The founder of Constative News and Executive Director of Palness Media, a journal and business solutions outfit which leverages on the internet. In this interview with Toyin Komolafe, he talks about leaving his background for online entrepreneurship, the endless opportunities the internet provides amongst other issues. This interview was first published on Hallmark Newspaper of October 17, 2014.
When did you start Palness Media?
Palness started officially 31st January, 2012. However, I have been online for over seven years doing one or two businesses; like affiliate marketing and information marketing which are areas starters usually look into. Overtime, you realize that is actually not the real thing in online business. My purpose is setting up businesses online.
When you started seven years ago, online business wasn't as popular as it is now, why did you decide to take this path?
From the first time I heard about internet, I developed this curiosity in me to find out more about what internet was all about. One day, I decided to accompany a friend to a cybercafe to see what internet really looks like. When we got there I was fascinated because of the pictures, the light and all that, from there I picked serious interest. I also saw advertisements about platform through which you could make money online and I felt all these adverts cannot possibly be for nothing. I decided to pursue it.
Everything I have been doing online have been based on self-training. Although I attended a training back in 2001, the seminar venue was so far over before I got there, by the time I got there they were rounding off.
What challenges did you have to cope with when you started?
The major challenge was means of receiving payments, there were some programmes I wanted to join online but realized that I may not be able to receive payments if ever earned. Payments then used to be through Paypal and back then Paypal wasn't allowed in Nigeria. Now you can pay using Paypal but you can't receive money using it. the means of payment was totally limited back then.
What exactly is Palness into?
Our mission is identifying people's problems and creating content, solutions and community that will cater for such problems. Palness basically is into content creation. Just like Google is about gathering the world's information into one place and making it accessible on the world wide wen, ours is to create contents that are problem solving and make it accessible and free on the world wide web.
It was base on this concept that I created wealthresult.com which was founded 31st January 2012. Wealthresult.com has to deal with small business ideas in Nigeria but in May 2014, we decided to make it global by starting bizham.com. We intended to compete with some of the best in the industry, we specialize on "how tos" which is our strong point, providing tools that will help entrepreneurs succeed in their businesses. We are also working on some other sites.
Asides making contents available, does your company engage in trainings?
We do trainings but that is occasionally. Why we aren't going all out with our trainings is because of people's orientation to seminars and trainings, average Nigerian will first see it as a means of making money off them not as a means of impacting knowledge into them.
How profitable is internet business?
Internet business is very profitable although it has become capital intensive these days. If you are able to create enough value that people find exciting and you are able to build a community around it, you will make money.
Your company creates content online. How do you think individuals can generate money putting content online?
It depends on the company or individual. Some people develop software which they market, others write ebooks or create problem solving application which they sell. On our own part, like every other content creator, the basic means we generate income is through advertisement and our basic advertising platform is Google Adsense. We are Google Adsense publisher and if you check our website you will see our adverts are basically powered by Google.
But a lot of publishers complain about Google paying them peanuts?
Google doesn't pay, it is advertisers that pay. Google is just an intermediary between the advertisers and publishers. Google has a robust platform to be able to charge effectively. Some clicks even cost as much 2 dollars depending on where it is coming from. Some clicks coming from the United States, United Kingdom and Australia are known to be very high. Clicks from India are known to be low but as low as they are, some cost 0.20 dollars per click. Our own for instance, the average we get per click from our Nigerian content which is wealthresult.com is 0.42 dollars on average which is about N70 per click.
As an online entrepreneur what books do you read?
I don't devote most of my time to reading, I do most of my research online. I read business books and comic books but I do so basically to relax.
How then do you come about all the business ideas you write?
Most of the business ideas aren't what you can get by reading a book, if you do so it becomes more of a theory. What we do is that we go out there, look at real businesses people are doing, talk to business owners, take critical look into these business, gather data and process them into real and useful information. So what you see on our site is not what you can get by reading books, they are more of researches.
Where do you see your business in another five years?
I see Palness competing internationally with the likes of Alibaba. Am a huge dreamer and I don't just dream, I create business plans to backup this dream. The challenge now is fund and that is why we are looking out for short term investors/lenders.
Are there other online entrepreneurs who inspire you?
I do have a couple of them, I follow very few people on Twitter and these are people who inspire me. I follow Jimmy Wales who is the founder of Wikipedia, I am amazed at how one person could come up with an idea that gathers such an enormous quantity of world's information into one place. You know Encyclopaedia used to be thing for us when growing up but now Wikipedia makes it look like a nursery school textbook. Mark Zuckerberg is also someone whose outlook to business I admire. When it comes to Nigeria Jason Njoku inspires me a lot because of what he has done with iRoking.
What were you doing before starting up Palness?
I was more like a hustler seeking to create a platform for myself. I worked with Fata Construction, an engineering company. Most of the things I know today are based more on personal research and training.
What advice do you have for those going into online entrepreneurship?
Everybody will say I have a passion for what you do, but I will say the internet requires more than having a passion, you need to have a product. If you don't have something unique to offer, you won't make something out of it. On the internet, you create value first before talking about wealth.
There must be a clear product you have to offer and it must be unique, even if what you want to do is something others are already doing, you must have fresh ways of going about it.
Do not build a copycat of what somebody else is doing, you won't make it as an entertainment blogger if all you do is copy and paste what Linda Ikeji has on her blog. So also you won't make a difference as a job website if all your job listings are sourced from Jobberman.
For instance, if I am an addict reader of Linda Ikeji, you need to offer me a unique reason why I should leave her blog for yours, you must be able to offer me something unique, something extra.
What lessons will you say you have learnt from online entrepreneurship?
I have learnt that internet has a great power, it can turn an ordinary person into a guru. Take for instance Mark Zuckerberg who in about eight years has built a brand that is as big or even bigger than Pepsi international. Look at Google which is almost the most profitable and one of the biggest company in the world within 15 years. Only the Internet can do that, it has such capacity to turn things around within a short time.
I have also learnt that if you want to do anything online, you need to do it very well irrespective of whether people are seeing you or not. You have to put in your best. I for instance, whatever thing I put online is my best as at that time whether good or not too good. I may get better, but as at the time of putting it online, it was my very best.
I have also learnt that trustworthiness counts in online entrepreneurship, people may not see you facially but they can trust you through the quality of what you offer. They can hear you, read your mind and tell who you are through your content. People can judge you by the quality of what you offer online.
In the course of what you are doing, at what point did you feel like giving up?
It is not easy doing business in Nigeria, let alone online, in the past you could start internet business with an empty pocket but it is not really like that nowadays. Online business has become so capital intensive. You now have businesses with loads of money coming on board, you see online businesses being financed with millions of dollars. Imagine you are just a little guy aiming to start with N150, 000, you will agree with me, you have a lot of work to be done competing with other who are raising $20 million in seed funding.
Another challenge is coming from a background that is hated online. Once you are having a transaction online and the person hears you are from Nigeria, he begins to doubt your credibility. It may not even have to be a project you want to receive payments only, even when you are the one who has to pay, some people will loses interest in your money just because you are from Nigeria.
Personally, giving my own experience, when we moved to our own place in May, I decided to employ more hands, filled the office with a lot of people only to realize a lot of Nigerian graduates are not employable, they don't have the skill and the zeal to thrive on the job.
As a business owner, you realize, you have to struggle with raising capital and still struggle with your own workforce.