Nosakhare Oyegun is the co-founder of Festival Coins, a Nigerian event technology company which provides event organisers with the tools to enable them to improve event efficiency, increase onsite revenue, create a greater return on investment for sponsors, and implement richer experiences for attendees. Its solutions include online ticketing, advanced access control and cashless payments. Oyegun is also the co-founder of an event company that organises the Eat Drink Festival in Lagos. Festival Coins was initially created to solve the problems Oyegun experienced in running his own events.
1. Tell us about one of the toughest situations you’ve found yourself in as a business owner.
I’d say the current situation – ie the pandemic – is the toughest thing I’ve faced as a business owner. I haven’t overcome it yet, so I can’t give any tips, but I can speak about what it’s like. Right now, it’s the uncertainty that kills. When it started, I figured it would be over in a month, tops. At the time, there was a clear light at the end of the tunnel.
Right now, I’m about to hit my third month of this and the goalposts have shifted a bit. There’s no light at the end of the tunnel. I don’t even know if this is even a tunnel, it might just be the way things are. We’ve had to adjust all financial projections for the year and start adjusting to the new reality. That’s been the toughest thing to do, but I guess it’s how we’ll overcome this.
2. What business achievement are you most proud of?
There have been plenty high points so far, such as Microtraction’s investment [in our business]. But I’d say the one I’m proudest of is the first event we powered. Although we’ve used our full suite of products for events we’ve organised, serving an actual customer is a different ballgame. It’s one thing to pitch to clients and show them the fancy slides, it’s another to actually do the work. For me, that first event is my proudest moment.
3. Describe your greatest weakness as an entrepreneur.
Oh dear, I can be very aggressive to get what I want and that’s no good at all. You might get excellent results a couple of times, but you’ll burn your team out. Sure, there’s a need for a little conflict in getting things done, but too much will kill everything. The work environment will get toxic and that’s not what you want.
That’s why I am so grateful for my co-founder. She’s a lot more patient and methodical in how she approaches things. I’m a very “all systems go” kind of guy, but she throttles it a bit for the good of the company.
4. What conventional business wisdom do you disagree with?
“If you build it, they will come.”
You often hear this when people talk about great innovations – things like Facebook or Instagram. While there’s some truth to it on the surface, it’s a big myth underneath. Facebook didn’t come from nowhere. It took interactions that already existed to the next level. It wasn’t an idea out the blue.
“If you build it, they will come” is rooted in one fatal assumption – that you know what your customers want. It assumes there is a reality in which all projections in your deck, based on no trading history, actually come true. This is one reason I’m big on talking to your users because they’re the true arbiter of value. But not just talking to them and optimising for an answer you’d like to hear, but actually listening to their pains and joys. This is how you understand the status quo and better it.
If people don’t want what you’ve built, nobody is coming.
5. Is there anything you wish you knew about entrepreneurship before you started?
I knew it was going to be hard, but God, I didn’t think it would be this hard. I don’t mean “hard” in the sense that there is a lot of work to do. The work never stops.
What few founders talk about is how hard it is mentally. Running a business will take a toll on your mental health. In this Covid-19 period, my co-founder and I have had to talk to staff about possible cuts to manage our cash. That’s easily the hardest thing I’ve ever done. It would be a lot easier if this was just some solo side business thing. I can manage that. But, having to let down other people because of a situation like this weighs on the mind significantly. There’s no book or manual out there that teaches you how to do it.
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