Life on the farm

A picture speaks a thousand words.

2013-05-29 17.15.25 2013-05-29 17.06.082013-05-29 17.06.17

The Accidental Farmer

Many of you might think I am an accidental farmer, but the truth is, I lost my “virginity” growing “Sobo – Hibiscus tea (Hibiscus sabdariffa) and Corn” somewhere in the northern part of Nigeria when I was 8 years old; and if I was told then, that was my future and I would do great things growing plants; I would have thought the person was mad, but thats a story for another day. Accidental or not, I still believe its a destiny just waiting for it to unravel itself.

So I have been involved in the information technology space for at-least a decade or more and the interesting thing about my journey is; I was very good at it and made a somewhat decent living out of just managing teams and building awesome software (mostly SAAS and some enterprise licensed based modules) and of course burning shit loads of money at experimental dotcom startups that end up making “peanuts” enough or failing. I actually had an exit from a internet service provider, but that was unplanned, so hec not counted.

I say peanuts because I cant proudly say I turned it into a 10′s of millions of dollars income revenue generating engine, as planned, but I was fortunate to be able to afford the simple luxuries money could buy and of course enough to start my new journey.I am not counting those periods where I was not working at all and had a significant stash to support me before getting broke etc.

The overall experience though was educating and I still make some peanuts from it as I write this. I still do organise teams and write software specifications; even though I am retired from the IT world, it still trickles some peanuts down on me from time to time.

So yes, I am now a farmer growing a few cash crops on commercial scale, and soon building an oil mill in West Africa. So watch out for more articles related to agriculture and adding value to cash crops in West Africa, no more technology mumbo jumbo, as I am now officially retired.

Fix : mysql.h issues on snow leopard

I have been having issues trying to compile a few source codes on my MAC OS X.

There was the consistent mysql.h errors. error: mysql/mysql.h: No such file or directory

The fix is quiet simple, as the headers are missing in the default MYSQL binary you install. All you need to do is

Install OS X MySQL Libraries ( http://support.apple.com/kb/HT4006 )

Download the respective file that corresponds to the version of OSX you have installed
For example mine was http://www.opensource.apple.com/other/MySQL-54.binaries.tar.gz as my OX version was 10.6.8

To Install
sudo tar -xvf ~/Downloads/MySQL-54.binaries.tar -C ~/Downloads

If successful, tar should list the many files being placed in appropriate locations

The deal was done.

Yes, the deal has been successfully completed; I have officially sold my Internet company for an undisclosed amount of money. It was a good exit as far as I am concerned. The exit allows me to concentrate on the next bet. I have two ideas in mind, one a SAAS product and the other a logistic/payment solution for emerging markets.

I am still building the business plan and looking for the right partner to marry into this new venture, so for now, wish me luck :) , as this process would be a very long and complicated one. I am looking for operational partitime/ full-time partners who can commit their time and sweat to a business that would change the way e-commerce is done in Malaysia. I am in the process of dating past contacts and new ones, and even open to blind dates. So if you happen to be in Malaysia, and you are not a first time entrepreneur and you would like to have coffee with me, give me a buzz, we might have chemistry. You never know ;)

Be Productive – My effective way to fight laziness

I might be swarmed with many things, but believe me when I say I consider myself extremely lazy. I have been fighting my way through this for the past months and decided to do a little research on how I can combat this. So I collected my findings and devised a way to combat this effectively, and so far my solution has been working for me amazingly well and I thought I should share. The “symptoms” I had to fight were

a. I get very tired quickly during the day
b. I get demotivated half way through my work
c. I procrastinate a lot
d. I overwork myself and burn out easily
e. I get sleepy all the time, because of my sleeping patterns
f. I have not been reading books for a while now

This are the strategies that has worked for me to be extremely productive.

1. Proper Sleep - I realised that because I don’t have a day job i have a scattered sleeping pattern which ends up wearing me out. So I devised a plan to sleep 5-6 hours straight every night from 11pm – 5:30am.

2. Jogging - Every day I have decided that from 7-8pm in the evening, no matter what I am doing I take the time off to take a 500m – 1km Jog. This helps to clear my mind and keep me alert and disciplined.

3. Passive Thinking Process – So I had the mentality that my partners and clients are pushing and pulling me from one thing to another, so I felt that I was burdened to do everything and hence relaxed and slacked on on my roles and productivity. Currently, I have challenged myself to be an achiever, I view every contract, project, and task as a challenge I can complete and do myself without help.

