Diary of an almost frustrated start-up

Posted: January 21, 2014 in Uncategorized

By Samuel Adekanmbi

About five years ago, in a promo tagged 9jillion, Etisalat gave out one million dollars ($1,000,000) which some persons initially considered unrealistic. Even though I’d never won anything all my life (except for free drinks), I still believed promos are real. I always wanted to participate, hoping to win at least a phone one day. I also noticed I

missed out in lots of promos because most companies limit their awareness campaigns to traditional media. (I don’t listen to the radio, I rarely saw these promo billboards in Ibadan where I was studying as an undergraduate, I couldn’t afford to buy newspaper daily from my N5,000 monthly allowance and the list goes on and on). I thought the wisest thing to do was to look for a centrally updated platform where all ongoing promos would be announced from time to time.

In the course of time, I found DealDey which was far from what I wanted. After several months of searching and making no headway, I decided to come up with an online platform that would inform people about every ongoing promo, competition, scholarship and lottery – the four of them have something in common, which is winning. I started the development of the platform but later stopped because most of my colleagues would laugh at me and say to me “SAMUELI! You too like AWOOF!!!” Truly, I do like “awoof” but I didn’t like the fact that everyone (especially the girls) said it to my face whilst giving me that funny look that says, “You had better go and read your books”.

Thankfully, I met the founder of Jobberman, Opeyemi Awoyemi, in 2012 (I’m sure he can’t even remember what I look like or even the project I spoke to him about). He inspired me to start the project and try to perfect it along the way. He left me with a question which he saw at Facebook headquarters, “What will you be doing if you were not afraid?” “Of course, I’ll like to put in for promos and competitions and will like to win them. As a winner, you become a celebrity in your own world and you have the media all over you,” I replied. He gave me his card and told me to start doing that.

I picked up the project again, finished it up, tested it with dummy content and felt it was good to go! Launching the platform was another big deal. I had three major challenges, the first of which was getting the appropriate domain name. I wanted a short .com domain name that would sell

itself, nothing complicated. However, it seemed all the meaningful domain names had been taken. After two weeks of searching for the availability of over forty domain names; I was on the verge of settling for a .com.ng domain when I decided to try out two other words – “promo” and “update”. Lo and behold, the .com was available. I registered it as fast as I could and today, I run http://www.promoupdate.com.

The second challenge I faced was getting content. After launching, I knew I couldn’t fill in the site with dummy content; I needed original content to make the platform come alive. Racking my brains for days on end, I tried to figure out how I would get the right content. I was back to the initial problem that gave birth to the PromoUpdate project. I eventually sorted that out by getting information from the mass media, social media and through word of mouth. I still miss out on a lot of promos and contests.

My parents constituted my third challenge. They saw me as one unserious dude that had no plan for his future. My father would say “After spending four years in the university, you mean you want to spend the rest of your life doing promos? You this boy, grow up! Get a job and start planning for your future.” I hear that every week and there was a time it had such rhythm that it began to sound more of a song to me than a piece of advice.

I forged ahead regardless of the challenges. I remember sending out letters to many companies in 2012 telling them what I do whilst also inviting them to use the “post promo” link on the PromoUpdate website whenever they had any promo. As I write this, I haven’t heard from any of the companies. I have however decided to give it everything it takes to generate content for the platform. After running the platform for eight months, I had not made money from it and I had not won anything; but I was far from quitting. On the 31st day of December 2012, one of my banks called to inform me that I was one of the winners of a promo I had put in for three days earlier. Wow! I just won a brand new Toyota Corolla Car – 2011 model! I danced all through the night.

2013 was another great year for me. Everyone in my hood now calls me Baba Alaye just because I drive a brand new car. My male colleagues would say to me, “Let me know if there is another promo” while the females were always asking if we could hang out later in the evening. Little did they know that a hundred naira wasn’t added to my monthly N5,000 allowance. People are now beginning to view my website regularly unlike in 2012 when I was the only one viewing it. 2013 was also a year of winning as I won more stuffs ranging from gadgets to cash prizes.

I enjoy what I do; I get lots of mails from people trying to make enquiries about particular promos. I see these people as my own customers; I reply every mail I get and try as much as possible to educate them. Sometimes, when I don’t have answers to the questions, I go the extra mile by calling and even visiting the company running the promotion to get adequate and accurate answer for my own audience. Sometimes, I receive over a hundred calls a day from my audience trying to make enquiries. They drain my Nokia battery most of the time.

However, I’m beginning to feel uncomfortable lately. PromoUpdate is about 20 months old and we are still struggling and haven’t got a single press review. I read about other startups, how they get funding, how everyone wants to invest in them and other sweet things the media say about them; and I ask myself “How come the press ain’t talking about PromoUpdate? Ain’t I adding value? Is there something I ain’t doing right? How come nobody wants to invest in PromoUpdate? How do I take PromoUpdate to the next level? Are all these press reviews about other startups just unnecessary hype? Am I the only entrepreneur feeling this way or are there many others like me?”

Until I find answers to these questions to move PromoUpdate to the next level, that thin voice inside of me will keep whispering two things to me:

1. Get a life, other startups are just media hype.

2. You are still that jobless broke nigga that is just privileged to drive a brand new car.

Samuel Adekanmbi is a programmer and loves competitions. He currently runs http://www.promoupdate.com. You can follow me on twitter @promoupdateng

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