No Success Without Failure: How Wrong Businesses Led Emeka Emetarom to Successful Appzone

No Success Without Failure: How Wrong Businesses Led Emeka Emetarom to Successful Appzone

  • Failure is not a popular discussion among Nigerian tech founders as many shy away from narrating the pains they go through before they succeeded
  • Appzone co-founder, Emeka Emetarom, is one of the Nigerian tech founders that have experienced failure, not once, but twice
  • Emetarom still has hope in his failed businesses and plans to revive them despite already achieving success in Appzone

Running a successful tech startup isn't easy. Before many Nigerian entrepreneurs like Emeka Emetarom, the co-founder of Appzone found success, they had failed in some businesses, with millions lost to the venture.

Celebrating these failed startup projects is a common tradition in Silicon Valley, but in the Nigerian tech ecosystem, its cricket sound, as Nigerian founders are often tight-lipped about their failures.

Fake it until you make it tech market

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There are founders loyal to the "fake it until you make it" mantra in order not to scare away prospective investors, should the founders get tired of boot-strapping.

This was a lifestyle that resulted in a class-action lawsuit against e-commerce firm, Jumia, following Citron Research allegations that it cooked its books to attract investors.

Although the lawsuit has now been settled out of court, the allegations of inflating figures and misstatements further captured the 'make believe' of the budding tech market in Nigeria and Africa.

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But there are others like Emetarom who don't have the time to fake it - once a startup is burning too much cash without growth, he taps out, rinse and repeat.

Just as he has a success story, Emeka Emetarom also has failure story before co-founding Appzone Group
Emeka Emetarom, co-founder of Appzone and Executive Director. Photo:
Source: UGC

Ematarom failed in two startups before founding success

Entrepreneurship is a rollercoaster, and Emetarom has fallen off twice, but never stopped trying. Before his journey into the tech market, he floated a packaged bottled water business.

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The Chemical Engineer was just fresh out of college when he entered into the table water distribution business, but within one year, the company folded up.

Emetarom dust himself, and tried his hands in online airtime vending business that enabled airtime top-up with the use of the web, as well as situating branded roadside kiosks that make use of J2ME mobile app.

While the Appzone co-founder couldn't estimate the losses on both businesses, he told that the second venture had grown to six full-time staff and 20 contract workers before he called it quits.

"One of them was shut down at the early development stage while the other ran for about 12 to 18 months, with a team of about 6 full time staff and 20 contract sales representatives, without generating any revenue."

Why E Emetarom's two businesses failed

Emetarom explained that the markets were not ready at the time he ventured into them, and the available capital wasn't enough to finance their patience.

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But as a man with 'nine lives', the entrepreneur said he intends to raise these businesses back from the dead as things have changed in terms of preparedness and capacity to deliver both services.

"I think the markets weren’t ready at the time and would have required a lot more patience than our capital could afford if we were to wait it out.
"A lot has changed since then regarding our preparedness and capacity to deliver both services, and, also, the need still exists within those target segments, so you can be sure we will give them another shot in the not-so-distant future."

Emetarom's failed businesses compensated him

While the graduate of the Federal University of Technology in Owerri couldn't exchange the burnt cash for profit, the failed ventures were kind enough to offer him business lessons he wouldn't have learnt in an MBA class.

He said the lessons were the thin line between success and failure - no wonder his next startup project, Appzone, became successful, and now has a presence across Nigeria, Ghana, Tanzania, Gambia, DRC, with future plans in Kenya, Uganda, and South Africa.

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In his words, Emetarom said:

"While these endeavours may have seemed like colossal failures, the experience from the attempts was invaluable. Theres a lot that cannot be taught in a classroom or as part of an MBA – lessons in tenacity, empathy, resilience, etc – those “life lessons” can be the difference between success and failure."

Appzone now records a $2 billion yearly transaction value, and disburses a $300 million yearly loan, while its software is used by 18 commercial banks and over 450 microfinance banks in Africa.

Piggyvest co-founders failed eight times

In related news, had previously reported how Joshua Chibueze and other co-founders of Piggyvest failed eight times before succeeding.

They established 500Dishes, 99Startups, FrontDESK, amongst many others, but they all failed. The founders later started PushCV which became a hit.

The experience in PushCV helped them establish Piggyvest, which Chibueze said outgrew their expectations.


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