Road to Calabar: potholes and wheelies

It is Wednesday afternoon of 23rd Dec in Lagos and our customs agent is near breakdown on the phone. He has been at the port the whole day trying to get a truck from Apapa to the Tincan island port to pick up the box with the bikes. It is only 5 miles away, but the whole area is blocked by tankers, so in the whole day his truck couldn’t make any progress at all. Nigeria produces 3% of the world’s oil, but suffers fuel scarcity. It doesn’t refine itself – sells the oil to americans and buys back petrol. Of course now that the crude price dropped and petrol in Nigeria is subsidised at €0.40 there is no fuel in the stations and people queue for days if there is a chance of a fill up.

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Lazy in Lagos

Nigeria is a zoo,” says Genebahaga. He is an 18 year old security guard at my friends house, where we are staying in Lagos. He is frustrated with the state, where some people are filthy rich and the majority of the 180m dirt poor. There is nowhere to go. He shows me his mathematics book, he is studying differential equations for the exams to get into the university and study medicine or biotechnics. He doesn’t yet have the €70 needed for exams. Read More

Send off. Wheels first

In 2002, just after my 22nd birthday we took a trip to the south, my friend Juce, my brother and I. We drove my old Mazda 626 from Tallinn to Gibraltar and then continued on foot into Africa. We hitchhiked onto trucks, little peugeots and scooters. We got as far as southern Morocco, to the town of Tarfaya. We made some friends along the way. Read More

My own little bank

I’ve wondered lately why we keep our money on bank accounts. Why would anyone in their right mind risk their hard earned cash for bankers to invest in loans for their profit, without any return to the deposit holder.

So I set up my own little alternative to a bank. I store any small amounts left over from my monthly salary into one of the two places:

  1. German government bunds – through an exchange traded fund
  2. Peer to peer loans to businesses – through FundingCircle and Zopa

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Startup = speed

A couple of months ago I wrote about remaining a startup with 100+ people. Today we are nearly 300 people and having an ever better appreciation of what being a startup means.

Startup is defined by growth. Growth is generated by the speed of the organisation … with a bit of luck. There is luck in the original idea, the supporting market condition, in the people who come together around the idea. Optimising for luck is near impossible. Hence the success of the startup after it has reached its first fragile product-market fit is determined by the speed at which the organisation can evolve the product and engage customers.

Speed of the organisation isn’t trivial. We have lots to learn from the 5-10 person pre-money startup teams, who are super focussed on their mission and are dedicating their every brainwave to making the product a success. These teams move incredibly fast. How to retain that same speed with 300+ people?

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