How twins sold their laptops to build LAGbook, Nigeria’s social site *strikes deal with Etisalat, Blackberry

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In 2010, Chidi and Chima Nwaogu, a pair of twins studying at University of lagos decided to go into an experiment, to create a social networking site. They created Ladies and Gentlemen’s Book, LAGbook for short, originally meant to be enjoyed by Akokites, or Unilag students. Today, with over 120, 000, LAGbook is fast becoming Nigeria’s number one Made in Nigeria social network. In this interview with JUNGLE JOURNALIST, Chidi Nwaogu speaks on their contracts with communications giuants, Research in Motion, Etisalat and how they hope to move the site worth over N10 million forward:

We gathered that Lagbook recently signed a contract with Blackberry. Tell us about this.

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Ladies And Gentlemen book popularly known as LAGbook recently signed an Eight weeks sponsorship deal with Research in Motion (Blackberry) Nigeria worth N1.2million on 18th June, 2012.

The deal was initiated by the Carriers Marketing Manager of Research in Motion Nigeria, Tunji Akumyuli and handled by Blackberry’s Ad agency in Nigeria, Yellow Brick Road Ltd. Within this 8 weeks, Blackberry takes over the backdrop of LAGbook’s Sign Up/Login Page and horizontal web banners at the top right corner of every page on LAGbook.

Blackberry also takes over the cover photo of LAGbook’s fanpage and backdrop of LAGbook’s Twitter handle. RIM Nigeria also gets promoted to members of LAGbook via periodic subscribed messages to all members of LAGbook about Blackberry and its importance.

The sponsorship is expected to end on the 11th of Aug, 2012 if there is no roll on.

With recent campaigns, the growth rate of LAGbook has increased as the social network claims over 3,000 new members every day.

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How much is involved in the deal?

The deal is worth N1.2miliion, and it lasts for 8 weeks, from 18th Jun 2012 – 11th Aug 2012

We gather you also had a deal with Etisalat.

We did go into partnership with Etisalat, but it wasn’t monetary. It was a sponsorship on airtime, they provided airtime for our users. Etisalat’s deal lasted from Aug 2011 – March 2012

Why did it end?

We weren’t satisfied with the airtime deal, we wanted more and so went for Blackberry who were willingly to pay for the publicity

What is the rate of membership and growth, at the beginning compared to now?

The rate of growth when we started off with Unilag students was 50 new signups per day. When we expanded to the Nigerian population, it rose to 100 per day. Then we took off to the 21 African English speaking countries including Nigeria, which took the figure to 200/day. On Aug, 2011, when we partnered with Etisalat, it rose to 400 per day. Recently, with our partnership and funding from Blackberry, it has peaked to a little over 3,000/day! We’re now over 120,000 members and current statistics shows that we will hit the 500,000 members mark by year end.

LAGbook is now popular in India, Malaysia, Philippines, Canada, Turkey, the United States and most especially in Nigeria in the city of Yaba, Lagos, where the social network was pioneered and currently ranks #3 in popularity right after Facebook (#1) and Google (#2).

 

What has been your greatest challenge in the establishing and running of LAGbook? How are u dealing with traffic for instance?

At first, running LAGbook, was so challenging. We had to combine school and being entrepreneurs.It was difficult. Finally we decided to pay more attention to LAGbook as the growth took off. Then we ran into a ditch. We needed more bandwidth and storage as the site raked in more members by the minute. We sold our laptops and went broke to keep up with the traffic. Those were our dark moments.

We gained momentum when we landed a web development deal with an Executive at MTN Nigeria

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We got new laptops and started with a greater energy. People took interest. Friends, colleagues wanted to be part of it. We weighed them all and picked a few. We gave them shares from the company which depended on how much work they do. At the moment, we have 22 LAGbook personnel, though, we did downsize a few months ago when the team was getting too big with so many incompetent people.

Tell us about the technicalities involved. How are you dealing with bandwidth, space and such issues as slow loading and other technical challenges?

Yeah, we recently got a message from our host that we are getting to our bandwidth limit. Lately, we reached an average 140,000 unique visitors from around the world. Our host is Dynadot.com. We once used Mydomain.com, but switched to Dynadot.com for cost management. We pay roughly an additional cost of $1,200 per year for bandwidth and we are grateful for the new Blackberry deal, we hope to get more bandwidth and run the social network more smoothly.

What is the cost difference?

We pay about 80% now of the fee we paid at Mydomain. Dynadot has helped us save a lot.

 How are u handling the issue of slow loading, and how are considering working with whoever hosted Facebook, which is very fast in loading?

We are about to purchase more bandwidth for LAGbook so we could give our users the best of social networking experience.

What is the profit you are making, and how does it come. How do you make your profit?

We can’t deny the fact that we cannot compete with Facebook’s bandwidth size, they’ve got a lot of funding and recently via the IPO. We’re getting there and some day, we will have more than enough fund to get over 1 terbyte of bandwidth. We’re glad to say that LAGbook finally reached profitability after just 2 years of operation. In the past, we raked in revenue through advertising for member’s websites, contents, profiles and so on.

Go on, tell us more about this profit

We’ve invested $15,400 US in LAGbook since Apr 2010, and have raked in, in revenue, $21,411.00. That means, we’ve a little over $6,000.00 in profit. That’s about a million naira.

So, what is Lagbook worth today? If u have to sell it, how much are we looking at?

According to Yandalo.com, LAGbook is worth $53,753.61 USD

That is about N9 million. But we are not planning on selling anytime soon. But if we ever do, it will be for a real amount, that will make us all retire at an early age with smiles on our faces.

But, what is it worth, according to the Nwaogu Twins? Would u sell it for that amount? Is that what all your efforts and aspirations for Lagbook is worth? What do you think all your energy, frustrations and successes and dreams and passions for Lagbook is worth?

No, that worth was based on our traffic analysis some time 2weeks ago. LAGbook’s traffic has picked up better than that. We cannot calculate LAGbook’s worth based on its traffic alone. What about the technology, ideas, time, effort, challenges, finances? We cannot sell LAGbook for even N10million if offered. We can’t imagine selling off after 2 years. That’s ridiculous. We hope to run for thereabout 7 years before handing to someone who could pour more energy into it. By then, LAGbook will be going for hundreds of millions.

How did you strike the deal with Blackberry?

It was really crazy. My phone rang and guess who’s ringing, Tunji, the Career Marketing Manager at Research In Motion (Blackberry) Nigeria. We talked for hours and from day to day after LAGbook’s partnership with RIM. Finally, we met with Ayisola, a staff at RIM’s Ad agency, Yellow Brick Road Ltd, Lagos.

So you did not even go for it?

Yes, they came for us. We didn’t go for them. It was like a miracle, something awesome and unexpected.

 

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