23 Nov “Develop an open mind…”- Wale Adetula; Founder, The Naked Convos [TNC]
I am avid reader of The Naked Convos [TNC]. Ever since I ran into the site a few years ago, it has been some kind of escape for me. I never really knew the person behind the entire idea though but i’ve always given a hundred thumbs up. A while back, I followed a twitter account just because I saw regular updates about TNC on the person’s timeline….and somehow, I caught the big fish…well, literally. 🙂
TNC was originally established as Thetoolsman’s blog in 2008 by 31-year-old Wale Adetula. It was created as some sort of community where young Nigerians could come together to discuss pretty much anything. It was eventually transformed into its current state: an open publishing platform in 2010. Wale holds a bachelor’s degree in Systems Engineering from the University of Lagos and a masters degree in Media & communication from Pan Atlantic university. Today on Startup Stories, Wale describes the entire motivation behind the development of TNC. He also shares insights on some of the challenges, strategy and hopes. Kindly absorb the inspiration and share with everyone. 😉
I have always been opinionated and extremely inquisitive. Growing up, I always had questions to ask and was often considered a rebel for going against the norm. As a result, I always had questions on my mind and I needed a place I could go to ask those questions and hopefully get answers from young people like myself. Around 2008 I had the idea to create such a community: Thetoolsman’s blog which later evolved into TNC in 2010.
TNC is an open publishing platform that allows young Nigerians with an opinion, with a story or an experience to share it with the public and as a result start engaging conversations. As excellent as our culture in this part of the world can be, it also has its negative sides. One of such negative sides is the fact that we have norms which discourage expression especially for young people and particularly on certain topics we consider risque. Many young Nigerians have several questions on topics such as sex, religion, feminism, sexuality etc and they don’t have forums to express their views nor discuss them with their peers. Some young Nigerians have personal blogs or channels they sometimes use to share their thoughts but often times, traffic to these channels is too little. With TNC, we wanted to created an open platform where anyone can come, express and not have to worry about driving traffic or publicising on social media. Social media is a big marketing channel for us. A lot of young Nigerians and Africans looking for an expression channel go to social media to share their thoughts. We have a super active Facebook page and a very engaging Twitter account. We also organise offline events, which replicates what we have on the site. Many feel even more comfortable using the site after experiencing an offline version of it where they sit with their peers and share thoughts on different topics.
Beyond articles and opinion pieces online, we have creative content creators – storytellers, fiction authors looking for the right platforms to publish their work so as to get feedback. Again, some of them use personal blogs or other foreign publishing platforms that don’t have audiences local to their content, as a result, there’s a disconnection and many often get frustrated. With TNC, we have a ready made local audience waiting to consume your content. We have an extremely high level of engagement with an average of 40 comments per publication and so, publishers are guaranteed of feedback.
At TNC, we believe anyone who can spend time to create content which engages an audience should be compensated for it. This is why on TNC, we pay every single contributor. Payment is done using an algorithm, which calculates earnings based on number of unique views and comments a publication gets over a period of time and this was also an innovation we pioneered in Nigeria. We currently operate in Nigeria and Kenya and our hope is to expand across Africa over the next few years to become the largest open publishing platform in Africa.
The TNC project is one that rides on a wave on culture change. Changing people’s mindset is one of the hardest things to do. Any day I receive feedback either directly or otherwise from a member of the TNC community where they talk about how the platform has helped them develop the culture of expression as well as that of respectful engagement with other members, I feel a huge sense of fulfilment. This motivates me to want to do more. But it doesn’t stop at success alone. I don’t believe in regret and I don’t dwell on failure. I believe failing at something just shows you one way not to go about achieving your dreams. With every failure comes a lesson which you’ll find if you look well enough.
We’ve been around for six years now so we’ve had our fair share of challenges. I’ll say our first major hurdle was gaining acceptance. The primary brand message of TNC is expression and this is something somewhat strange to us in these parts. Most of our cultures preach excessive caution when in the public space. As a result, it was hard for us to drive that ‘no-holds-barred’ culture among our readers but I must say, we’ve come a long way and people are starting to open up. Another challenge is monetizing the brand. Sadly, good content doesn’t come cheap so the money has to come from somewhere.
We haven’t really ever gotten to the point of giving up although we’ve had our low points. However, from conception we came up with a 10-year plan because we always knew this was a long term project. We phased out the plan and despite several hurdles we are well on course to hit our target. We are now into our seventh year and our first year after becoming a full open publishing platform. We are currently the largest open publishing platform in Nigeria and the next big step for us is to become the largest open publishing platform in Africa. Also we are looking at mining more and more of the content we have on our platform. We’ve published two anthologies; we have done a stage play and a web series so maybe its movies next.
To the budding entrepreneur, develop an open-mind. Most Nigerians live guided, unadventurous and boxed-in lives. We love our routines and even when we think out of the box, we easily get distracted and discouraged by insignificant things. To get ahead, you need to break free from this, stop thinking of yourself only as a Lagosian living in Nigeria but as a Lagosian living on earth [if you are a Lagosian]. More than ever, we have access and it’s not that expensive so let your mind wander, open up yourself to the rest of the world through books, TV, music, movies, traveling etc. Also discipline is key. It’s so easy to get distracted nowadays on those platforms. Discipline is really hard but once you don’t lose sight of the end point, you’ll conquer it.
Founder, The Naked Convos