I guess I’m an entrepreneur?

I haven’t blogged in 10 months. Yet during that time, the mission of this site has not been far from my mind. I want to come clean on what I have been doing (and why I’m back).

Last November (2015) I couldn’t sleep one night. I think I woke up at 3 am one morning, and my mind was burning. I pulled out my journal and started writing “what if”. And the idea just poured out. What if there were a website where anyone could go to donate to local nonprofits in Nigeria, and lots of people used it to support human rights?

When I first started this blog, one of things I mentioned is that I used to have a weird habit of googling “best NGOs in Nigeria”. Call it my christian guilt, call it the embarrassment of having “abandoned” the NGO sector in Nigeria to instead prioritize my own financial stability by joining private philanthropy. Because I felt like a sellout, I kept trying to find a way to do more. There was so little information, and when I did come across an Nigerian NGO, donating to them involved a bank to bank transfer or the use of a sketchy weblink. No thanks.

So supporting NGOs has been on my mind for years. That night when I woke up and started writing, I realized that maybe this was a problem I could solve. I should mention that I used to donate to an American site called Watsi which uses crowdfunding to pay for medical fees of poor people in the developing world. Then of course there are organizations like Donors Choose or Kickstarter. The concept is not new. But in Nigeria, and for human rights?

I got excited because it hit me that few people could actually do what I realized I was going to do. Build the damn thing. My background in philanthropy gave me a clear understanding of how the mind of a donor works. What if I right-sized the things I used to look for as an institutional donor into the needs of a private individual donor? And (here’s the key part) I did not need money to do it. First, I could earmark money that I might have wanted to give to church or to charity in general and instead use it for this project. And second, I have such a strong savings rate that I don’t need to depend on this project in order to eat. In other words, the kind of people who might naturally be drawn to building this site  (nonprofiteers) probably can’t do it pro bono for long. And the kind of people who can do it pro bono, are unlikely to have the vision that a nonprofiteer may have.

That was last November. Since then, I’ve been reading, taking courses online, and writing. At one point I thought I was going to learn how to code. I took an HTML & CSS course, and spent many months agonizing between Python and Ruby. Eventually (by this summer), I admitted that learning to code was going to take too long to achieve what I wanted, and might drain me in the process. I was further chagrined to discover that WordPress programmers have already designed crowdfunding templates.

But the biggest change in me since last November is that I am fully converted to the Lean Startup philosophy. Over the next year or so, I hope to share what I am learning and how I am applying these principles. I’ve been advised to blog about my process – its a good reminder of how far I’ve come, and it also is something I can be accountable for (I have an accountability buddy!).

That’s all for now. Till next time.

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