Storytelling school

Benefits of storytelling in marketing

By Sam Adeoye

At this time, long and hot traffic jams are becoming commonplace in Ibadan. The people who live in this town are half proud of this congestion as it somehow presents them with a shared experience with Lagosians who are too cool for school. On the other hand, however, they desperately hate it because the whole point of Ibadan is that it’s less crazy than Lagos – hustle-wise.

But my point with this article is not about hustle or bustle. This is the likelihood of replicating Lagos’ vibrant tech ecosystem in another Nigerian city. In this case, Ibadan.

You might think I’m just kidding with this idea, but a brilliant start-up suggests that it is indeed possible to build a tech giant from there. This start-up, ladies and gentlemen, is called Alerzo.

If you’ve never heard of Alerzo, consider yourself forgiven. I myself only learned about it last week when I had a conversation with the serial entrepreneur and start-up mentor known as Opeyemi Awoyemi. As you may recall, Mr. Awoyemi was a co-founder of some tech behemoths, namely Jobberman, Whogohost, TalentQL, and Moneymie.

During our conversation, I posed this question to Opeyemi: Now that Lagos has earned this reputation as the fastest growing startup hub in Africa, is it possible to replicate Lagos’ success elsewhere in Nigeria?

It turned out to be a question he had given a lot of thought to. So, to me, he immediately said, Well, that depends. “Name a city and let’s talk about it.”

To which I said “Ibadan”.

“Awesome,” he said.

You see, Ibadan has a lot to offer. First, it is the largest city in West Africa. It is also close to Lagos – about 120 km. Also, one of the most active universities in Nigeria, when it comes to tech entrepreneurship, is only 75 km from Ibadan. I am talking about Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife aka OUA. Some of Nigeria’s best-funded tech companies were founded or co-founded by OAU alumni. Nomba (formerly Kudi), Farmcrowdy, 54Gene, SlimTrader and PropertyPro are some of these companies.

Second, operating in Ibadan is considerably cheaper than in Lagos. For example, a four-bedroom duplex in the suburbs of Ibadan will rent for 1.8 million naira per year. Take a similar location in Lagos and the same property will cost you no less than 3 million naira.

Then there is the new rail line which makes it easy to have your headquarters in Ibadan and never miss ecosystem meetups and corporate meetings in Lagos. When the Lagos-Ibadan highway is finally completed, it is also expected to further shorten the distance between the two cities.

Meanwhile, no other company capitalizes on Ibadan’s remarkable reputation better than Alerzo.

Founded by Adewale Opaleye in 2018 to help small retailers source their stores directly from manufacturers, Alerzo has raised over $20 million in its seed and Series A rounds. And it’s also attracted some pretty savvy investors. Big names such as Africa-focused accelerator, Baobab Network; Singapore-based Signal Hill; the capital Nosara based in London; FJ Laboratories; and several family offices in Europe, Asia and the United States have invested a lot of money behind Alerzo, according to a report by TechCrunch.

Opaleye, who himself is from Ibadan and the son of a family shop owner, said his big idea for Alerzo came from watching his mother’s “many challenges”. The old lady, he said, ran two stores while raising four children. So, Opaleye told TechCrunch, “I set out to build a business that uniquely catered to the needs of retailers like her.”

While solving a problem close to home might sound pretty cool, the coolest part of this man’s idea is that he doesn’t even bother to recruit clients in Lagos, at least not yet. Yes, it has a “Lagos Hub” on Victoria Island, but it has focused its activities on Ibadan, Abeokuta, Ekiti and other towns like them in southwestern Nigeria. The company refers to these locations as Tier 2 through Tier 4 cities.

In just three years, Alerzo says its customer base has now grown to around 100,000 small businesses in those cities. Thanks to Alerzo, these retailers source from mega consumer goods manufacturers like Dangote, Nestlé, Procter & Gamble and PZ Cussons.

Isn’t that something? Who would have thought that a billion dollar FMCG logistics and sourcing company could be born out of slow-paced Ibadan? I mean, for years, if you had asked any of the thousands of young people moving from Ibadan why they were moving to Lagos, Nigeria’s most populous metropolis, their response was always direct and quick: “ there is no money in this town. ”

Now, thankfully, it looks like things may be different. It’s just that for things to actually change, people would have to make them…change them.

This is what Opeyemi Awoyemi was talking about. “Each state [of Nigeria] can look at the state of the economy and decide what they want to be,” he told me.

It is indeed true. And quite simple too. There are so many things Lagos can do for Nigerian entrepreneurs. Because its resources are limited, competition for those resources will continue to drive up the cost of starting and running a business here. This then presents an extraordinary opportunity for neighboring states – for starters, Ogun and Oyo (which has Ibadan as its capital). These states can choose the role they want to play in this booming technology economy.

In this new era of telecommuting and remote employment, for example, all barriers to locating talent are collapsing. TalentQL, the tech recruitment portal, and uLesson, the on-demand tutoring company, have proven that if you can put Wi-Fi there, you can put your software engineers and designers there. It does not matter whether it is the pristine locality of Ile-Ife in the south or the cold hills of Jos, near the center of the country.

And with Alerzo, the government’s eye should be opened to the truth about enabling environments for tech companies. Sometimes all it takes to encourage new ventures is an acceptance of new thinking. That and a working transportation system, dedicated real estate developments and/or tax breaks. When you make your space creator-friendly, make sure they hear about it, and they will come.

Today, Nigerian start-ups are referred to as Delaware (USA) companies. There’s a reason Delaware has become the go-to US state for registering new corporations. As Mr. Awoyemi said, Delaware decided what it wanted to be and it cut to the chase.

Hopefully a Nigerian Governor or one of his aides will read this article. Hopefully this will start a conversation in their office. Hopefully they will do something life changing with it.