By Jason Njoku*
Bastian and I announced earlier today that iROKO, our little company which we co-founded back in 2010 raised another $8Mn in venture capital from our existing investors Tiger Global, Kinnevik and new participant, Rise Capital. That brings our total raised over the last 2 years to $21Mn (we quietly raised $5Mn in December ‘12). I know this makes us easily one of the most well funded internet startups in Africa and with a near $50Mn valuation, validates our original perspective of a valuable and globally relevant Nollywood film audience. A market which only required a product to fill that void. 2013 hasn’t been an easy year, the naysayers have recently been out in force predicting our demise, it’s definitely been one where I personally feel that the company, at large, has matured. But maturity in the public eye can be very taxing. We were negotiating the final clauses in this $8Mn whilst folks were mentioning our ‘structural issues’. I had a response blog post penned ready to set the record straight, to dash the naysayers on the rocks. My wife never allowed me to post it. She was right. Action always speaks louder than words. X8million. I am now a fully married father of a small man. I am working hard to evolve my former brash founder attitude and become more of a CEO. Still very much work in progress. But a step in the right direction.
But iROKO as a company has changed significantly in the last year. The shoot-for-the-moon tangent bets you make as a early funded young aggressive startup have been had, lessons learned and wounds licked. I believe we have now institutionalised all the failures and mistakes made over the last 3 years, yet allowing the capacity to move fast and break things, remains. Dollar for Dollar I believe iROKOtv has one of the best unit economics equations of any startup based in Nigeria. Nothing I have ever seen sways me from that. The quality of our recurring revenue is second to none. We focus on building value beyond a large free user base but pride ourselves in our cold, hard calculating journey to self sustainability. And profits. One day we will be a startup no more. In its place we hope to have built an actual company.
Last week, an investor who was visiting Spark told me that I had inherited a massive burden of needing to be successful. That iROKO had to have a big win or it would be seen as a failure. At this level of funding a big win would have to be a $100Mn+ exit. This is attainable. But not in the near future and internally at iROKO ‘exits’ are never discussed. We focus on building awesome.
With $8Mn in funding we allow ourselves the financial levity to make more strategic, longer, customer focused improvements to iROKOtv FREE/PLUS and the VOD marketplace at large. This funding definitely gets us to profitability as planned without constraining our ability to grow. Raising money is always difficult in Africa, especially Nigeria. Whilst we have a compelling narrative that is not enough to enable seasoned VC’s to keep funding a company unless we have given them the confidence we can execute the narrative. We have demonstrated our ability. No hype no voodoo. Just reality. The perspective. Bastian and I don’t work everyday to try and live up to the lofty expectations our funding has now set for us. We feel no pressure other than that we place on ourselves to build what we have always dreamed about. An awesome online home for Nollywood.
We are no longer a scrappy startup. In fact the word monopoly is usually mentioned when online and iROKO comes into debate. We now generate millions of dollars in revenue annually and have a global team of 68 people. With offices in Lagos, London, NYC and JoBurg scrappy doesn’t come to mind. Nonetheless we have a once in a lifetime opportunity to build a true giant of an African media company. With the fresh funding and the wind at our backs. It is our ball to drop.
In the end, all Glory goes to God, to my wife, son, family, my best friend Bastian and the whole team who quietly make iROKOtv sing minute by minute, hour by hour and day by day.
All we need to do is continue building awesome. Then we make our dent in the universe
Source Jason Njoku .com