4. Monthly Reading Task - So I had a stockpile of back dated fortune, economist and Forbes magazines I am yet to read, together with some motivational books I bought while window shopping at the mall. So I have now devised a strict timetable on hours I must spend every month on reading, this hours are distributed across 4 weeks. So far I am yet to slack in doing that.

5. Monthly Reward System – At the beginning of the month, that is today, I go through my entire previous month achievements and score myself over 10. If I scored above 8, I reward myself in my own little way. I indulge in not working at all for 1 day, while still adhering to my established rules doing whatever I please.

Do you have your own strategy that works for you? Please do share.

SMSVOLT – Looking for local Partners, any Takers?

SMSVOLT is a free sms service project I developed in my spare time. If you have not seen the site already it is at www.smsvolt.com. It would be localized using sub-domains such as ng.smsvolt.com for Nigeria gh.smsvolt.com for Ghana and cm.smsvolt.com for Cameroon.

I have done the research to test the viability of SMS based marketing in WEST AFRICA, or at-least in Nigeria, and I was amazed by the results. Over a period of 4 weeks, the system had sent SMS to about 12,000 unique people and sent out about 19,229 SMS messages. Now the question lies on how this could generate revenues.

This model would be supported by advertisement as a signature to the free SMS SENT OUT.

How does this work?
Well its simple, the system allows the sending of messages in 120 characters, which allows Text Ads 40 – 200 characters advertisement embedded. What this means is advertisers can opt to advertise as a signature or an additional message sent out to the recipient.

Penetration Model
I intend to build widgets for blogs and websites so that people visiting other blogs and websites can be able to send out messages to the system using the free services. I also intend to have a mobile version of the site together with a commercial discounted bulk SMS services, discounted by the signature ads.

Looking for partners.

I invested in the initial advertisement and test campaign budget together with the development of the platform that would enable this model, and would continue to support the model with all the software and feature enhancement necessary to penetrate the market.
I need 3 partners that would be able to run this as a business in Ghana, Cameroon and Nigeria and I would support the concept through my web software and services etc.

The Partners would have to share the cost of the initial SMS Campaign and marketing cost, and also would be responsible for whatever it takes to acquire the customer base necessary to make this project a reality.

I am willing to take 40% stake, so the partnership would be on a 60:40 ratio for each country, which I think is quiet a fair ratio considering the roles the partners would be playing.

What I need in a Partner?

1. Initiative – The partner should be able to acquire and support sales and payment logistics on his own without my help.

2. Honesty – The partner should be honest and straightforward about how he intends to market and acquire customers.

3. Business Experience – The partner should have done business in the past, or currently and would have time to do this effectively and sincerely with the necessary commitments required to make it a successful partnership.

4. Performance – I need a hard working partner, as the partnership agreement would be dissolved if the partner does not perform.

Do you need a more in-depth detail on this business proposal? Shoot me an email or comment here and I would get in touch with you.

Insider Story: Nairahost stripped Naked Part 1

I thought thrice, and I am still thinking about what I am about to do right now whilst I type this. I am about to tell, the never told Nairahost story, but its something a lot of African start-ups can learn from. I do hope I don’t end up making my partners very unhappy about what I am about to do.

This would be a series, a story about an African start-up that began with only $100 dollars in capital, without financial backing, without access to possible loans, that grew from 2 customers to more than 3,000++ paying customers, without marketing and hosted about 8,000 domains across many servers at a data-centre in the US.

This would reveal mistakes we made, such as undercharging for our services, how we burnt through cash through strategies we introduced without an indepth analysis on what we were getting ourselves into and how we did not have a marketing budget, and also how we reinvested our own hard earned cash to keep the business afloat, when things went really bad. This would also be about How I gave away equity to raise funding to keep the business afloat, how bringing in new partners have helped the business, and what we are doing today that would change our financial books in the upcoming quarter etc.

This would be also a story on how we generated about 6 figures in USD in revenues a year, lost a lot to currency devaluation, business expenses and managed a very challenging customer base together with foreign service providers who would kick us out because of our customer base.

This would be a story of lessons I learnt through the journey, and challenges we faced and how you can develop your business to mitigate yourself from the kind of problems we ran into. I would go into details on our day to day experience, current, past and our future goals, visions and target.

