- Founder(s): Jason Njoku, Bastin ( Co-founder )
- Industry: Media & Technology
An Outlook To Jason's Quest
At a time when the movie industry was still developing and the online internet penetration and video streaming in Nigeria was not the people’s culture, Jason decided to take a giant step by providing the content online, so as to bridge the gap between movie seekers and accessibility.
Before Jason and his IrokoTV platform, the Nigeria’s movie industry, popularly known as Nollywood was not so structured, following a minute distribution network and was partially overrun by content pirates. Despite a global demand for these movies, they were only available on physical compact discs which severely limited their reach and viewing quality. Although, Nollywood was at the time, the world’s second largest movie industry in terms of overall movie production, making roughly 40 films per week, at an average cost of N 6, 000, 000 (which was about $40,000) per project as at 2010. It is a global, cultural phenomenon, adored by millions in Nigeria, in Africa and across the Diaspora.
Startup, Tough Times & Quest To Make A Difference
Before Jason went on founding iROKO, he has had most of his education in London, where he studied Chemistry in the University of Manchester, after which he embarked on the quest of becoming an entrepreneur. While still studying at around 2003, he realized how popular African movies had become. Despite the growing worldwide demand for these movies, he could hardly find them on the internet. His decision to get on a plane to Nigeria thereafter, and negotiate distribution deals with local movie producers has earned him a place in history.
Jason’s first internet startup was in 2005 – the inollywood project which sought to distribute Nigerian movies over the internet, though before that he has had several ideas which failed to see the light. The inollywood project failed for a number of reasons – probably at the time, the local context in terms of broadband availability, licensing and securing movies rights, billing, etc. which were all a hassle he never foresaw as possible threats. He even got as far as licensing a valuable catalogue of content from Nigerian Television Authority - NTA which includes: New Masquerade, Village Headmaster, Samanja and other Nigerian classics. This classic content, interestingly, did quite well but, in the end, all hope seemed futile. Truly, no one was ready to invest about 100 bucks on internet accessibility when they could still have access to the plays on the local stations.
On the eve of 31st December 2009, a few months into investigating another little project he thought of starting (iROKO), he was alone, staring at the computers and playing with Wordpress plug-ins and HTML. At that time, he had little or no money to finance his little idea. Jason would stop at nothing; so he put up a call to his friend Bastian Gotter who was in Berlin at the time, as he spent much time on the phone elaborating how the year 2010 would be a great year for him. Bastian Gotter concurred, and teased Jason to get off the computer and go out to have some fun rather than spend the New Year eve just worrying.
Jason started out with iROKO project in 2010, as he partnered with Bastian (his friend and angel investor) who shared in his vision, although Jason ran the company alone for the first 18 months of startup.
In February 2011, Jason sought ways to bring his idea to limelight using the best possible means and a platform he could call his own. As at that time, Jason was not so financially strong, and finally decided to use YouTube, Google’s free video sharing platform, upon which he launched a platform called NollywoodLove. The platform was the first major internet channel to offer full-length Nollywood movies. In less than a year, the channel attracted more than one million views from over 200 countries around the world.
Jason, On Struggles & Support Investment
In May 2011, Jason founded what became iROKING, an online music streaming platform. He only had a two man team of executives who worked with him, and supported in developing the platform. In an attempt to build on its continuity, Jason would go from place to place, taking ill sitting in traffic and running around Lagos trying to sign up musicians to the digital platform of the future. The name iROKING was not literally Jason’s idea; rather it was courtesy of the two supporting executives: Thelma and Henry.
Project NollywoodLove was at the time profitable, and the revenue generated was put into development of iROKING. Jason became very ill that he had to fly back to the United Kingdom to seek medical help. It became critical that he hired a new CEO several months later to do the job, allowing him to take a back seat so as to recover, and as a result it made him had little to no input in the business in about 18 months thereafter. For him, it was much easier to keep the iROKING narrative and communication separate whilst building the iROKOtv brand.
Gaining Support And Going Global:
Following the spectacular success with NollywoodLove, Jason attracted nearly $10 million from Tiger Global Management, a New York-based private equity firm which shared his vision for digitization of African content. With this strong backing, iROKOtv was launched as a standalone and independent African movie-streaming website and attracted more than half a million views in only three months! In July 2012, the business got an additional investment of $2m under a Swedish hedge fund-backed arrangement.
Within two years, Jason got the attention of the international press and has been featured on Forbes, CNN, CNBC, BET and Techcrunch. In 2012, he was voted by Black Enterprise Magazine as one of London’s top black men of power and has gone ahead to launch several other platforms including IRoking, a platform focused on providing African music to the world via the internet. His company now has offices in Lagos, Johannesburg, London and New York. In May 2013, Jason Njoku and Sabastian Gotter, both co-founders of iROKOtv, founded SPARK, a one million dollar angel investment outfit based in Lagos (Nigeria) and dedicated to funding and helping young tech and internet startups. The firm has already provided seed capital between N 5, 040, 000 – N 12, 600, 000 (about $30,000 – $75,000) to fifteen startup companies. The companies in its portfolio include online fashion and drug stores, an online social-based borrowing service and a photo stock website.
The Spark companies include: Tolet(an online property leasing services ); Hotelsng (a hotel booking & reservation services); Bus (ticket booking platform for buses), Drinks (an online drinks ordering store); Foto (an online stock image store); Christians (an online christian relationship service); Borrow (a money lending financial service provider); GiddiMint (online fashion store which focuses on showcasing African art & culture. ); Insured (an online products comparison service provider).
Kuluya (a gaming platform not really under the spark network of companies)