Not many people can be serial entrepreneurs in Nigeria. While many music artists are only good at music, very few do things that are also hot like programming. We met Chika Nwaogu twin brother of Chidi Nwaogu, a gospel artist who is also Guinness World Record holder for “the longest officially released song” and also a change maker. InterviewStories had an interview with Chika Nwaogu and he talked about Playfre, Africa’s first real answer to Spotify that can bring over 45 million songs to Africans at no charge.
Can we meet you?
I am Chika Nwaogu and I am an internet entrepreneur, computer programmer, gospel singer, record producer, Guinness World Record holder for “the longest officially released song”, Keynote speaker at the IT leaders West African summit, Wazobia gospel artiste of the week, and a Top Naija music awards nominee.
You are well known as a programmer, what else do you do?
Actually I will say that isn’t entirely true. A good number of people don’t even know I am a geek, they only know me as that gospel singer that broke the Guinness world record last year. To answer your question, apart from being a computer programmer, I am a singer, a songwriter and a record producer.
How long have you been an entrepreneur?
Since the age of 16, so I will say 13 years ago. I began building internet companies at 16 with the creation of my now-defunct video game company; 9ja Boi Interactive, which I co-founded with my twin brother.
Can you tell us a little about your entrepreneurial journey.
It first began with developing video games. The first video game I developed was with my twin, and it was titled “Save the Admiral”. It was a 2D space shooter adventure game. After that we develop a couple of more game under the outfit 9ja Boi interactive; this was before our days at the University of Lagos.
Getting to Unilag, our interest changed; it was here we created. LAGbook — a social network initially created for students of the University of Lagos. It grew faster than we expected and in no time, we expanded to include the youth demographics in Africa. LAGbook gre to a million registered users in 3 years and we subsequently sold it to a Canadian tech company in 2013. Since then, my twin and I have successfully created, grown and sold two successful internet companies.
You just launched a new project, “Playfre”, what was the motivation behind the project?
Spotify and many other big music streaming platforms have not yet opened their doors to most African countries because of the weak intellectual property laws in these parts of the world, thus making these awesome apps unavailable to the African demographic. Those who have opened their doors to us, still charge monthly to stream unlimited music. Because of this, I embarked on developing what will become Africa’s first real answer to Spotify, that will bring the over 45 million songs on Spotify to Africans at no charge, with the same Spotify experience.
Is this your first public project?
No this isn’t. But it will be my first public project alone.
Tell us a little about your previous projects.
Like I have already mentioned before, it all started with game development (9ja Boi Interactive), then to social networking (LAGbook), music and book publishing (Publiseer), and now music streaming (Playfre).
What are some challenges that you faced while working on your previous projects?
Electricity was a major setback in our first project, because we were 16 and had no money to get power on whenever we wanted. So we basically waited for electricity to work on our games. It was a really difficult time, but then it also taught so time management. While running LAGbook we knew little or nothing about business, so it was difficult turning our traffic into real money; this at some point forced us to sell. Eventually we had to learn the business side of a tech company, because at first all we knew was the technical know-how and nothing about the business aspect. So it taught us a lot of what we know about running a successful tech business today.
This project seems to be done by only you. Was there no input from your twin-brother unlike the previous ones?
Yeah this is my sole project, though Chidi have been very supportive in my journey so far with Playfre. In 2017, I took time off Publiseer in its early stages to work on my music. I am a music person and it was only naturally I created Playfre for music lovers such as myself. That same year I got the idea to create Playfre and I nurtured that idea ever since. When my music felt like it was beginning to pay off, I felt it was time to launch Playfre.
What challenges did you face working on Playfre?
They weren’t much challenges as I have already been involved with a lot of internet companies and already know my stuff very well. So unlike other internet companies in the past, Playfre was more like a walk in the park. It was fun all the way.
What are your projections for Playfre in a year?
We are already the Largest music streaming service in Africa in terms of music catalogue. Though I project it having over 100,000 registered users, and at least 10,000,000 streams; that is 100 streams per user. I project it being the one stop destination for any music lover in Africa.
You broke a world record for the longest released track. Tell us about it.
That was in 2018, around May. My gospel music career was less than a year old then and I wanted to do something extraordinary that will distinguish me from the other gospel artist who were up and coming. I wanted to attempt the impossible and I eventually did. It was one of the most exciting things I have ever done in my life. I had to write over 60 verses and record a song that was 4hr plus long; a feat that seemed impossible at first. All my hard work paid off and I was the talk of the media; both print and television. That was how I got my little break in the gospel music scene.
Having been involved in a number of successful projects, what are the peculiar problems facing businesses (especially tech businesses) in Nigeria?
The biggest problem tech entrepreneurs face today is the lack of passion for what they are doing. Many of them venture into a certain niche because it is the niche that currently receives a bulk of the investments. For example I remember back then when ecommerce was the thing, everyone was doing it until it no longer became the thing—and then fintech and agro-tech became the new ecommerce and everyone wanted to be part of this booming niche.
Many of them weren’t passionate about their startup, they were only interested in the money they can get from investors. Eventually when this money isn’t coming as fast as they wanted, they make their exit. This is one of the major causes of failed internet startups in Nigeria today. The idea was right, but the passion was wrong.
In your own opinion which is more important to a young entrepreneur: Mentorship or Funding?
I will say mentorship. A good mentorship can bring about funding, I mean a person can be mentored on how to create a great business that attracts investors. Funding is just money and anyone can give you money, but not anyone can mentor you. You need the right kind of mentorship for the right kind of business. Someone who is a well established banker cannot mentor a budding internet entrepreneur. Not anyone can mentor you, but anyone with money can fund you. So mentorship over funding.
So what should we expect next from Chika Nwaogu?
For now it is Playfre. How to make Playfre better and a leader in the music streaming industry in Africa. I want to change the way Africans listen and consume music and I am going to do it!
Any advice for young entrepreneurs?
Stay focused, energetic, and motivated. Energy rightly applied can accomplish anything!