This is a teaser post of the Nairahost story, so watch out for part 2, where I would strip Nairahost naked, as never done before.

Open Payment – Digital Currency backed by a Franchise Model

This was conceptualized by me on a bored Saturday morning; it is a crazy idea but well who knows it could be feasible.

So I have been reading quiet a lot on the economics of money creation backed by items of intrinsic value such as gold, and the more I read, the more I realize that the dynamics that creates such value is tied around perception, and trust. This is what created the basis of my crazy complex idea of a creation of a global bureau de change of digital currencies backed by each Franchisors funding with a digital clearing-house powered by a community of rated commission based volunteers in every country and state across the globe.

Taking a glimpse at online payment methods such as paypal, moneybookers, libertyreserve along with many other methods of online payments that are backed by either the founder’s funding or models in developing countries or third world countries, a sub-market or rather a black market with millions of dollars in turnover on a yearly basis currently exist. This is a market where digital exchanges occur using other networks such as interbank transfer, monetary transfer or other digital currency to facilitate private exchanges of this digital currencies. This model is supported by local exchangers who facilitate easy withdrawals, easy conversion of local currencies to digital currencies to enable these methods of payment or gateways in the respective uncovered markets.This is alarming cos this by default goes against the policies of this exchangers yet this exchanges still occur at a risk of the exchanger loosing their accounts with paypal for example.

In some countries in Asia like Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore or even in Africa like Ghana, Cameroon, Nigeria, there exist a form of a community of approved exchangers with a moderator that provides a sense of security through taking identities of the exchangers and providing a badge to this exchangers to assure interested buyers and sellers.

So looking at all this artificial black markets created by needs of the stakeholders in this respective markets, there is a huge global market for a digital currency backed by communities and interlinked by local forms of payments such as internet banking, mobile virtual accounts etc.

The Idea
Establishing a community of global citizens with a platform that enables Open Payment backed by a very functional portal with Web Services together with a clearinghouse that is backed and supported by franchisee’s across the globe.
Each Master Franchisee enrolls in their respective location via supporting the system through the amount of money they are able to back the system with.

In each state there would be a corporation otherwise known as a Master Franchisee who is also an investor in the system, who would manage the clearinghouse and be responsible in taking care of local disputes and manage the sub franchisees legal matters etc.
This entire model would work on a social networking platform that would be managed by a trustee of elected Master Franchisee from each country across the globe.

The open payment system would be developed by open source developers ground up with an integrated marketplace for modular services. The core would be open-source, but the add-on services would be an income source for other contributors across the globe.
The core would facilitate the exchange, gateway and the necessary pillar to enable other systems and services to embed into it.

How would Monetary Exchange Occur?
This system would work in two ways through the Payment Gateway system and through the Community Social Portal. This is done first through loading the e-account with funding through any available franchisees in each state via whatever local pre-existing gateway available, such as interbank transfers, credit cards, mobile payments etc

Visiting a shop or a portal that accepts the open payment gateway and using the balance for the transaction.
Withdrawing and loading of the system is handled by local Franchisee with variable transaction fees based on services rendered.

The beauty about this open payment system is with time; the value of the digital currency could fluctuate based on demand and supply together with the availability of many franchisees and virtual bureau de change. The members of the community of the system would be able to build other sub services that depend on the Open Payment system, through the usage of the Developer Tools and APIs etc to facilitate the local exchange and global network of exchange etc.

The code base of the open payment system would be open-source but would encourage a modular add-on services, which would be protected by the developer using standard encryption enabled by the core of the system.

Who would make a living out of this?

Security Franchisee – Local security experts who charge for monitoring local transactions, verifications, legal matters and reselling their integrated module services to other franchisees across the globe.

Cross Border Franchisee – Local facilitator services of cross border monetary transfer that facilitate clearing house exchange of money from country to country, through either having foreign bank accounts to support foreign trades or have an easy method of transferring money across the border.

Merchants – Merchants that accept money using this system at zero transaction cost.
Exchange Franchisee – Local exchangers that provide local funding and withdrawals through available local gateways etc.

Entrepreneurs – Local entrepreneurs that can create a business around this system to enhance its functionality

The Big Picture
Picture a global open market of digital currency exchangers where you and I can earn from through providing funds to back it like forex trading, and also products and services without bank hiccups and high transaction fees?

