by Hauwa Gambo
Wonders shall never cease o.
Apparently, last year, banking guru and venture capitalist, Tony O. Elumelu gave $5,000 as seed-money to various technology start-ups in a partnership with the Co-Creation Hub.
One year later, what is the thanks he gets? One of the young people, Celestine Ezeokoye of Tiketmobile, who was so graciously granted a lifeline says, well, sir, you did not do enough.
With incredulity, I read a blog post by this young man with the following words: “Right now, it appears that the Tony Elumelu Foundation grant has helped us get to the position where we have used up our personal savings, ran into personal debt and started running from pillar to post.”
Translation: Elumelu’s money caused his problems.
Then he proceeds to teach the man how exactly he should spend his money, and – oh – what exactly capitalism entails: “As good as $5,000 grant is to a business… it eventually runs out and those businesses would need fresh injection of funds… which are what (sic) capitalists are there for.” For good measure, he adds, “I believe that the Africapitalism movement which you stand for is not just a buzzword.”
So here is the summary of this submission: A young man was given business support from a non-governmental organization which has several projects it supports; this amount is actually more than many Nigerian start-ups receive, it certainly is more than what a success like Jobberman had. However, this money has been spent, and the business has hit a brick wall. And so, this lucky fellow now insists that it is the responsible of his gracious benefactor to give him more money.
I am beyond gob smacked.
This young man shows no genuine appreciation (and, no, his perfunctory, “For this I am very grateful” cannot suffice) for the rare support and appears to have no sense of how difficult it is to get N1 million as business support even from a bank loan, or how fortunate indeed he is be a beneficiary of an idea like the Co-Creation Hub, which those who came before him in the technology business never had, and sorely needed.
Celestine also takes no responsibility for his own failures in running aground a business in a country where those with far less have become huge successes. Instead, he audaciously asks to be rewarded for failure.
Apparently, getting a venture capitalist funding is now a fundamental human right.
To underline it all, it now appears a real capitalist – the noisy but successful Jason Njoku – had actually offered close to N4 million for a stake in this business, but had been rejected in favour of the now despised grant.
In a nutshell, this is the problem with our generation.
I have never met Celestine, and based on how many major investors have cloned his idea, he appears to be a brilliant young man, the kind that should be part of a network of young Nigerians doing great things.
Unfortunately, that is where the admiration ends for me. The problem is that there are too many young people convinced about the exclusivity of their own genius, and believe the misguided myth that the talent they have means they are somehow entitled to being engaged.
I am here to inform them that not even in Silicon Valley is this fantasy the truth.
Even a genius has a responsibility to be prudent, to be wise, to be patient, to be fiscally responsible, and to think of the long term. History is full of geniuses – but only of those who had the good sense and knowledge to see their ideas to fruition.
It is not enough to speak of ecosystems, and pitches, and beta testing, and venture capital, and incubation hubs, and whatever else is the new buzzword to hit Nigeria’s now corpulent Technology space, tweeting your brilliance for the world to see while unable to create real value.
True brilliance, the kind that creates jobs, also requires discipline, wisdom and, quite frankly, the ability to cut through your own BS.
Unfortunately, much as I root for his success, my faith in his ability to make his idea viable is zero.
The reason is simple: nowhere – not even in one line of his petulant piece – did Celestine admit that his failure was of his own doing – inability to raise cash, a bad product, a bad name, too much time spent on development rather than logistics or anything else. Instead he insists that the only problem is that Elumelu did not give him more money.
And that is why if Mr. Elumelu – who it appears, has already done plenty for the philanthropy and technology ecosystems – gives this entitled young man one more penny, he sends a message to young people that he got his own money easily, and the reward for failure is more money.
And, by God, that would be the worst message he can send to a generation that is already high on its own pitiful supply.