In this exclusive interview with Akaolisa Emmanuel of The News Chronicle, the Chief Executive Officer of Publiseer, Chidi Nwaogu shared insight on his entrepreneurial journey.
TNC: First, let me congratulate you for Publiseer. We all know it is not easy to set up a business and run it successfully, more so in a country like Nigeria. Can you please tell us a little bit about yourself and your company: what does it do? Why did you venture into that line of business? How has it been so far? Tell us about the company’s growth trajectory, including the number of employees.
Chidi: I’m a serial tech entrepreneur, entrepreneurial ecosystem builder, software developer, and published author. I started my entrepreneurial journey when I was 16 with the creation of 9ja Boi Interactive, a video game development company. Today, I’m the co-founder and CEO at Publiseer. Since I was 19, I’ve co-founded, grown, and sold two tech companies, including LAGbook, a social network that garnered over one million registered users within three years.
With ten employees, Publiseer is a digital content distribution company focused on helping independent and underserved African writers, musicians, filmmakers, and video game developers, typically those from low-income and disadvantaged communities, to earn above the minimum wage and live above the poverty line from the sales of their creative works. Publiseer achieves this by helping them distribute, protect, promote and monetize their creative works worldwide, at no charge, with just a single click.
Publiseer shares in the revenue it generate for these creators, which in turn goes back into helping more creators in Africa. So far, Publiseer has helped over 6,500 African creators from Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, South Africa, and Egypt, to earn a living from their creative works since inception in August 2017.
Publiseer’s mission is to empower the African continent through its young people, and to simultaneously change the African narrative by promoting the beautiful culture and heritage of the African people to the rest of the world, one content at a time.
TNC: Please tell us about what keeps you motivated and focused on the business – despite the inevitable odds that anyone or any business faces along the way. What are the peculiar challenges you face you in your line of business? What are some of the glorious moments of the business?
Chidi: What motivates me to keep doing the work I do at Publiseer is the experience my twin had distributing his music. I don’t want any creative to experience anything close. It’s terrible to have someone else reap the reward of your hard work.
When we started Publiseer, we distributed books, music, and videos, the same state the creatives uploaded them on our platform. During the first months from launch, we experienced low sales across the platforms we distributed to, and we almost decided to shut down. But then, we began to rethink Publiseer and this led us to fine-tune the content uploaded on our platform before distribution. When a book is uploaded on our platform, we create a professional book cover for it, format the interior to industry standard, and edit it for simple-to-complex spelling and grammatical errors. We craft marketing essentials like captivating book descriptions and meta-tags before we distribute them. Doing this multiplied our sales by over 10 times. This was one of the biggest challenges we faced as a business, and simultaneously one of the best moments we’ve experienced.
TNC: How did the COVID-19 pandemic impact your business? Are there any government incentives you have tried to tap to grow your business? How do you generally raise the funds to sustain and grow your business especially during downturns?
Chidi: After the COVID-19 outbreak, Publiseer had experienced a spike in sales. It appears that people are relying heavily on ebooks, audiobooks, and digital music to occupy or entertain themselves during these hard times. We have experienced a huge surge in new book submissions; it means a lot of writers are using this period to finish their manuscripts. However, we experienced a huge decline in new music submissions, most likely because musicians are unable to visit the recording studios and create new music. So, this got us wondering: “How can musicians create new music from their bedrooms or their living rooms with nothing but a laptop?”
While looking for an answer to that question, we stumbled upon Soundation and BandLab. They are online-based music studios that let independent musicians produce, record, and mix songs directly in a web browser. What’s most interesting about these platforms is that they have a robust sound library where musicians can access thousands of sounds, loops, effects, and instruments. This is so fascinating to us and we are currently working with them to assist our recording artists to create new music while at home.
Funding Publiseer wasn’t difficult. First, my twin brother Chika and I used our personal savings to fund the young company until it broke even and eventually became profitable within eight months from inception. It wasn’t until over one year later, with our traction, that we raised external funding to scale into newer markets.
TNC: Please tell us of a typical day in your life as a business owner: the time you wake up, get to your office, the challenges you typically face, including with clients and employees, what puts smiles on your face on a typical day to the time you retire to your bed for the day.
Chidi: I sleep past midnight every day, and I wake up at 5 or 6 AM. At 8 AM, I like to be at my desk starting the day’s work. I respond to emails. I like my emails responded to on time because I value people’s time as well. I set weekly KPIs and I ensure that my team meets them or even surpasses them. I brainstorm; mostly on creating stronger partnerships that will help us achieve our goals. Also, I try not to live a selfish life. I ensure to motivate younger entrepreneurs through my social media accounts by sharing thought-provoking content every day. It’s one of my ways of giving back. I have mentoring sessions with my mentors and my mentees. Yes, I have four mentors who I speak to periodically to learn from and stay motivated, and I have over 10 mentees, I speak to periodically as well, to teach and motivate them. I smile whenever a mentee reports a milestone to me. Every day is a give-and-take situation for me.
TNC: How would you describe your journey to stardom? What are the things you do differently that stand you out from the crowd?
Chidi: I think what makes me stand out from the crowd is my generosity and humility in spite of anything I achieved along the way. You see, accomplishing very difficult things certainly brings power and status, but humility helps us not to abuse it. Rather, it helps us focus our power and status on helping and encouraging others to rise, even above us, and do even greater things. I’m fond of saying, “Accomplishing something great is nothing if you fail to help others accomplish great things too.” “Generosity” is a value I hold dearest to my heart because I believe that we rise by lifting others.
TNC: Do you think entrepreneurship is for everyone? What advice can you offer aspiring entrepreneurs?
Chidi: Entrepreneurship is for anyone who doesn’t complain about problems, but instead, brainstorm on ways to fix problems. Entrepreneurship is for those who love seeing problems around them because they react to problems in a different way. Many people see problems as challenges, and so they complain about them. But entrepreneurs see problems as opportunities, and so they go ahead and fix them. When you’re drafting an investor pitch deck, there’s always a page for your ‘problem statement’, which is usually one of the first pages. This means that for one to create something amazing, one has to first identify a problem and then solve it. This simply means that to an entrepreneur, a problem is an opportunity to create something amazing and not an avenue to complain and place the blame on a failed government.
My advice to aspiring entrepreneurs is: Stop overthinking it and take action. Failure to take action can breed fear and doubt. On the other hand, taking action helps build courage and confidence. Don’t sit around and think about doing it. Get up and get busy.
TNC: Let me have your take on some national issues. Insecurity has been one of Nigeria’s major issues and in recent times, it has degenerated to a point where we now have bandits, unknown gunmen, killer-herdsmen, Boko Haram and kidnappers; in your opinion, how can tech be utilized to tackle insurgency?
Chidi: I don’t know if I’m the right person to answer this question, but I believe technology can solve any and every problem, including insurgency. For starters, we can use technology to identify when people circulate false and frightening news and curb down the circulation. We can use technology to spread important and helpful news that could help people avoid certain places at dangerous times. Most importantly, we can use technology to help citizens quickly report verifiable cases of insurgency to the relevant authorities, so that immediate and adequate actions can be taken to put these insurgencies in place.
TNC: Restructuring has been another burning issue in the nation. What is your take on the agitation and what is now called the Asaba declaration?
Chidi: Although I hardly engage in political debates, I believe in “One Nigeria”, and that we should all be united as a people. However, I also believe that every citizen, region, state, and tribe should be treated with love and respect, equally. I don’t believe that one part should be given preferential treatment over the others. Nevertheless, I don’t encourage using violence to get that equal and fair treatment across every group of people. I support love, peace, unity, fairness, equity, and non-violence.