Our guest this week for the In Conversation series is Chidi Nwaogun from Nigeria who is the CEO and one half of the twin duo behind Publiseer.
We are super excited about what Publiseer is doing for African creatives. For those not familiar, Publiseer lets African authors and artists sell their books and music respectively, on over 400 major online stores worldwide, including Amazon, Google Play store, and Apple store. It’s free and the way it works is an author or artist sends them their work and the team decides whether they want to publish the work. In the event that Publiseer accepts to publish a work sent to them, you notified and they begin the process of preparing your creation for submission onto the various digital platforms available worldwide. Publiseer is almost a year old but the amount of recognition they have received in this period is massive. Among other praise, it’s been described by Konbini as “one of the largest digital publishers in Africa”, identified by IFC as one of the startups “that could speed up innovation in Africa” and listed twice by ModernGhana as one of the “10 African Innovations” for For January 2019 and Mid 2019.
Chidi will be answering any questions about the platform and how they are disrupting the publishing industry on the continent. He is a serial Internet entrepreneur, computer programmer, Westerwelle Fellow 2019, Yunus&Youth Global Fellow 2019, Halcyon Incubator Fellow 2019, African Young Leaders Fellow 2019, YALI Fellow 2019, SensX Fellow 2017, two-time recipient of OD Young Person of the Month, winner of The Bizz Business Excellence Award, winner of Startup World Cup Nigeria Regional Competition 2019, and first place winner of OD Impact Challenge 2018. Nwaogu started his entrepreneurial journey when he was 16 with the creation of 9ja Boi Interactive, a video game development company.
The conversation will kick off on Friday 26th July 2019, 12 NOON GMT +3. Procedure for participation is simple:
Chidi will enter the conversation at 12 noon EAT and exit when we run out of questions/when he is tired, whichever comes first. But you can leave your question before the session starts and he will answer when the session starts.
Hey Chidi. Thanks for making the time for this. Let’s start the conversation with the basic stuff. You have a story on the Publiseer website about how it came to be. Can you recap that here for us…
Considering the motivation for starting Publiseer to distribute your own work, I am curious on how that has worked out so far for you? Do you also have any other success stories you might want to share from the creators you are already working with?
After selling our second startup company ‘PRAYHoUSe’, my twin brother, Chika, and I decided to take a break from Internet entrepreneurship, and pursue other dreams. For me, I wanted to be a published author, and my twin pursued a career as a recording artiste. I wrote a novel titled ‘Odd Family Out’, and my twin recorded a studio album titled ‘Higher’, and now it was time to monetize our hard-work. My twin brother heard of Tunecore, a music aggregator based in the United States, and decided to distribute his studio album with them. They requested a distribution fee of $99, and he paid immediately. After all, he had just sold his second startup company, but this isn’t the case for many upcoming artistes in Africa. He started a social media campaign to raise awareness for his album, and within a month, he had sales of more than $1,200. Now, it was time to collect, and that’s where the problem came in.
Tunecore primarily pay royalties via PayPal, and in Nigeria, and many African countries, we cannot receive money via PayPal, but can only send money, so that payment method was out of the picture. So he had to fall back to the only payment method left and that was check payment even though he knew it would take two weeks to receive the check and another three weeks to get the money into his bank account. However, after two months, the check never came, so he reached out to Tunecore to know ask what’s causing the delay. That’s when he was told that he had taken the money. Upon investigation, it was discovered that someone in Oslo, Norway, had used a fake ID to take his money, and my twin brother was heartbroken. He had to take down his album from Tunecore and sort for local means of monetization.
About a year after, he said to me, “Chidi, a lot of independent African musicians have gone through what I went through trying to monetize my music internationally. And I think we should solve this problem for every African creative out there, including ourselves.” And that was when the idea was born. A digital content distribution platform tailored for the African creatives, and on August 4th, 2017, we launched Publiseer, a digital content distribution platform that lets independent African writers, musicians and filmmakers, typically from low-income communities to distribute, promote, protect and monetize their creative works on over 400 well-established digital platforms in 100 countries, at no charge, with just a single click, and we share in the revenue generated from sales of these works. Our creatives receive their royalties via local bank payments, which no payment charges, or via mobile money payment, which makes it easily accessible. Thus making monetization convenient and risk-free.
