It’s no news that information technology is the new ‘oil’. South East Nigeria hasn’t been left behind, especially with Enugu serving as one of the leading states in the area of IT development. Companies and start ups such as Radaa, Ogwugo, Thrillz app, Nevo networks and the well acclaimed Digital dreams ICT academy are at the fore front of ensuring ndi igbo keep up pace with the rest of the world in terms of growth and development. Click 042’s Nnedimkpa Nnadi snagged an interview with the jovial CEO of Digital Dreams, Mr Chuks Edoga. A bubbling and interactive personality, Mr Chuks is very at home with technology, animation and design. His laid back and casual attitude masks the hardworking and result-driven nature he exudes once he gets into work mode. We got to discover one fun fact, he started programming from a tender age. Read more on his transition into ICT.
When did you realize you were to go into ICT?
I’ve been a programmer since Jss2 so it was an easy decision. My father was a huge influence, as he had someone teaching him how to program. I decided to tag along, and ended up learning faster than him. By the end of the year, I was writing video games.
Why Digital dreams?
During the course of my second year in university, I attended a program hosted at the University of Nigeria. One of the speakers said ‘If you’re here and you don’t have a company, you’re wrong’. The statement hit me hard. I got to understand that knowledge had to be translated into value, and value can be given by providing services, in other words being an employee, or an employer of labour. I got the name Digital Dreams from a movie though. It just stuck in my head, and I kept it there all through up until my service year in Akwa Ibom. I made a lot of money pimping phones and selling laptops. Pimping phones then involved puttting software, music and pictures on the phone. I’d go to restaurants like Mr. Biggs, pimp people’s phones, get paid for the job and get food as well. I was a little sneaky at times though, I’d take longer than was necessary to pimp the phones so as to increase my chances of getting free food. (*laughs*)
What drives you?
I drive myself. I want to retire at the age of 40, and be able to go exploring with my son.
Startups cannot be easy, especially considering how young you were. How were you able to get funding?
I took a loan from my dad, a total of N450,000. I paid N250,000 for office space and spent N200,000 buying a desktop that was intended for animation. Seeing as I never quite got to use it, that was kind of a wasted investment. Digital Dreams started out as Digital Dreams Animation Studios. We were the first animation studio in the southeast. I loved animations because it gave me an avenue to express both my analytical and artistic nature. The first job I did was an animated version of Psquare’s ‘busy body’. That was far back in 2007. It’s on youtube though. Please don’t laugh at me if you find it o! Times have changed now. (*laughs*) I eventually switched to my first love, programming after discovering that animation (at the time) wasn’t quite as profitable as I thought it would be.
Asides that, have you had any challenges?
Is it even possible to run a business without challenges? I’m not being pessimistic or anything o, but is it even possible? I ran the first 6 months without revenue. Personal savings kept me afloat. When I finally made income,Take note o, I said income and not profit, it was 40,000 naira from my first proper job.I was commissioned to build a website that did video streaming. Things eventually stabilized after 2 years and I was able to pay my personal bills. Up until then, I had been living with my parents and didn’t have a lot expenses to worry about.
You’re big on personal development. Is there anything you’d wish to change about the personal development path you’ve taken?
I wish I had read more books, instead of depending on the internet, especially YouTube, to teach me everything. If you really want to gain knowledge and step forward, buy books! You’re going to have to spend some money. It cannot be free. You have to pay for the serious things or else you’re just getting shallow stuff. YouTube is great and all, but no one would give out priceless knowledge for free! I mean, would you?
Valid point, I wouldn’t. We’ve heard you don’t believe in orthodox ways of working. Could you shed more light on this?
I’m conservative, not unorthodox. I look deeply before I leap. I don’t take decisions based on hype. If my cautiousness is called unorthodox, then so be it. I believe in studying things very clearly on something before jumping in. As Innoson once said, ‘Afia mmadu nile nwe a bughi afia’ (A product belonging to every one isn’t a product)
Speaking of work, How do you balance it all? I mean family and work?
It’s crazy. More credit to my wife, in fact all credit to her. I’m a work junkie. She’s literally helping me stay afloat and keeping me sane. She’s the manager and I’m her product.
(*chuckles*) So, how far has digital marketing helped your business?
Digital marketing has gone a long way in publicizing our products. Mylelo jobs, Lickenroll, Linkschool are products that have done exceptionally well because of digital marketing. I especially like digital marketing because it can be measured.
You’re constantly involved in hosting one meet up or the other. Are there any particular reasons for this?
The South East is lacking in ICT awareness. This is mainly due to a poor start up ecosystem. We’re trying to push and ensure that South East is recognized as a home to ICT development as well. I’ve observed that a whole lot of publicity is done on startups in Lagos. I strongly believe that the same thing can be done here. Igbo people are highly entrepreneurial, so there’s no way we can be lagging behind in any area. We have a campaign on ground to develop ten thousand developers in the next 2 years. We held the first code jam in Enugu in May, and #ioextended this June in conjunction with the Google Developers group. From Tenece to Startup South and Startup Enugu, amongst others, we are ensuring collaboration. We want to ensure that Enugu is put on the map in terms of ICT.
That’s a noble goal. In light of this, what’s your advice for the youth thinking of starting a career in ICT?
The first thing I’d let them know is that they’re on the right path. ICT is the next big thing, there’s no two ways about it. I’d encourage them to find their niche and stick with it. It’s not everyone that has to be a programmer. There are financial analysts, project managers, technological evangelists and so on. I’d recommend taking the Myer Brigg test, it’d offer more clarity.
I think I might be taking that test myself! It’s been amazing talking to you. One last question though, If you were aware today was your last day on earth, what would you do?
I’d go and drink beer.
Really? No try to save the earth kind of moves?
Haha nope, I’m just gonna drink beer and chill. I can’t even come and die. (Oh wait, I’m dying the next day!)
Mr Chuks, it’s been a pleasure having you.
Any time dear.