While the restructuring of Jason Njoku’s company may be seen as something new, it is nothing out of the ordinary and I actually did call this whole thing in advanced a while back. I said the size of a startup, given the millions he was raising, did not necessarily matter. At the end of the day, a startup is a startup and as such, its belts have to be tightened starting out, until it gains true traction.
The cost of doing business, in my view, was too high for IROKO, especially on borrowed money, and you can’t have a New York, London, Lagos offices, and all the other places IROKOtv had offices and expect to stay in business for long; not to be confused with wanting the company to fail. You gotta trim all the fat and stay as lean as possible as you expand slowly but surely. Another concern for me was the regulatory schemes in all these various countries and needless to say, the corresponding costs for legal services. Now you gotta keep up with diverse laws of various countries in the operation of your business. Too fast, too soon.
Fast forward to ending of April-May 2014, and for reasons known best to Jason and his team, he has decided to close the UK office. It makes logical sense from my view as I have discussed above. HOWEVER, I hope decisions by the IROKOtv team is not driven out of fear for new competitors in the marketplace. While I am not privy to the inner workings of IROKO and do believe there is no need for so many offices and operations from everywhere, per se, something tells me the UK office should rather have been left open.
This is because Jason has opted to concentrate his efforts on the New York and Lagos, Nigeria offices. Focused on New York, the cost of doing business in the USA can be quite high, although certainly not as bad as Lagos. However, in addition to the cost (of doing business) that seems to tax the living day lights out of business owners, the US is a very litigious society, meaning we sue at the drop of a dime. So, even if the concerns for legal liability are reduced on the intellectual property front in New York, from the employment and labor law front and other legal aspects that affect a start-up (with millions like IROKO), IROKO will need to get a very strong legal department and get prepared for the inevitable costs of doing business in America which includes lawsuits.
Let’s see where all this is headed. As The ‘Africa Music Law Show with Ms. Uduak Podcast’ continues to grow, perhaps it will be good to have Jason on as a guest to get more clarity. It is time we go beyond the mainstream hype of IROKOtv and Jason which have largely focused on the millions raised from investors and nothing more.
Read Jason’s blog entry announcing the news.
“Africa, Africa, Africa.
Earlier this year, I went on my regular scheduled iROKO office tours; Starting in NY then London then Johannesburg then back to Lagos. That balance felt wrong. When I think of the future of iROKOtv, I can only really see Africa and specifically Nigeria as our big markets. I am trying to sign up 1M subscribers in the next 6 years. Ambitious, yes. Impossible? Not really. So why the hell are we overbalanced to a Western audience? The only reason we are large outside of Nigeria is because of terrible internet penetration on the continent. But that will change. When? Without any data points I believe sometime in 2016-ish. But that’s my own wet finger in the air prophecies. Who knows? But what I do know is that it has gotten x5 better the 4 years I have been in Lagos.
Ahead of the Curve
What I do know is that’s the future. Our only future. And venture backed startups are specifically funded and built to create an improbable future. To thrive in the white spaces. That’s why 75% die in the process. To truly prepare the company for an Africa focused future I decided to re-align the company itself. In spirit and in reality. I decided to close the London office. This wasn’t easy. I was born and bred in London. The parent company for iROKO is a UK entity. My mother and siblings are all in London. When I had my first son last summer, we spent the best part of 4 months in London. Some of our longest serving employees were based out of London. Some have opted to move to Lagos to further their careers. Some have decided to pursue new adventures. But all have been taken care of to ensure the transition was smooth. We had 12 people in London, so this was not a light hearted decision. However these are the tough decisions a startup has to make. I felt we needed to focus around an African future. I felt the balance of the talent and activities needed to look at the continent rather than Europe, which incidentally after North America is our largest viewer block. We need to build the future. Not tomorrow. But today. So we did. . .”
–Jason Njoku’s Blog has the full story.