From Oil to Tech in Port Harcourt – The What, How, and Why Ingredients for a Successful Start-up

by Dr. Tekena Fubara BSc. (Honours) MSc. Ph.D. CEng MIChemE PPSE

The concept of a new business is a great thing to imagine, behold, nurture and mature. There are indeed many facets to consider in the transition from Oil to Tech in this sprawling city, which has had oil infrastructure through one generation before me, and which will continue after me. The reality is that this city is entrenched in the rush for black gold, and in so far as it continues to remain a valuable tradeable commodity – like bees drawn to honey – it will continue to attract investment, political attention, and human resources. How do we shift this base and move and pull resources to Tech to create the enabling environment for Port Harcourt to be the next city of Global Tech? These are fundamental questions to be addressed and I hope some of the key ingredients I will elaborate on will form the bedrock of your start-up company.

Looking at the oil and gas industry in Port Harcourt, and connecting the dots, there is one thing to learn: as much as oil and gas are generated in huge volumes in and around this city, the product is exported to solve huge global energy problems somewhere else in the world. Very little of the resources generated are used within the city, even though there is a great need for more local utilization to serve the huge local energy gap. And so, when thinking about the Tech business, my assertion is that if your Tech business is not designed to solve global problems, but designed to solve only local problems, there is a tendency for that Tech business not to excel to the fast lane, and you are not dreaming big enough. So, the ‘What’ about your Tech business/start-up needs to be fundamentally radical, large and ambitious on a global scale to solve a problem or need in the world. Solving local Tech problems is great, but being at the forefront of solving global Tech challenges, while sitting on a comfy desk in Port Harcourt, should be a key focus of many start-ups.

As much as ‘What’ your Tech start-up gets involved in is important, ‘How’ you do what you do makes a huge difference in ensuring that success is guaranteed. You can have the best global Tech solution that the world is itching for, but if honesty, integrity, respect, passion, punctuality, fidelity, prudence, and all other good tenets that you can think of, are not key ingredients of ‘How’ you do business, then people will not work with you. I have seen partially mediocre ideas that have become great successes, simply through the passion of the entrepreneurs who have been behind it. Belief in your product, combined with passion makes a useful blend in ensuring that your business as an entity delivers world service in a world-class manner. So also focus on the ‘How’ as a key part of what you deliver.

For me, the most fundamental part of any start-up is your ‘Why’ story. Why are you involved in this Tech start-up and why are you doing what you are doing? If you don’t have a compelling story, either look inside again for one or change your business. The reason being that for a start-up, you will go through many phases in the business, and the only thing that can keep you going and driving forward are the core reasons why you are doing what you are doing. All great business leaders have a unique story about why they got involved in what they are doing today. Your story is unique to you, and you should play out the specific circumstances of your birth, life experience, and peculiar circumstances to create a unique selling point for yourself. I always advise writing this ‘Why’ story on a board where you see it every morning or at least share it. I remember listening to one of the most successful young entrepreneurs I have ever met relay a story of how he created a business that afforded him more time, due to the fact that his wife had a long-term terminal ailment and he wanted to spend more time with her. Had it not been for that ‘Why’ story, he would have remained in a low-pay system that ate all his hours and would not have become the multi-millionaire that he is today.

It is important to always consider the triple bottom line in formulating your ‘Why’ story – Financial benefits, Environmental benefits, and People benefits. Never let money be the sole and fundamental reason why you do your business. Rather let ‘value’ be the key focus of your business, and value can take the shape of anything that is of importance to you and society at large. Some key questions to ask are: how does this business give me the financial freedom figure (FFF) I need? How does this business contribute to improving the environment and city I live in? How does this business benefit me as an individual in particular, my family, my local community, my region, and the wider public in general? And why am I passionate about this? I think answers to these are the fuel that keeps the spark generated by your Tech start-up idea burning for generations to come.

With these key ingredients, I think you are ready to take the world. The good thing is that the future is changing, and those who are at the leading edge of Tech will dominate the world. Gone are the days where you needed to be in a high-rise office in New York to be close enough to key business partners to succeed. Now you can excel on a global scale from the comfort of your room. The world is getting smaller and it is moving closer to Port Harcourt and Tech start-ups are the vehicles to deliver these.

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