The rise of the returnees
Anyone ever wondered why it seems a good chunk of the new tech ventures in Nigeria getting funded and enjoying a nice slice of attention seem to be led mostly by people who have gone off to live abroad and come back home?
[Youtube screen grab: Osuofia refturns from brazil]
While I don't have an opinion whether this is good or bad, I'll throw some ideas up in the air as to why I think this is so and what the Surulere-bred man can do.
1. People would rather trust their cash to someone they have some sort of common ground with. Think of it... I am a foreigner looking to get into an unknown market and I need a guide into that market, I'd rather it's someone that can speak my lingo and connect with my experiences and expectations while still being able to relate with the environment/market I am trying to get into. Based on this, it's easier for an American based fund to finance a Nigerian-born Ivy league Grad for a venture in Nigeria.
2. Distrust of the Nigerian education system. I am not sure of this, but I think the average western businessman still wonders what exactly the Nigerian education system produces. I do too! And so do you. If I assume the system is producing people that can't draw up a simple cash flow statement, then I most definitely will prefer to give my cash to someone who has gone through a system verified for quality.
3. No historical record of success by local entrepreneurs. I have a million to dole out, I am approached by an entrepreneur born and raised in Nigeria, on his first venture. Though the idea and numbers don't look bad, I cannot point to anything in the past that the entrepreneur has done that's significant to use as a predictor of future success. Remember, people invest mostly in people, not their ideas or business plans. On the other hand, I am also approached by yet another entrepreneur who went to MIT and served a year or two at JP Morgan. I will likely ask around about the person's results while at those institutions. If they look good, they seem to me as a predictor of future success.
I believe though, that as the IJGB set start to make successes out of their ventures and possibly become investors of their own, it would start to go round. Also, as one or two "locals" get funded and make successes of what is entrusted to them, problem 3 will slowly get solved.
One solution for the born-and-bred-in-surulere entrepreneur is to put some money together, go spend some time abroad and come back later. Another is to forget trying to compete for oyinbo funding, face your business and just run a successful operation. With time, your success will become your badge of trust.