Top of mind: Happy Sunday!
Do you remember what your life was like at 19? I don’t.
On the other hand, Njoku Emmanuel will remember his 19th as the year he built one of Africa’s most influential companies.
I had a fascinating conversation with him for our Day One series.
Let’s get to it.
3 big things:
- Njoku Emmanuel’s genius
- MTN launches 5G
- Twitter’s homegrown whistleblower
The 19 year-old wunderkind building the next big crypto company
Day One! In our latest edition, I had a great chat with 19-year-old wunderkind Njoku Emmanuel – CEO and co-founder of crypto startup Lazerpay. After dropping out of school to disapproving parents who wanted a medical career for him, he forfeited several lucrative jobs to chase his dream of building the “Stripe for crypto”.
I had this book where I wrote that I wanted to build an operating system and social media network for Africa. My mom would tease me, and intentionally mispronounce ‘Zuckerberg’ –that’s what she calls me. My dad told me that you couldn’t build your own company without working for someone for ten years, but I always had an entrepreneurial mindset.
Servicing a bearish market: Governments in Africa – Lazerpay’s primary market, are still apprehensive about cryptocurrency, which manifests through harsh regulations. 26 African countries have either implicit or absolute bans on cryptocurrency.
That’s one of the hardest parts of what we do. The target audience for our product is in a region that is either crypto-neutral or crypto-unfriendly. I support regulations fully and strongly believe that governments should regulate crypto as they do in the US instead of banning it.
Why Africa: Africa controls 70% of the global money market, signalling the rapid adoption of fintech. Lazerpay is one of the companies aiming to solve Africa’s money problem.
Payment is broken in Africa. There’s really no interoperability between country A and country B. If I’m anywhere in Europe, I can spend Euros even in the poorest country in Europe. But If I want to travel from Nigeria to Ghana, I have to seriously plan. Where do I get Cedis?
How Lazerpay makes money:
Njoku: Our revenue model is fee-based. For instance, there’s a 1% charge on payments. It’s paid by the customer or the merchant – who decides who picks up the fees. Crypto withdrawals to your external wallet from the Lazerpay dashboard are free right now. But by September, we’ll be charging 0.5%, which will be capped at $2,000.
We help businesses off-ramp as well. For example, if I’m in China with USDT and I want to send money to Nigeria, and USDT is more convenient for me than naira – I can send USDT and if the receiver doesn’t want crypto, they can pay out to their local bank account and receive the money in Naira. We charge 0.5% for this, also capped at $2,000.
The dream: Njoku has some pretty big goals. I asked if an acquisition or an IPO listing is in Lazerpay’s future.
If we get listed on the US stock exchange or acquired, that’s fine. But my main goal is to be at the forefront of crypto adoption. I don’t see Lazerpay as a product. I see Lazerpay as an ecosystem that is going to build real-world use cases and utilities that affect our daily lives and make the common man interact with crypto every day.
Final thoughts: Njoku’s chasing the most daunting dream on a continent on the wrong side of crypto adoption. Lazerpay’s momentum further validates that crypto was built for the African market.
I’m rooting for the wunderkind and his dream to create the “Stripe for crypto”. It’s hard and essential work.
And it’s still Day One.
MTN launches 5G!
The short: MTN’s bringing 5G mobile internet service across major locations in Nigeria.
The 5G tax: After beating Airtel in a bidding war in December last year, MTN and Mafab paid $550 million for 5G licenses in February. However, MTN is the only company to complete its deployment ahead of the August 2022 deadline given by Nigeria’s Communications Commission.
Early bird: Since it’s the first 5G network in Nigeria, MTN’s enjoying the first mover advantage. The service will operate in 81 locations in Lagos, 42 in Abuja, 30 in Port Harcourt, and 13 in Oyo state.
MTN is strategically rolling out in high-end industrial and residential environments to target the upper class. Pricing for its 5G router is ten times that of its 4G router. Steep!Final thoughts: 5G in Nigeria is excellent news. But a 10x price increase is exclusionary in an economy with high inflation rates. So the earlier players enter the market to lower prices, the better.
Twitter’s in hot water
The short: Twitter’s former security chief accused the company of harmful data practices and misinformation.
For Jack and the users: Peiter “Mudge” Zatko, the latest tech whistleblower, is Twitter’s former Head of Security. Zatko was hired by then-CEO Jack Dorsey shortly after the company was rocked by a massive breach that exposed public figures like Barack Obama, Bill Gates, and Kanye West’s accounts.
Zatko says he’s being forced into whistleblowing since his alarm about the company’s security lapses were ignored.
He told the media –
This would never be my first step, but I believe I am still fulfilling my obligation to Jack and to users of the platform. I want to finish the job Jack brought me in for, which is to improve the place.
The allegations: Here’s a summary of the complaints submitted to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC):
- Twitter’s bot measurement mechanism is deceptive, and executives were motivated to increase user counts rather than delete spam bots.
- Twitter employed a government agent from India, who subsequently had “access to vast amounts of Twitter sensitive data.”
- Too many staff have deep access to the systems.
- Twitter did not delete user data on request due to its poor structure.
- Twitter regularly made “false and misleading statements” to users and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
Twitter fights back: A Twitter spokesman told CNN that Zatko was sacked for poor performance more than six months ago –
Mr Zatko’s allegations and opportunistic timing appear designed to capture attention and inflict harm on Twitter, its customers and its shareholders.
Final thoughts: In what seems like the latest tech scandal, Zatko will testify in Congress next month.
One person who’s taking advantage of Twitter’s misfortune is Elon Musk – he had his lawyers subpoena Zatko to support his case for why he won’t proceed with the Twitter sale.
Sheesh. Twitter is having a pretty rough year!
That’s it for the week. I’d love to hear your thoughts about this week’s issue. Please respond to this email or find me on Twitter @fatuogwuche 🙂
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See you next Sunday!