Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Making a Difference in Nigeria

Do you believe that Nigeria can and will be better in the next 30 years? 

I do. In fact, I believe it enough to stake my future on it and move back to Nigeria following graduation. Regardless of the problems that I hear and read about on a daily basis, I believe Nigeria can and will have a very bright future socially and economically. The "can" of the aforementioned statement is about Nigeria's potential, but the "will" is about leadership and the need of people of all ages to step up to the plate. 

Building a country is a team sport, and building a healthy country takes a huge amount of initiative from the mass population with good leadership at the helm. If you are between 25-35, one great way to meet current AND future leaders of Nigeria is to attend the Nigeria Leadership Initiative (NLI) Future Leaders Seminar. 

The NLI Future Leaders Seminar is a 3 day event where Nigerians at home and in the diaspora meet and learn deep lessons of ethical leadership drawn from centuries of writing. You will engage in debate, learn from great peers and mentors, and develop solid friendships. All in 3 days! 

I know it seems like a large promise, but I can guarantee that all those things will happen for you because they did for me and everyone who I have met who has attended. If you are interested, the information to apply is below as well as links to relevant information. 

Saturday, January 11, 2014



*trumpets please*

The Lifting Young and Fostering Entrepreneurship Camp  aka LYFECAMP. It's one of those acronym thingys you young people are so keen on using these days. LYFECAMP is a conference designed to help young entrepreneurs take their business to the next level. Before I delve into the whys and so forth, I want to discuss how the idea for LYFECAMP came about. In May of 2013, Chinedu Okoro, Temitope Isedowo, and I met at Stanford University. We had been accepted to the entrepreneurship bootcamp or e-bootcamp that is held at Stanford, and they flew us out to California, wined and dined us, and introduced us to each other, mentors, and investors. While we were enjoying the experience, we came into a conversation about having such a bootcamp in Nigeria. The conversation went a bit liiiike this:

Temitope: It is amazing what the e-bootcamp has pulled together for us. There is nothing like this in Nigeria. 

Me (Sola, you know, check the URL, anyway):  Someone should do something like this in Nigeria. 

Chinedu: Yeah, someone should do something like this in Nigeria. It would be great to have that. 


During that pause, we all looked at each other and immediately understood the task. We, the entrepreneurs who had been accepted into this international bootcamp, had to create a similar bootcamp for the entrepreneurs of Nigeria! 

We had experienced the pains of the entrepreneurial journey (and we are still experiencing them) firsthand and we know how hard it can be to balance school, extracurriculars, and starting a for-profit organization. It is because we understand that pain so well that we were compelled to create this bootcamp to help Nigerian student entrepreneurs build their businesses, to connect them with other unique individuals who understand the struggle, and hopefully, to connect them with investors and financiers who can provide the sometimes necessary capital to grow the business. Even taking a step back, the co-directors of LYFECAMP, the great volunteers who are already putting in work, and the sponsors of LYFECAMP are doing this not just to help 25 entrepreneurs, but to have a greater impact. Our goal with LYFECAMP is to spur entrepreneurship amongst the youth to reduce youth unemployment, connect young Nigerians with each other and with AMAZING mentors, and finally, to help Nigerians craft their own growth strategy. Let's delve into each of these issues.The World Economic Forum estimates youth unemployment to be at 12.6% worldwide,with an estimated 73 million people between 15 and 24 being jobless. While youth unemployment is at record high rates globally at 12.6%, the youth unemployment rate in Nigeria is triple that at 38%! With 75% of Nigeria's total population consisting of those under 35, a 38% youth unemployment rate implies that there are MANY who are jobless! In fact, YouWin has been created specifically to try and address the issue of youth unemployment head on. Entrepreneurship creates jobs, and we hope by helping entrepreneurs through LYFECAMP, we will not only help the 25 entrepreneurs who come create jobs for MANY of their peers, but also serve as beacons that youth entrepreneurship is a viable means of creating work for yourself and for your peers.

High youth unemployment is a global issue.  Another major goal we have with LYFECAMP is to connect entrepreneurs with each other, with very successful mentors, and with investors. The power of connections are severely underestimated! Never Eat Alone does a great job of explaining the power of connections, but I have another example that is even more concrete. The PayPal mafia. 

The guys who worked together at PayPal have gone on to create serious wealth, and a lot of it has to do with the fact that they met each other at PayPal. They fund each other's businesses, start companies together, and even serve as best men in each other's weddings! We have not had a PayPal-sized exit in Nigeria yet, but I think it's a matter of time and it is important that we start connecting now so we can create global companies with global talent. Our goal is to connect people to people, but we also want to connect ideas with other ideas. We hope to not just have entrepreneurs build better companies, but have entrepreneurs build NEW companies because of their interactions at LYFECAMP. 

Finally, and very importantly, we are putting LYFECAMP together because we believe it is critical that Nigerians are part of Nigeria's economic growth.    

Time and The Economist already know the deal.
It may not seem like it at times, but the Nigerian economy is growing at a rapid pace! The world has noticed that Africa is on the rise, and foreigners are arriving DAILY to capitalize on our growth. The gains being made from this economic growth are already proving uneven. The wealth gap is growing larger and poverty alleviation is barely decreasing. It is CRITICAL that Nigerians from all walks of life are able to build wealth and we want LYFECAMP to be a step, albeit quite a tiny one, in that direction. By connecting Nigerian entrepreneurs with resources for success, we improve their chances of success in Nigeria and abroad. 