Since inception, we helped over 2,200 African creatives to monetize their creative works worldwide, raking in over $100,000 in revenue.
From the about page of your website, artists and authors submit their work to you and you sort through the submissions for the work whose quality you are comfortable publishing. 2,200 creatives sounds like many people to work on with your team which, if the information on your website is anything to go by, is quite small. How do you manage to go through all that work and decide who you want to work with and then give each of work sufficient attention without having gaps in quality control?
We have a team of experts who understand the current trend in the market, and know what kind of content sells. These are the contents we are looking for. So if a content submitted to us meets our standards for publishing, we publish such contents, else, we don’t.
It sounds like the artists your team chooses to work with stand to benefit significantly from your services. Have you considered/is it in your future plans to open up the platform so other artists/publishers houses/record labels can use your platform to push their work to the various platforms you digitally publish on and also enjoy the revenue boost and exposure your service provides? It sounds like a win-win scenario for everyone involved…
Yes, we are currently working on a new platform that lets anyone self-distribute their content worldwide through our platform. This new platform will be launched very soon, giving African creatives the power to reach a larger audience with the power of the Internet. However, their content will undergo a less strict review to ensure that it doesn’t plagiarise any content or is abusive in any way.
If I understand your business model correctly, you work like a traditional publishing house but with a focus on digital distribution and sales. Why did you decide to focus on digital and do you see Publiseer ever going into the hard copy space?
I’m a tech entrepreneur, and I believe in scalability, and digital publishing fits under the column of ‘scalability’. We don’t see physical publishing as something scalable, and so we don’t see ourselves venturing into that space anytime soon. Rather, we will be focusing on digital publishing on more verticals.
Are you then convinced that digital is the future of literature or do you think there is still a place for hard copy publishing?
Well, I’m convinced digital is the publishing. However, that’s my own opinion. Many may not agree with me.
Are you saying you prefer reading from your phone/tablet/computer/kindle to reading a physical book? *prepares to judge you. If yes, why this preference?
Yeah, I prefer ebooks to physical books, because I can take over 1,000 ebooks on my device, but I can’t take 1,000 physical books around. Can I?
I can’t argue with that logic. It’ll be a matter of getting accustomed to reading off digital devices now.
Publiseer distributes to over 400 well established digital platforms worldwide and deals with them on behalf of the artist who just has to wait for their earnings. How do you insure yourself as a company against the problems your brother faced as an individual when using Tunecore?
We do not send payment via cheque, which is what caused the brother my twin experienced while using TuneCore. We only send payment directly to the local bank accounts or to mobile money wallets of our creatives, so it’s safe, fast and convenient.
I got that but then how does Publiseer pick the earnings from the various platforms you distribute to? My understanding is you cushion the burden of collecting earnings from these platforms where people can buy the art from and then pay the artist through convenient channels. Do you push to platforms with inefficient systems of paying like TuneCore and then tussle it out with them to make sure the payment reaches you or do you only work with distributors that have payment systems that are convenient for you that’s operating in Africa?
We collate the earnings on these platforms and populate it on our centralized dashboard for our creatives to monitor, using API. We receive the revenue from these platforms via local ACH payment in their countries, as we as a company have been able to open different bank accounts in these countries. And then we locally pay these to the creatives, so they don’t experience the same problem they would have if they used other aggregators like Tunecore.
On a personal level, you are in so many prestigious fellowships simultaneously. How do you manage to balance the expectations of you there with your duties running Publiseer?
I am a hard worker. I’m a multitasker. I can take up a lot of responsibilities, and my Google calendar keeps me on track.
Besides Google Calendar, what other tips and tricks do you use to stay focused on the vision and to manage your team so they achieve set targets?
We give ourselves measurable KPIs with strict deadlines. This makes us never do yesterday’s things today. At Publiseer, we make it a culture that we meet to deadlines, and that we are doing tomorrow’s things today. This often makes us work round the clock.
