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Tuesday, August 6

To succeed In Life, You have to be prepared for failure — Jason Njoku

Jason Njoku is the Chief Executive Officer of Iroko Partners, a digital media firm. He tells ARUKAINO UMUKORO the story of his multi-million dollar company and how he conquered failure

You once published a school magazine in your university days; what was the experience?

Yes. I spent the best part of three and half years of my school life trying to make this magazine work. It was really an interesting time. It started well at first. But later, the interest weaned as everything basically moved online. Then, social media such as Facebook, YouTube and Twitter became more popular. We were caught in this sort of weird place where the world had changed from offline to online. So, no matter how hard we tried, we would never have been able to succeed in that period. It also taught me how to run a business, plan strategy. In the end, when it failed, it failed quite spectacularly. It was very difficult for me to experience that failure. But in the end, it helped me to become who I am today.

Apart from learning how to better manage a business, what other things did you learn from that experience?

I learnt how to fail. I think it is important that you learn how to fail, especially in our culture in Nigeria, where failure is dressed up as something else. During that time, we did not make any revenue and we lived from magazine to magazine. So, I was able to understand what failure looked like. It made me realise that failure is normal and that to try anything of any magnitude, you have to fail a little. It also made me realise what I was capable of doing. I now have more experience in terms of dealing with people, building team, human resources and managing finance. These are things I gained over time. The great thing about business is that it is also a ‘meritocracy’. To some extent, education is important, but at some stage, it is not important at all. I think that was the moment it opened my eyes to the realities, having come from a very theoretical, physical type of science.

How did you start Iroko Partners/TV?

It all started in 2002. When I was leaving home for school in Manchester one morning, my mum was watching television soaps like the East Enders. When I came back, she had begun to watch Nigerian movies. I was able to see how her viewing pattern changed. It piqued my curiosity and I realised it was the same pattern when I went to visit my aunt and uncle at weekends. So, this meant there were many other Nigerians like them as well.

At that time, I was running another online venture, which was failing. The more I searched online about Nollywood, the more I realised there was a market there, but it lacked proper distribution.

In a nutshell, what is the Iroko Partners franchise all about?

It’s valuing Nigerian contents and films online in a digital format, which makes economic sense. The musicians and movie producers work with us. We’ve spent millions of dollars on building our business and licensing rights. We also help Nigerian artistes to make thousands of dollars a year. The music industry is now making digital dollars online that never existed before. And that’s in a very short period of time as well. We also do some airline distribution, theatrical and television distribution. We’re just a company trying to figure out how to monetise Nollywood better than anybody else and I think we have recorded great successes in that and still have a long way to go. We are still a relatively small company and the future is ahead of us, because at the moment, 90 per cent of our business is still in the West. We are not even an Africa type of business yet, about10 per cent of our whole audience is in Africa. At some point, it would change.

Why did you pull the Nollywood channel you created out of YouTube when you were making over a million dollars and millions of hits?

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