BACK TO SCHOOL WITH MARK ZUCKERBERG, JIM OVIA AND SHINA PETERS
By Israel Ovirih, a serial entrepreneur, he presents among others the story of the boy that rejected $ 1 billion cash!
One of my most respected life coaches and spiritual fathers of all times is David Oyedepo of the Living Faith Ministries Worldwide, who, in one of my pilgrimages to the largest church auditorium in the world at Ota, Nigeria, in 2007, declared that “the profit of the earth is for all; but it is your knowledge, your seed, what you do with it and your beliefs that will determine your portion or lot on earth”.
It is this declaration that has formed the basis of my desire to quickly review with my readers how three great men (each of whom is an entrepreneur, entertainer, millionaire or even billionaire in his own right) have engaged their knowledge, their seeds and their environment, among others, to truly profit from the humongous planetary profits which have been made available in the last two to three decades, not to them alone, but to us all.
As we are all aware, the social media in Nigeria has been awash within the past few weeks with a wisecrack on how one of these men, specifically, Jim Ovia of the Zenith Bank fame, had engaged twenty million Naira to set up one of Africa’s enviable banks in the year 1990 to be precise and how, on the other hand, Afro juju music maestro Sir Shina Peters had also engaged the same amount of money in 1990 to build a mansionette in the Iju area of Lagos and what the value of these two investments are worth today (in 2017), exactly some 27 years later.
Would you all permit me to add and similarly compare what a graduate of 12 years from Harvard University in the United States (Mark Zuckerberg) has also done with his idea and the little monies invested in him and the possible worth of that investment today, exactly 12 years later (2005 – 2017)?. The dimensioning of these three men and their ideas, investment styles, exposure, environments and networks may be the reason many of us might be advised to go back to school; not to any college or university whatsoever, but to that school of re-thinking; the school of financial literacy and of course a new world order, considering what we all do with our seeds on a day-to-day basis.
Mark Zuckerberg graduated from Harvard in 2005 and pronto, with his little idea, proceeded straight to California’s fabled Silicon Valley (like all of us coming to Lagos for the proverbial “pepper”) to build a small company where he intended to connect all graduates of Harvard on his platform. Mark got angels and venture capital investors to put their little monies in his idea and, by 2009, his dream grew and expanded to connect the whole wide world to what we now all know as Facebook. Mark’s passion, integrity, commitment and fire attracted more investors and the Time Magazine, in a 2009 cover, published Mark’s photograph with the title “ THE BOY WHO REJECTED $1.0 BILLION CASH!”. Of course, boy Mark had been offered that huge amount of money to sell off Facebook, back then, but refused to fall to that gross temptation.
Interestingly, Mark’s 2005 dream was worth $1.0 billion within 4 years. Now, tell me: how many 25 year old Nigerian graduates can grace the cover of any magazine in Lagos or Abuja, not to mention Time Magazine?
Mark was in Nigeria in August, last year (with no air of supermanship around him, but only spotting his regular t-shirt) and talked about the energy of our youthful population. He spoke about the emerging entrepreneurial culture, a growing startup community and internet penetration, among others, in Africa. All these, before any of our political leaders could ever remember to ask the question ‘wetin dey happen for Yaba sef?’
If Mark was a Nigerian kid, he would most probably be working in the IT department of Zenith Bank and just maybe by April, 2017, he would be a middle management staffer. Can we all see what a life it is; what environment and exposure can do and, from that tangent, imagine at what stage in life some of Mark’s age-mates in Nigeria might be?
Interestingly, Mark has done so much acquisitions and buy-overs in the technology space that Facebook does not even run its operations from a head office anymore, but from what is known as the Facebook Campus in Silicon Valley. Mark’s Facebook now owns Instagram, Whatsapp and whatnot (and even whats up! -don’t laugh, please). Facebook Group today has a valuation in excess of $150.0 billion with Mark’s worth alone topping $58.6 billion. Forbes Magazine has certified him to be the richest young man on planet earth and the fifth richest man in the world. So, imagine if while walking the streets of Lagos during his visit, all Mark Zuckerberg was thinking was ‘how can the Facebook Group buy up MTN or Glo…or even Interswitch and control the nerve centres of enterprise in this sprawling market?’. What a life!
Secondly, Jim Ovia’s idea of a first class Bank to be known as ‘Zenith Bank’ was actually made real with a capitalization of about N10.0 million (($400,000). Jim had to rely on other investors to make this dream come true. I recall that one of those who believed in him back then was Baba Aladura Otubu who incidentally became the first chairman of Zenith Bank. No doubt, Jim nurtured the Bank with the integrity and professionalism required and, today, the rest is history. As we all know, from that little seed from which Zenith Bank was planted, Jim is now one of Nigeria’s finest investors and, indeed, has made many of us very proud to be in the banking and financing profession. I doubt if, today, Forbes will value Jim’s worth at less than $1.0 billion! Who says Nigeria is not making history? Let’s leave Aliko Dangote’s billions for another day.
Thirdly is the Afro Juju crooner himself, our one and only Sir Shina Peters. Shina Peters may have ended up as the richest entertainer in Nigeria (after Bobby Benson, of the yesteryear fame) and may have even got himself elected as the first chairman of Zenith Bank, if and only if he had placed N1.0 million in the stocks of the fledging Zenith Bank, back them (See?). However, Shina Peters decided, like most Nigerian entertainers of today (the 2010 – 2017 years, precisely) to invest a whopping $100,000 back then in a very very big mansion. I truly doubt if Jide Taiwo’s valuation today, of the same property at Iju would be up to N250.0 million ($500,000).