Are all the operations run online/your headquarters or do you have regional offices to decentralize operations?
Most of our operations are now in Ghana because it’s cheaper to run a tech startup from there. However, our head office still remains in Lagos, where most of our administrative decisions are made. However, we are in Ghana, Kenya, South Africa, and Egypt as well.
What are some of the challenges you’ve faced working in various countries on the African continent and what workarounds have you have to come out with to navigate said challenges? DO you also have any thoughts on how the recently constituted African Continental Free Trade Area can make doing business across several countries smoother?
Since we are a digital platform, we haven’t had much (or any) friction in our operations. This is one of the reasons why we want to remain (and dominate) the digital space instead of expanding to physical publishing, which will have a lot of logistics to workaround.
What makes Ghana cheaper for running a startup and are there any other factors that influenced the transfer of operations there?
For me, the cost of data is relatively cheaper. There is constant electricity, and the presence of international or multinational companies to drive partnerships.
Your book…Odd Family Out…is it already out (a google search didn’t reveal much) and why did you choose to tell this particular story?
You can find more about it by googling “Odd Family Out by Nick Nwaogu”. Nick Nwaogu is the name I use when writing. Nick is a contraction for “Dominic”, which is my middle name. Odd Family Out is a collection of short stories I wrote over the years.
Is there a theme to the short stories? And over what period of time did you write these stories., Also related, when did you discover this writing talent of yours?
‘Odd Family Out’ is about my real family members. I wrote short stories about the interesting characters in my extended family. I wrote it from 2014 to 2017. I discovered that I love to write (than speak) while growing up 🙂
Do you have a favorite story/character in the collections? Is there a story or character that has been emerged as a favorite amongst readers?
My favorite character is my mom, and she was the first character I introduced. Keep the best for first 🙂
I’ll definitely look out for mom when I get a copy. Are you working on another book yet? If yes, can you share a teaser on what it will be about?
No, I’m not currently working on another book.
As someone using tech to enhance the arts, my hope is you are able to store manipulate and interpret the data from the work that’s distributed on your platform. If you are already working with the data, are there any interesting partners you’ve already observed? Do you have plans to leverage the insights in big data to constantly improve the arts industry?
Most definitely. Every day, we are adding more insightful data about the digital media space, and we believe someday, we will have so much valuable data that we will make more money by providing data than selling digital content.
I read an interview of yours where you mentioned Publiseer going into African films as well. What do you intend to do different from the existing platforms that already stream and sell African movies?
We are an aggregator and that’s what sets us apart. We will let African filmmakers reach a vast number of well-established video-on-demand platforms such as NetFlix and Hulu TV, at no charge.
Do you see Publiseer, in addition to aggregating, ever going into streaming for both video and music and e-reading for books?
Sure, we see that, but we will not stop our aggregation service. We intend to grow into being a digital content marketplace and aggregator.
Apart from the fact that your twins and popular culture have us believing twins are more deeply connected than just being siblings, how have you and your brother managed to form such an efficient twin? How do you complement each other as a team? Any challenges with working with family?
Working with my twin is not because we are twins or we are family. It’s because he is competent, and he is also passionate about using technology to solve Africa’s pressing problems. Working with anyone has its ups and downs. There will be misunderstandings and conflicts, but how we handle that is what matters. We ensure that we resolve any conflict we may have before the close of the day.
If someone asked you for reading recommendations, which 5 African writers and or books that you read that would you forward because of how they impacted you? What exactly did you like about these particular ones?
1. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
2. Chinua Achebe
3. Chinelo Okparanta
4. Cyprian Ekwensi
5. Ken Saro-Wiwa
Because they wrote powerful books that spoke about the pains experienced by the Igbo people during the Biafran War.
Thanks for having me share about Publiseer, and the work we’re doing to change the African narrative one content at a time.
You can connect with me on Social Media from:
Thanks for making the time, Chidi. It’s been a pleasure hearing about you and your vision for Publiseer. Best of luck
This is a demo online book shop for testing purposes — no orders shall be fulfilled. Dismiss