All things considered, we are very excited to organize LYFECAMP and we hope it achieves a quarter of the goals that we have set out for it. Even if we only achieve that quarter, we would have made a difference. Please visit the LYFECAMP site (www.lyfecamp.com), let your friends know about it, apply, tell your cousin to apply, post it in your classrooms, and just let people know. The event will be remarkable with great prizes, great information, and great people!  UP LYFECAMP!!! 



Friday, November 15, 2013

Food for Thought

If we could Shrink the World
If we could shrink the earth to a village with a population of precisely 100 people with all the existing human ratios remaining the same, there would be…
57 Asians
21 Europeans
14 from the Western Hemisphere, both North and South
8 Africans
52 would be female
48 would be male
70 would be non-Christian
30 would be Christian
70 would be non-white
30 would be white
89 would be heterosexual
11 would be homosexual
6 people would possess 59% of the entire world’s wealth and would be from the United States
80 would live in sub-standard housing
70 would be unable to read
50 would suffer from malnutrition
1 would be near death
1 would be near birth
1 (yes only 1) would have a college education
1 would own a computer
When we consider our world from such a compressed perspective, the need for acceptance, understanding and education becomes glaringly apparent.
It you have never experienced the danger of battle, the loneliness of imprisonment, the agony of torture or the pangs of starvation – you are ahead of 500 million people in the world.
If you can attend a church meeting without fear, harassment, arrest, torture or death you are more blessed than three billion people in the world.
If you have food in the refrigerator, clothes on your back, a roof overhead and a place to sleep – you are richer than 75% of the world.
If you have money in the bank, in your wallet and spare change in a dish someplace – you are among the top 8% of the worlds wealthy.
(Found at the Eden Project)

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Momma, I made it!

Hi everyone,

For those of you who are not Sean Carter fans, the title to this post is a reference to a song he wrote back in his good ol' Blueprint hey days. Lebron James also made a reference to this song when he met President Obama after winning his first championship with the Miami Heat (ahem, second one on the way soon, ahem).

While I don't think I am anywhere close to "making it" yet, I did make it on to Linkedin co-founder Reid Hoffman's slides of the 3 Secrets of Highly Successful Graduates. (Check me out on slide 7!)

The 3 Secrets of Highly Successful Graduates from Reid Hoffman

However, I am not writing this post just to brag, but rather to share the slides and the good advice they contain. I won't spill the three secrets - go ahead and take a look!

Also, here is a link to the song I referenced above. 

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Failing Into Success

This interview with Seth Godin touches on so many topics that are important for entrepreneurs and I believe that he absolutely hits the nail on the head. You have to keep trying (which entails failing) to get to success. I'm nowhere near as successful as I want to be, but I know many, if not all, of my greatest successes and experiences have come from just trying.

This may be asinine to some of  you, but you have to ask yourselves if you are really trying. ARE YOU REALLY TRYING? Are you stretching yourself on a daily basis? Are you doing things that really scare you? And not scared in the pee my pants, sweaty palm sort of way, but scare you in the way that you easily rationalize why you should not do something rather than just doing it, scare you in the way that something always comes up to help you avoid your problem, or scare you in the way that you just always happen to forget to do something. When you start procrastinating, avoiding, and fighting something you want, it might just be because you are scared.

Things get easier once you admit this to yourself and realize that it's okay to fail. It's okay to TRY to attain / win / gain something and not get it. The critical factor in the process is that you keep learning. In fact, it's better than okay, it's the first step to success. If you really want to succeed, then start trying. If you're already trying and you fail, keep trying. Finally, if you're trying and succeeding, then keep learning.

It's honestly the best part of the process.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

StartUp Weekend Experience

So, I participated in Startup Weekend Bloomington this past weekend, and it was absolutely amazing!

Before I really get into my experience, I have to thank EVERYONE that participated. The organizers, the other participants, the judges, the speakers, the mentors, the people who dropped off the food, the IU Innovation Center, seriously, everyone!

I have to especially thank my teammates Robby and Aarik, Matthew Burris, Jessica Falkenthal, John Adamson, Paul Simacek, Chris Borland, Mark Elliot, Tim Frazier, Raj Kapur, Mike Trotzke, Brad Wesler, Troy Phelps, Bill Brizard, Ben Dalton, Jordan Rothenberg, Danise Alano-Martin, and Chris White. All of these people played an especially important role in the shaping of our idea, building a minimal viable product, and enhancing my amazing experience. I'm pretty sure every time one of these guys (or girls) came up to our table, our idea changed dramatically.

A very, very special thanks to Aarik, who told me to stop being a little wimp when I almost dumped the idea to join another team. Seriously, I can't thank you enough for that. We did a ton of work that weekend, and I would not have had half the experience if there were not only three people on the team.

Okay, enough sappy stuff.

For those who don't know, Startup Weekend is closed schedule event where you spend 54 hours (Friday evening - Sunday evening) starting a company. The event is heavily influenced by Steve Blank's Four Steps to the Epiphany and Eric Ries' The Lean Startup. It's an awesome weekend for someone who has an idea to recruit a great team, get feedback on their idea, and start talking to customers and really really building a product that customers want! You should definitely read these books!

The Four Steps to the Epiphany: Successful Strategies for Products that WinThe Lean Startup: How Today's Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses

They also offer awesome stuff - check them out at startupweekend.org.