The end of a dream to work in an oil company began the day Editi Effiong stepped into the digital world when he realized he could build websites without learning to code. From a first deal of N8000 to another of N12,500, this teenager from Eket knew he was onto a goldmine and only dug deeper to see all that it could offer. Enjoy this quick chat with the CEO of Anakle Media Ltd as Damilola Oyewusi quizzed him on his motivation, principles and goals for the future.
By Damilola Oyewusi
The motivation for the 17 years old Editi Effiong was as basic as they come.
“I was poor.” he said with a laugh.
Growing up in a middle class Nigerian family, he shared an experience common with first generation rich people. While his parents had seemingly escaped poverty, the responsibilities to extended families created a dynamic that changed their immediate circumstances but put a hamper on their ability to get more or afford nice things.
“You escape poverty but the poverty never actually leaves you” he mused
While the need to own a pair of Nikes or Jordans may sound fickle, it gave him the power to buy the shoes that opened great doors to him. Apart from ‘looking fly’, changing his social status and being able to chat up older girls in the University, Editi began looking for the opportunities to take his new found venture to a higher level.
He cracked up with another round of laughter as he recalled the day he held his first N100,000 cheque after striking a deal of N300,000. He got home and kept a straight face as his parents quizzed him about his day, only letting out an ecstatic screech when he got into his room. He believes that N100,000 was a turning point in his parents acceptance of his choices.
While his parents had reservations with his decision to ‘waste’ a scholarship on Environmental Science instead of Engineering or any other professional course, they were supportive of his new venture. His mom purchased the family computer at her children’s insistence, locking it up in the study when she went to work. The young Editi would find the hidden key and sneak in to continue discovering the amazing world of coding and websites. He also recalled his dad driving him to the cyber cafe to upload his work as they had no internet in the house.
Soon enough, he moved from upgrading his social status to investing in himself, buying softwares and getting himself a laptop.
The Move to Lagos
The market and potential to grow in Eket and Calabar soon became too small for Editi’s ambitious mind. The limited access to information, market, and mentorship in the field of technology made him move to Lagos immediately after his last paper in the University of Calabar.
He began working in sales and marketing with a pharmaceutical company while working on website development as a side gig with his friend Abasiama Idaresit – the founder of WildFusion – bringing in the clients. Although he recorded good success with the company and grew rapidly in two years, his desire to own his company brought an end to his time as an employee.
Changing the status quo
The company started out in January 2011 as an agency to agencies, building and displaying competence on the job while growing the confidence to start chasing their own clients. And once they started, disrupting the status quo became a goal. They experimented with new marketing ideas and encouraged clients to push the envelope.
“I believe we pioneered Data Collection as an integral part of running marketing campaigns for brands which wasn’t a thing then” he shared while telling stories of early campaigns with data collection built into the strategy. The aim, he said, was to create simple applications that were simple to use but created big impact.
“We wanted to be the biggest Digital Agency in the country. We wanted to be known for providing great solutions for people” he enthused.
While virality is usually not easy to predict, the company began testing the possibility of infusing virality as a strategy into marketing campaigns. A pivotal point for the company came with the creation of the Bride Price Application, where ladies could input their details for the ‘ancestors’ to grade their bride worthiness. The app was fun and immediately grabbed the attention of the media and corporate organizations.
“We always try to encourage our clients to be braver. These applications were our way of testing our new ‘juju’ on ourselves”
Lessons for SMEs
For young people just starting out in the entrepreneurial journey, he stressed the need to create value, as this is the attraction that brings customers to businesses.
In addition to this is integrity, which he says is a major key.
“If there are no standards, create your own standards and try as much as possible to live up to them. You’ll make mistakes. Learn how to get over them quickly and move on.”
Technology and the Economy
Technology is not our biggest problem in Nigeria. There is no doubt that technology can solve problems and take people out of poverty and that we need to get it into the hands of people. But we have a bigger problem to tackle in ensuring that people can afford whatever technology we are providing. We need to get about 50 million Nigerians out of poverty to even have a working economy that can support the fast adoption of technology.
He spoke about the need for interventions to ensure that the kids are not punished for being poor. We need to give kids in the public schools access to information that gives them the same opportunity as the kids in the private schools.
“Personally, I go into rural schools and set up computer labs for the kids. I’m also working to create a module that almost anybody can replicate” He mentioned
I would like the next set of programmers to come from Akwa Ibom, Edo, Ebonyi. Places where the cost of living is relatively low and we can establish small farms to groom young developers, designers and others to provide solutions.
“There is a large international market looking for affordable labor and we have a lot of young people without necessary skills for production. We need to bridge that gap”
Forward by Anakle
Printed on the wall of a yellow bright room are the words ‘Forward by Anakle’. Editi explains that it is a training program owned and run by some of the staff in the company to make their clients and partners attuned with digital, marketing, and technological skill needed to run their businesses and create an easier working experience with the company.
Open Doors and Inspired Spaces
“The day I become an ‘oga’, I’ll quit”.
He pointed at his white door that was closed only to ensure our interview went on without interruption, noting that it remains literally opened to allow every employee feel free to walk in and have a conversation. You are met with a burst of colours and busts of African historical figures as you walk into the office. The walls are made of glass, which asserts to the transparency the company holds as a value. With a live-in areas, games, and other forms of entertainment, the space is a reflection of the lively and brilliant team that Editi says are at the “top of the food chain in the industry”.
“Great spaces inspire great thinking” he said
From creating short form video content as part of marketing solutions for clients, the company created a division for filmmaking, releasing the critically acclaimed Up North in December 2018. To Editi, this is a response to a need he believes is vital for our progress as Africans.
He spoke about our knowledge and perception of the American culture as a deliberate effort by the Americans and believes we can do the same for ourselves by the stories we tell. We can train our children to think better of themselves, our country and continent by the stories we tell.
“Our mission at Anakle Films is to tell the next generation of African stories to the world and tell it well. No one can tell our story better than us.”
To facilitate this, they have invested in Animation and CGI studios to help the industry as a whole tell better African stories. With a rich culture and history going as far back as hundreds of years, it is important for our children and our journey that we own our stories and share it with the world in an excellent manner.
The End Game
“I can wake up one morning and lose all of this. The company could go bankrupt but my family will always be there”
Like every good parent, his desire is to ensure his child gets the best of his time, and his resources. Underscoring the need to create opportunities in poverty stricken areas, he notes that this desire extends to other children in the larger society to ensure that his own child is not a target to be eaten by his mates as he grows up.
“Family is the reason I do anything and my primary goal in life is to be the best father I can be to my child.”
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in The Spark Magazine. Find the magazine here to read other articles.
Editi Effiong is a creative entrepreneur with a passion for technology, digital marketing and viral content development. He is the Founder at Anakle, a leading digital agency in Nigeria, and Anakle Labs, an investment company and incubator for technology businesses.