Picture a global open market of digital currency, which is supported and managed by you and I without government intervention?

Picture a global open market of digital currency, which supports cross border trading by your investment and your time?

Picture a global open market where you can transfer money to anybody anywhere across the globe within a few seconds.

Picture a global open market of digital currency managed, and supported by you. You pay for the nodes you use, you contribute your codes to the repository that enhances the functionalities and you support your local market through ensuring that every player is verified and all transactions are monitored.

Picture a global open market that has credit ratings, and even credits to facilitate transactions?

Is this a great idea? Or an Idea that sounds nice theoretically but impractical? Or is this a Utopia Payment Idea?

I believe this system is possible through crowd sourcing and a sound franchise and network marketing model and could be polished, as this is just an abstract of the idea. Any Takers?

Please Contribute through your comments.

Mobile payments with paper trails.

Mobile payments are the most discussed biz opportunity in Africa and a few mobile carriers that have the capability to deploy it have earned amazing revenues, in the tunes of 100s of millions of dollars added to their balance sheet each quarter, the likes of Safricom and even MTN Mobile Money.

The question now lies on how this models even with their cumbersome paper trails and a local kiosk for remittance; happen to be extremely successful. Take for instance the solution of MTN Mobile Money. According to Mambe a friend in Cameroon, the process of sending and receiving payments entails

1. Sender Sending an SMS to MTN instructing release of payment to Recipient
2. MTN Sending an SMS to the Recipient
3. Recipient Visits Service Centre and Shows them the SMS
4. Recipient Fills up a Paper Form with his Signature
5. Service Centre Releases Payments to Recipient

The amazing reality about this process is, its considered easy and simple with all the hassles of travelling to the centres, filling up the forms and signing etc.

The question that I have to adopters of this Mobile payment solution in Africa is

1. What makes this different from normal interbank transfer? Is it the SMS notifications? Is it the availability of Service Centres across the nation?

2. How is this different from Interbank or Intrabank money transfers or even Internet Banking?

3. What is the dispersion of Mobile Service Centres across the average Africa nation in general?

4. Are traditional banking solutions really that bad, that any alternative convenient solution around would be easily adopted?

5. What’s the average cost of receiving and sending money via this Mobile payment solutions?

I am asking all this questions because I believe a mobile payment solution should address a lot of problems such as

1. Micro-payments:- I should be able to go to the barber shop or even the neighbourhood stall, or the cinema or even pay my cab fee with just my mobile phone without any paper trail etc.

2. Transaction cost:- The cost of using the mobile payment solution should be as low as 1% of the transaction.

3. Paper Trails :- Paper trails should not exist, mobile payments should be 100% electronic; sms based receipts, reusable balance at the shop next door, a wallet for every single transaction I do so I would only need to use the service centre facility, if and only if I need the cash for services that require cash. This services that even require cash should be engulfed by this solution with time.

4. Convenience and Access to Services :- I should not have to travel to the nearest Service Centre to check my balance or even Remit Payments.

5. Ease of use :- My grandma, should be able to understand how it works and how to use it effectively without hours of explanation and training. Graphical illustrations should do just great in not more than 3 Easy Steps. 1. CLICK 2.Type 3. SEND

I would appreciate if users of this solution in Africa, provide commentaries to further clarify my confusion or no confusion at all.

So your new startup is another twitter

You ran out of ideas and then you thought well why not just clone twitter, so you call it a local name, and you design a beautiful interface and then you call it your new startup? Believe it or not, whether you hear it from me or you hear it from your folks, you have got it all wrong and you are wasting your resources time and money, but then again you might have made enough localized traffic for google to send you a check every month that is worth your time.

Twitter by default is a “Complicated” service that it takes a little bit of explanation to understand, what makes twitter an amazing relevant service is its global coverage of live thoughts, expressions or even irrelevant “twarts” or tweets, if you call it that, in realtime and in a well organized stream based on who you want to read or rather listen too. So creating a new Twitter, that blasts the webspace with a new source of localized thoughts is just irrelevant. I get tired listening to my village folks, I don’t know about you.

I can say for myself that I am very happy with Twitter, together with my aggregator of localized content. But another Twitter clone for my village people? I don’t think so, but your village people might love it anyway, and I could be wrong.

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