“If you cannot spot the gap, you can’t win”- Sim Shagaya’s message to entrepreneurs

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The best of learning is to learn by experience. It prepares the mind and gives unimaginable insights on ‘how-not-to-do’ which is important to help entrepreneurs avoid pitfalls and steer them on when faced with unavoidable challenges of entrepreneurship.

However, when it comes to experiential knowledge and insights, very few people who have refused to be fettered by the fear of failure can boast of it. Of these very few is Konga.com and Dealdey.com founder, Sim Shagaya, a man who has moulded lessons learnt from nine attempts to start different companies into the success we know today as Konga.

As a way of passing forward his lessons learnt as a fledgling entrepreneur, Shagaya shares some insights on things he has learnt so far.

Spot the gap

If you cannot spot the gap, you cannot win. Shagaya spotted the gap in the country. He said Nigeria is a market with deep mobile penetration and fast growing access to the internet. He saw Lagos with a population of 21 million people. He spotted Lagos, the epicenter of one the largest urban cities. He noticed that Lagos has two excellent shopping malls, the Palms and Ikeja Mall. Then, he swiftly launched Konga, a spin-off from Dealdey.

Have clear dreams

Shagaya advised that to start a business you need to have clear dreams. A clear dream would help you to solve real problems for the public in a practical way. He said you would experience high and low days. What would take you through those days is persistence.

You will fail but persist: Timing is Key

 Shagaya has failed nine times. His dating site (alarina.com) failed. His job placement site (jobclan.com) failed. His classified site (gbogbo.com) failed. His media streaming service (iNollywood.com) failed. Twenty of his ideas did not even see the light of day. That is a lesson in persistence. He said these projects failed because the timing was wrong. To him, the startups were ahead of their time.

Failure isn’t the end; turn the stumbling block to a climbing step

Shagaya did just that. When his companies failed, he gathered the ashes together, which included his experiences, expectations, and expertise. From the ashes emerged Nigeria’s pioneer online e-commerce retailing company, Konga. Today, through hard work, innovation, and all-consuming desire to better the lives of Nigerians through technology, Konga leads the field in Nigeria in Gross Merchandise Value (GMV).

Be a serial entrepreneur

He founded nine companies. Four failed. One survived. Four did not make it to the market. Twenty of his ideas did not even see the light of day. Aside that, he founded eMotion Advertising: this is a flourishing integrated marketing communication firm. He founded Dealdey – Africa’s answer to Groupon. Dealdey is Nigeria’s leading daily deals site.

Look inwards 

Shagaya’s primary goal with Konga was to aggregate the youngest and fastest growing market that was dispersed and under-served. One, which, traditional retailers failed to reach. He said Konga means “well water”. It is what everybody uses every day. So, everyday consumers in Nigeria and across West Africa log on to  for products that they otherwise were purchasing in physical retail stores.

Localise your idea

Shagaya knew he was really on to something great with Konga. Here is what happened: Konga’s servers crashed at 8 am one morning during the Yakata Sales in 2013. He explained that during the holiday shopping season, Yakata – a Nigerian colloquial term that means final or complete, pioneered and localized the concept of Black Friday within the Nigerian and West Africa e-commerce industry. Yakata Sales ran for five days and the response was overwhelming. Shagaya had planned for twice the amount of regular traffic on the internet, based on survey Konga had carried out. However, during the Yakata Sales, consumers on the site were beyond Konga’s capacity. It turned out, he said, Konga was much more popular than he realized. Sales revenues shot up at an alarming rate in six hours. Konga sold more goods in the first six hours of Yakata than during the entire month of October 2013. Yakata is similar to Black Friday and Alibaba’s Singles Day sale. Yakata’s key revenues were electronics, laptops, phones and tablets. Games such as play-station sold out quickly.

Ride on technology

Shagaya believes that the success of America’s Sears was hinged on the steam engine, electricity and the rise of America’s manufacturing industry. Konga is riding on information technology, electricity and growing African manufacturing sector. And Shagaya is at the wheel. He knows the route. I cannot argue with him. He has been there. He has done it. Nine failed companies. Yet he keeps pushing.


This article was posted on Linkedin Pulse by psalm:son rarzack.


I'm interested in stories, news and opportunities for African entrepreneurs. Be it tech, fashion, SMEs; breaking entrepreneurship stories is the next best thing that can happen to me, after Jollof

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