Nigerian blogger and entrepreneur, Linda Ikeji recently launched her new social media, Linda Ikeji Social (LIS) a social media platform which innovatively fuses news reporting, social interaction and online shopping all in one place.
In this interview, Linda Ikeji discusses the secrets behind her career, how she has been able to wade through stormy waters, the new social media platform (Linda Ikeji Social), and her opinion on business partnership with the government.
Read the interview below:
You are known as the queen of blogging. How did it all start?
It all started in 2006 after a friend told me she read a story about me on the internet, and out of curiosity I logged on to the site to read the story. After reading, I loved it and subsequently in November 2006 I decided that I wanted to start my own blog because journalism had always been something i loved to do, it’s something I wanted to do while growing up; so I thought I should live the dream. So I started my own blog in November 2006 and here we are 10-years after.
What has been your drive?
Passion is what has driven me all through to this point, because, like I said earlier, it’s not just about me living my dream, I wanted to be a journalist, a broadcast journalist. A lot of people I admired in those days were broadcasters or TV presenters, like Frank Olize; I admired reporting, so what kept me going on the blog has been passion because I’m living my dream doing it.
Don’t you think you are deviating from the norm considering the fact that Linda Ikeji Blog has been very successful?
Linda Ikeji Social (LIS) and Linda Ikeji Blog (LIB) are very similar; it’s the same online business. LIS is an extension of LIB basically because most of the stuff you find on LIB you find on LIS. We are not deviating, they are very similar businesses, online technology, news reporting, they are very similar, they work hand in hand.
What is Linda Ikeji Social all about compared to Linda Ikeji Blog?
LIS is a combination of social networking, news reporting, buying and selling. How I came about it was this, I thought about the traffic that occurs when people go on the internet and the first one is how people keep up, that’s why Facebook has the most users in the world. It helps you connect to other people in real time, read what people are saying, chat with others. I think that’s the number one reason people go online.
The second reason people go online is for them to read the news, to know what goes in the world around them. The third reason people go online is to buy and sell, to shop. So I thought why can’t I have a site that has a combination of these three so that eventually people don’t have to go to multiple sites to get all these three, they can just come on LIS and get them all.
How do you raise funds for customer rewards in such a time of economic recession?
Of course the #1,000,000 we gave out was from our pocket, it was our own way of welcoming users and subscribers to our new platform. Next week we’re going to give out another sum, and of course it won’t be the same amount, probably half of it. And we’re going to give out recharge cards and so many other products because other brands are going to get involved.
We’re just a week old; so, for now, we have to fund all this with our own money before other brands become part of it. Right now, we’re funding everything by ourselves; there is no private investor anywhere. In fact, I got a call from a friend in South Africa who wanted to find out if I would allow for private investors, that somebody wanted to drop some amount of money to become a co-owner of Linda Ikeji Social (LIS), but I told him no.
The reason I said no is because, for now, I don’t know the value of what I’m doing right now or what it would be. I can’t put a price to it that I would say ‘okay, come and pay this amount and take a particular percentage’. So, right now, I’m funding everything 100 percent and I don’t know if I would allow for private investors. I’m just taking it a step at a time for now.
It depends on how big it gets. If it gets bigger than me, then I would give room for private investors, but if it doesn’t, I’ll handle it all by myself.
Don’t you think you might be perceived to be proud by saying you don’t need private investors to invest in LIS now?
I’m not the proud type, in fact, I’m very humble. People don’t know that, to a very large extent, I’m a very humble person because I know where I’m coming from. People usually have their own views about other people, but those who know me know that I’m very humble.
Why I don’t want investors now is because I don’t know how to value what I’m doing yet. If someone comes to me now and says ‘I want to give you one million dollars to have a share in LIS’, I don’t know how to value what the person would get for that amount of money he or she wants to invest in my business. So it’s not about pride. I just want to take it one step at a time, do it on my own; then if it gets bigger than me, investors can come on board. It’s not pride; it’s just me as a business woman taking it one step at a time. For now, I’m financially capable enough to run it, so I don’t need investors yet.
Would you partner with the government if it signifies interest in your business?
Government does not partner with anybody on such things now, do they? I would rather partner with private investors than government. On a second thought, I can partner with government, but not that they would own it, they would just be a partner.
What do you give in return to companies who partner with you?
Publicity, free advert and publicity.
Don’t you think you’re taking on too much running LIB and LIS all by yourself?
No, for Linda Ikeji Blog, I’ve staff working with me though I’m still on top of it. For Linda Ikeji Social, I also have staff working for me and I’m also on top of it. LIS and LIB are the same online business; one actually feeds from the other. I don’t feel it’s too much, it depends on what you feel your capabilities are; besides, I feel like I’m able because I’ve been blogging for 10-years now, so, blogging is easier for me now. Whenever you see me on my laptop, you’ll see LIB on one side and then you’ll see LIS on the other, just for me to monitor everything that’s going on; so it’s absolutely not bigger than something I can handle.
If you have to liquidate either of LIS or LIB due to challenges beyond you, which would it be?
That’s a very tough question; nobody prays for such, but if that happens, oh my God! To be honest, sitting down here right now, I would shut down Linda Ikeji Social because I don’t know what the future of LIS would be whereas Linda Ikeji Blog is already very successful. But if I look five-years down the line, that’s a bigger brand, more people can do a lot more on LIS such as traffic report and many other things, it’s all encompassing. But two-three years from now, I really hope LIS becomes a bigger brand than LIB.
What have you put in place to prevent internet fraudsters from hacking into the site or swindling your subscribers?
My people are working tirelessly to prevent any form of attack. There are so many technical terms that I can’t really talk about but they are sure on top of it. Someone actually tried to hack into the site three-days after we launched it. My tech team called me and gave me the guy’s details, but like I said earlier, they are working tirelessly round the clock to make sure that doesn’t happen. They are putting up security systems for the site and for the users so that no one would have any form of complain.