|RED Media Founders - Adebola Williams and Chude Jideonwo|
With almost 30 years of industry experience between them, Chude Jideonwo and Adebola Williams have managed to build a media empire, all before they turned 30. They are the co-founders of RED Media Africa, the company behind well-known brands like YNaija, Rubbin’ Minds and The Future Awards.
Muyiwa Matuluko of Techpoint: How did you guys meet?
On this fateful day, I was seated in the audience side-by-side with Debola and we struck up a conversation. In the course of the conversation, we realised that we had similar worldviews. We didn’t think then that we were going to start a business together. We just continued to keep in touch up until I had to organise a surprise party for Funmi Iyanda on her 33rd birthday.
I had raised funds for the party through donations from her friends but I had no clue as to how to organise an event. I reached out to Debola who introduced me to a friend he was doing business with at the time. I asked them for help in organising the birthday party which turned out to be a huge success. That was when we realised, “hey, we can do stuff together”.
: I believe it all started with YNaija right?
Eventually, we realised we needed to organise an event; something physical to show the youth concrete hope. Something to say “if these guys of 19/20 years old are able to achieve this despite all the challenges in Nigeria, we have no excuse”. We didn’t want to organise yet another cliche event that would have no solid impact. So it was that drive for innovation, for something different or special beyond just being together that birthed The Future Awards.
: This was around what year?
: So over the past decade you guys have managed to build a successful business out of inspiring the youth. But I imagine it must have been terribly tough being young person yourselves and all.
However, I would say the principal challenge was that Nigerians didn’t understand or trust young people. What we were trying to do was novel. We didn’t even know that Africa at the time was experiencing a youth demography bulge. It wasn’t until the Future Awards 2010 when NYSC revealed that young people made up 37% of the Nigerian population, that we realised this. Such data wasn’t available in 2005.
So when we approached telecoms companies and banks with our youth-targeted products, they didn’t understand what we were talking about. They didn’t have the budget or the systemic planning or institutional knowledge about the size of the youth audience. As far as they were concerned, there was no validation for our product. So our primary challenge was with what we were trying to sell — inspiration — which is not as marketable as sports, music, entertainment or fashion.
: How about your parents. I imagine they already had your lives planned out for you. Surely, they must have offered some resistance to what you guys were doing with your lives?
But to be honest, they saw it as a passion, not something that I would do for a living. So they naturally expected that I would eventually get a job because that’s how we all understood society. As far as it didn’t stop my education, they were happy to encourage me in whatever I was passionate about. I think its basically the same for Debola.
CJ: You know, now that I think of it, there’s nothing more powerful than a young child believing that whatever they choose to do, their family will always support them. I never ever had to doubt that my parents were going to support me.
: There’s no ignoring the fact that you both come from different ethnic backgrounds. It’s not unheard of that our parents’ generation would warn us against doing business with people from other ethnic backgrounds. Did such a scenario ever come up? How have you guys successfully managed to stay partners for over a decade?
What this means is that if you grew up in a Christian family, you are very likely to be a Christian. If you grew up in the South-West in the 1970s and 80s, you are likely to be a beneficiary of free education. Therefore, you are more likely to be better educated than a person who grew up in a society that was recovering from a war and was therefore forced to go into enterprise.
People have tried to put a wedge between me and Debola; claiming he said certain things and attempting to tie it to the fact that he is Yoruba. Knowing him, I am aware he could say such a thing but I also understand the context in which he would say it. I also know he doesn’t mean me any evil. Most people, instead of acknowledging a person’s difference deny it. And that is what creates a wedge. It’s just rubbish that difference is a reason to not do anything because fundamentally we are all created to be different.
But it’s also about character. Often when you look at people from failed partnerships, they both probably have character deficiencies. In a relationship of two people, whether you like it or not, there must be differences. If both of you are the same, there’s a probability that you might not be together.
: Was there ever a time you seriously considered quitting on the partnership?
: How would advice young people looking to grow a successful business?
Also, anybody doing business must have counsel. There’s nothing as valuable as the right advice. You must look for people who you want to be like and surround yourself with these people. Don’t fool yourself; the people you surround yourself with, you are like them. Because they are the ones your subconscious picks up and imitate.
Finally, you need to know yourself. It’s very important. Know your weaknesses and strengths. You have to be in a place that you love so that even when things are hard, even when it is draining and sucking you up because it is what your personality can handle generally, you stay put. You have to stay in your place of growth. Some seeds can grow in tropical weather and some can’t. Doing this also informs you if you need a partner or not. But in my opinion, two heads are always better than one.
: What would you say is your biggest success story so far?
DW: I would also include the people that have passed through our Future Awards Enterprise Support Scheme; Seun Onigbinde of BudgIT, Bayo Omoboriowo who is President Buhari’s official photographer, Emmanuel Olaleke. Kayode Okelawa. Jide Taiwo, Executive Editor of the TheNet.ng.
: What is the future like for RED Media Africa?
There are many businesses looking to create killer products. If you are going to be in business for 3-5 years, that’s fine. But if you are looking to stay relevant for a long time, your most important product is your company. And so we’ve spent the last 10 years building a foundation for a company.
CULLED FROM: techpoint.ng