Akin Akinboro (left) and Mobolaji Sokunbi (right) are the Co-Founders of The 234 Project
The following post is from the e-book, The Most Interesting Thing About Investing in Africa, which features a series of conversations with entrepreneurs, community leaders, students, executives, and doers both home and abroad driving economic empowerment in several parts of my beloved continent of Africa.
Mobolaji is a results-driven Marketing Executive and Entrepreneur. In his capacity as a marketing manager, he established a track record of successfully recruiting and training top sales teams, managing a $150M+ sales campaign P&L, and driving innovative strategies across multiple business units. He has a remarkable gift for identifying and evaluating intricate challenges in an organization and successfully communicating solutions and recommendations to senior leadership. His experience spans across notable companies including Dell, Procter & Gamble, and The Southwestern Company. In his capacity as an entrepreneur, Mobolaji consistently makes things happen from a business development standpoint including as the co-founder of The 234 Project. He is passionate about sharing the untold stories of Nigeria’s greatness and publicizing the achievements of Nigerians around the world.
Akin exhibits a masterful set of skills in his work as an Enterprise Systems Engineer and Entrepreneur. Pertinent to his work as a systems engineer, Akin enjoys bridging the gap between IT experts and non-experts alike. Throughout the course of his career, he has established a solid foundation in product & solution development; and he is very experienced in leading efforts related to solution design, infrastructure architecture & implementation, test & testing frameworks, and project management. This experience has allowed him to excel in a variety of engineering roles with major technology companies such as Oracle and Dell. In his entrepreneurial endeavors, Akin is involved in a number of successful ventures including co-founding The 234 Project. He believes that the future for Nigeria is bright and thus essential to the world. Akin is passionate about impacting lives positively and encouraging others to find sustainable solutions to everyday challenges.
Investment: Online Platform to Tell the Positive Stories of Nigeria | The 234 Project
There are many fascinating things about investing in Africa, especially investing in projects that empower young minds. To that end, Mobolaji and Akin sought to develop a deeper understanding of the growing interest in startups and self-employment among young Africans, particularly young Nigerians. This perceived interest seemed to be buoyed by a number of factors like high levels of youth unemployment, lack of opportunities at more established companies in Nigeria, and the foreign investment shift from BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, China) to MINT (Mexico, Indonesia, Nigeria, Turkey) countries with Nigerian startups at the beneficiary forefront of this shift.
Upon closer examination, Mobolaji and Akin discovered that young Nigerians were not only motivated by economic factors, they were also motivated by the opportunity to live out their own definition of success; and so, working with a startup or being self-employed in Nigeria offered them the best chance to stay close to home and stay even closer to self-actualization.
Historically, many young Nigerians yearned to leave Nigeria for greener pastures in North America or Europe (see Forbes article on Brain Drain). They tended to identify with a skewed version of professional success in life i.e. the “non-African” version. Nowadays, with the widespread use of the internet and mobile phones, more young people in Nigeria opt for a career path which allows them to think global but act local.
In his interview, Mobolaji expressed that he had always wanted to reach out to young Nigerian professionals in Nigeria… “to be a mentor or offer some advice from the standpoint of [his] experience in sales and marketing”. The 234 Project now allows him to take his mentoring to a whole new level– the project is an ongoing investment to tell a different story of Nigeria.
“For some time now, if you ask people, particularly westerners, what they know about Nigeria, you’re likely to hear about terrorism, corruption, the Niger-Delta violence, or those kinds of negative stories; before you hear many westerners and sometimes even Nigerians say anything positive about Nigeria, they probably would have already gone through a list of negative things,” he noted.
In 2011, I was at a stopover in London Heathrow Airport and I met a young man from Katy, Texas (United States). He worked for Shell and was on his way to Port Harcourt, Rivers State (Nigeria). He was reading a thick book about the dangers of living in Nigeria. We got into a conversation about his trip and I could tell he was petrified about going to Nigeria. At that moment, I thought to myself, what if this young man also had easy access to the positive elements of living in Nigeria? Imagine a platform that would have shown him great places to eat and visit while living in Port Harcourt.
-Mobolaji recounts his experience on a business trip
Akin and Mobolaji believe that Nigeria, known as the Giant of Africa, has positive stories to tell– from technology to politics, from politics to entertainment, from entertainment to fashion, there are people making positive waves…
While attending a youth event in Johannesburg, South Africa for the MTV BASE Meets show, First Lady Michelle Obama (wife of the 44th President of the United States, Barack Obama) was spotted wearing Nigerian label Maki Oh by the young designer Amaka Osake. Michelle Obama took to the stage wearing a chiffon blouse from the Spring/Summer 2013 collection. – Source:africanfashionguide.com
The 234 Project is not in the business of denying that there are negative things to report about Nigeria, instead the project is simply advocating for the other side of Nigeria’s story.
The cinema of Nigeria, referred to as Nollywood, grew quickly in the 1990s and 2000s and became the second largest film industry in the world in the number of annual film productions, placing it ahead of the United States and behind only India. In 2013, it was rated as the third most valuable film industry in the world after generating a total revenue of NG₦1.72 trillion (US$10 billion) in 2013 alone, placing it behind India and the United States.
– Source: un.org/apps/news/story (UN News Centre)
Akin and Mobolaji, in collaboration with their global team (a collection of young, brilliant minds), are building out an online platform with global access to tell the positive stories of Nigeria– from positive stories that impact celebrities to politicians, from boardroom bosses to classroom champions. The platform will be used to create and share content.
There are two value proposition pillars that they are keeping in mind:
- Stewardship – they are employing a network of young people in Nigeria to help create the content.
- Empowerment – they are then connecting the content they create to action items like raising awareness, project fundraising, and professional networking.
They have implemented some key performance indicators that are part of an ongoing evaluation process to measure the success of the project on multidimensional scale. Notably, in five years, the groundwork is in place to create hundreds of jobs (across different disciplines such as videography, writing, editing, and more).
Investment: Online Platform to Tell the Positive Stories of Nigeria
L = 50
I = 30
C = 40
Business Idea Metric: 120
To learn more about The 234 Project, please check out the online community