa's entrepreneurial spirit, Bacar expertly curates a platform that not only celebrates the continent's innovators and their breakthroughs but also delves into the intricate foundation of Africa's burgeoning innovation ecosystem.


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