By: Durodola Abiola
It is doubtful if the highly revered Nobel Laureate voyaged deep in his research before reaching conclusion on this generation – as a wasted one. While many youth detest the rigours of setting up new enterprises and spend hours on fruitless discussions on social media, some are making giant strides and indelible imprints,thereby saving the nation from further decadence the older ones draw us into. One of the brilliant stars and game changers of this era making indelible impacts is Oluwaseun Osewa, the founder of Africa’s largest online forum, Nairaland.
At a time the Nigerian tech space was still trying to find its feet with few websites in the country, indefatigable Seun took the bull by the horn and decided to pursue his programming dreams–where his heart was upon leaving the prestigious Obafemi Awolowo University. Little wonder he was dubbed the superhero of the tech-space more like George Reeves, a character in the Marvel series Superman, by Efose Ikhalo, a writer and member of the Nairaland community.
Like the fictional character, Seun Osewa since his childhood, has displayed exceptional skills as a programmer which, upon reaching the prime of life, he has decided to use for the benefit of humanity and to solve problems of urban society. His vision was to create a place where Nigerians at home could feel at home and remain number 1. Presently, the forum has just a little less than 2 million members. If it were a country, it would in fact be more populated than Cape Verde, Sao Tome and Principe, San Marino, Seychelles, Comoros, and Iceland.
Like many entrepreneurs of this age,his pathway to success was filled with challenges, but Seun, as his username on the forum goes, decided to throw down the gauntlet and push harder. After seeing thousands of naira go down the drain on different projects, out-and-out Seun remained devoted to the cause until Nairaland was birthed. In an interview with cp-africa.com, he shared his experience.
“All my business projects before Nairaland were failures, except the one that became Nairaland. My web hosting business failed after just three months because I ran out of money, while I couldn’t execute many other projects, I researched due to shyness and lack of capital. My blogs and the mobile phone forum that preceded Nairal and were successful but not profitable. However, it was on that foundation that Nairaland was built,” he stated.
“I just wanted to succeed at something for once”, he continued.
There is an old saying that “if you work hard you will prosper.” Seun Osewa worked hard and he eventually did climb the ladder of success. His hard work and tenacity has propelled the tech guru, making him a sensation in the tech space and a model to myriads of emerging programmers and web developers in the country.
The Ota-born entrepreneur’s story remains one of the sensational start-up stories that inspire emerging entrepreneurs. In 2013, he was named by Forbes Magazine as the best African Entrepreneur under 30 after successfully running the forum for eight years after years of struggle and competition. He was also in the YNaija Class of 2015: Nigeria’s 100 Most Innovative Persons in Technology. His dedication and persistence also won him another recognition when he was listed as one of “Nigeria’s 100 Best” in the Future Awards Africa.
Nairaland reportedly has over 55 Million internet users corresponding to 39% of the entire population. Overtime, comments by Nairalanderson trending issues in the country are usually used as opinions both in print media and news reportage on television. Until 2015, his website was the most visited Nigerian and African site according to a ranking released by Alexa ranking.
Still in his early thirties, no doubt Seun Osewahas set the pace in the tech space and remains one of the early birds in the country. Since it started in 2005, the forum has seen stiff competition from other emerging websites. While many have been blown away by the whirlwind that ravaged the tech space, Nairaland remains strong and has stood the test of time. Although not without its own challenges, such as attacks from spammers and hackers,Mr. Seun Osewa has managed to keep the forum up and running.
For instance, the site was successfully hacked and went offline briefly on the 22 June 2014. However, the young man remained strong and it was back online – although some data were lost to the incident. The tenacious programmer remains dogged and persistent despite a grueling schedule –a core value many young entrepreneurs have lost touch with.
The tech prodigy believes youth can contribute immensely to the crawling economy by solving problems and creating more jobs for the teeming unemployed youth. In his words, “I always tell job seekers to create their own jobs, because nobody owes them a job.” He says,“Look for a painful problem that others are facing, and then devise a way to make people pay you for the solution. Look for problems that don’t require much capital to solve. In a developing country like Nigeria, there are so many problems waiting to be solved. One man’s problem is another man’s profit! Competition is often weak which means you’ll make a lot of money. So what are you waiting for?”
“Nigerians should not be talking about unemployment at all. There are so many obvious opportunities around us waiting to be exploited. Being jobless in Nigeria is a big shame indeed,” he furthered.
Like many of the movers and disruptors of the tech space, Seun started from the scratch in his country home, Ota, Ogun state, Nigeria. He was neither born with a silver spoon nor was he a scion of the aristocracy.This no doubt motivated him to pursue his goal and make ends meet.
For many years, the world will continue to tell the story of a young man who defied the odds, dropped out of a university at the beginning of the millennium and into a pool that has submerged other young entrepreneurs. This young man’s story will be engraved in stones and shown to future generations so they may learn how persistence, dedication and hard work make one climb the success ladder with ease. This young man is Seun Osewa,a hero of the Nigerian tech-space.