So, tell me, between Mark, Jim and Shina Peters, who has made more impact? Mark directly or indirectly employs over 500,000 people across the entire world, while Jim probably employs over 10,000 people in all of his ventures. Probably, Sir Shina Peters employs over 500 people (?)
Brass tacks, now: are you the ‘Richest Man in Town’? Are you the richest man in Ibadan, Enugu, Awka, Gombe, Yola, etc? How many people are you employing now? What impact are you making in your world? These are my million dollar questions to us all!
Imagine, for the sake of analysis, if Mark was worth $45.0 billion, Jim was worth $900.0 million and Sir Shina Peters was worth $3.7 million. I even watched on TV that our own Basket Mouth, the Comedian for Africa was worth $4.0 million as at December 2016. What’s your true worth? What quality of assets do you keep? Are they your Lekki and Ajah or Asokoro and Garki homes? Are they your new Range Rover and Porsche Panamera? What impact are you truly making? I read overnight that over $40.0 million was discovered in an Ikoyi apartment, by the EFCC and it occurred to me that must be some of the political monies and that’s the new way of hiding corruption proceeds. Surely, many people are yet to realize that monies, technology and networks are mere enablers. They are not the real stuff; they command no real value until these enablers are put to work to create wealth and not kept just for your immediate family, but made available to oil the wheel of prosperity for humanity!
Remember, the PROFIT of the earth is for ALL! (ala Bishop Oyedepo).
The crux of these musings is not to over-celebrate these three great men who my friends in the entertainment space would call made men, but to open the eyes of Nigerians and, indeed, Africans to the emerging Zuckerbergs on our streets. These are brilliant and not-too-brilliant, but reasonably literate guys and gals, with so much youthful energy running in their veins. They are the new creators, innovators and inventors truly capable of changing our world. These unknowns are the thousands of wantopreners, techpreneurs, agropreneurs and campuspreneurs all over Nigeria -from the now-very-popular YabaValley to the Lekki Innovation hub; from Ibadan to Zaria; from Kano to Enugu; from Ilorin to Warri and across all the cities of Africa. Unfortunately, due to little data and knowledge of what lofty tinkering they are probably doing right now, or what “Aha” innovations they could offer the world, they are never celebrated, supported or nurtured towards the realization of their dreams. The same society they intend to serve (or are probably serving right now) ignores them completely, not envisioning the millions and billions of opportunities and revenue windfall waiting to explode through the preneurship of these unknown and unsung youngsters!
Having been in that space for some time now, I can reasonably confirm that all preneurs in the startup space, including youthpreneurs, require support and encouragement in the shape of ideation, patronage, finance, technology and mentorship. Sadly, though, these are runaway commodities in this part of the world.
Nigeria today is awash with my friends of the little financial knowledge (or do I say men of little faith?). These men, like my humble self, had kept N1.5 million ($10,000 ) in Zenith Bank in the year of the lord 2009 and the Bank sent to them, an investment certificate with a value of N2.580 million ($6,307) in January 2017. But then, I also have friends who invested in Twitter, Uber and some US startups at those formative and startup years of these businesses around 2009/2010/2011 and today their investments of $10,000 or $50,000 in these companies are worth $250,000 to $1.5 million (in less than 6 years, you say?).
Do you know the Nigerian startup space is already set for smart investors with eyes on the future? However, you may not be able to access these startups at the early stage, without the right network. Remember, Jim Ovia only invited a small group of investors in 1989/90, when Zenith was a startup. My boss at Guaranty Trust Bank back then, Otunba Femi Pedro (he later became Deputy Governor in Lagos State), once told the world in a 2008 interview of how his early purchase of Guaranty Trust Bank’s shares turned him into a billionaire.
Someone said your placement in life is not determined only by your hardWORK and smartWORK alone, but also by your NetWORK. Angel investing is the new SmartWORK and NetWORK to help you grow your N500,000 to N50.0 million in less than 5 years and grow your N5.0 million into over N600.0 million in a quick space of five years. However, this is not guaranteed, except the startups into which you have invested your monies (whether in Lagos or Abuja or Kano or Enugu or Ibadan) have the right configuration of what makes a Startup succeed. I believe that the Angel investing culture needs to be properly propagated, if Nigeria must emerge as a true superpower in Africa.
So, if you have some N1.0 million naira stashed away somewhere right now, you are a damn potential angel investor! Sure, you do not have to grow wings to become an Angel. Make your findings, help the right startup to truly start up and you could be on your way to reaping from a huge harvest. If we do not wake up to the culture of angel investing right now, pitifully, most (if not all) of the start-ups that have the potential to leapfrog us into a prosperous nation will be taken over by foreign investors, some day. Again, what a life!
Forget about sidetalks, we are too much into consumption than investing, as a people; we are too much into lifestyle than real life; we are too much into vanities than wealth-building and only those who have invested in the right assets do win, ultimately. No doubt, one of the right assets is helping to build budding start-ups. What are you waiting for?
This is a wake-up call. The time for slumber is over. It’s dawn in Nigeria and Africa. The African cock has begun to crow. The startup economy in Nigeria and, indeed, Africa is ready for the taking. #LetsDoIt. #LetsStartNOW.
Israel Ovirih is a Serial Entrepreneur, an active Angel Investor and Chairman of Banklink Africa Group – http://www.banklinkafrica.com/our-success-stories/. This article first appeared at https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/back-school-mark-zuckerberg-jim-ovia-shina-peters-israel-ovirih