Tell!: Our Journey So Far…


Our Story so far…

“First answer the Why…then answer the How…and the Whom and finally answer the when”
– Toheeb Ojuolape

 Why we Started

12months ago, I decided to pursue my dream of creating a startup that would blur the barriers between Nigerian(African) writers, barriers that platforms like Blogspot and WordPress had created. The platform would help build a more integrated community where Nigerian(African) writers get to connect, publish and share stories & ideas that matter. I had zero experience, not a lot of money and was a rookie web developer (less than rookie sef). Irregardless of the many reasons to quit, I decided not to and started working on building the platform. Even in the course of building the platform, I got comments like:

“So Toheeb, what exactly does that your Tell! do sef, is it for writing and reading? Why are you wasting your time on such a project, everybody knows that Nigerians don’t like to read, talkless of write. What SDG goal is your startup even going to solve sef? Isn’t there a Tell magazine somewhere already? So you think you too can become the next Mark Zuckerberg abi, be deceiving yourself…yen yen yen”

Aptly put, Na bad comments dey rush me. Nonetheless, because I can be very stubborn and obstinate sometimes, I still decided to go ahead to launch the platform.

The first few weeks were harsh! I got even more bad commentary about how ugly the website layout was, how some features weren’t working properly and some people not really caring about the pitch I was selling. I also made wrong decisions as regards choosing team members, making assumptions that everyone on the team actually understood the vision I had for the platform and shared my energy. I guess these are just some of the things you learn when you do stuff like this. There were days when I felt so frustrated by the platform and considered pulling the plug and moving on, but the vision I had always seemed to keep me levelheaded and kept me on the path, the destination of which I am not fully aware and to some extent, that’s ok.

Tell! was developed to be Nigerian’s first and biggest publishing community & content management system where writers get to read, write and share stories and ideas that matter! (yeah, I know it looks like we’re whining ourselves, but if we don’t whine ourselves, who will?). Professional writing in Nigeria is at point where it is almost fictional. Most people don’t consider writing in itself as a profession and this has led to a decreased show of interest in it.

Even when people consider starting a writing career, they end up starting alone by creating a blog on WordPress or Blogspot, putting in so much effort without getting the desired attention or results most of the time. It’s very difficult to survive in this world as a writer. Ask J.K Rowlings or Charles Bukowski, they’ll tell you. It takes several years of non-stop commitment and sweat and dedication for an average writer to reach George R.R Martins-type of fame level. And there is only so far a person can go alone

Alone you can go faster, but together we can go farther” (- I think some smart Chinese guy said this.)

Why write alone when we can all write together?

Tell! understands that starting a writing career on your own is difficult, and the platform hopes to ease the journey by providing access to a publishing community where writers get to connect and draw inspiration from each other, rather than compete with each other for attention. That’s our most sacred goal at Tell! and that’s what keeps us honest.

 Social Journalism

“Narrative imagining — story — is the fundamental instrument of thought.  Rational capacities depend upon it.  It is our chief means of looking into the future, or predicting, of planning, and of explaining.” 
–Mark Turner

Story telling is important for many reasons. it is the basis through which the simplest and most complex ideas get transmitted from one mind to another. A great writer once said: “the closest thing to writing is Telepathy, and in a way all writers (all good writers) have superpowers”.

Social journalism is an exciting new way through which modern day writers are using their superpowers for good. It involves, simply put, telling the news in a story-like manner. We all know how depressing Nigerian news can be, from the headlines to the content to the last paragraph. The reporters (no offence to any of them) most times just tell the news insipidly without any excitement or clarity, stating facts and reporting truths based on investigation. Although this type of conventional journalism is fine, and yes, it passes the message across, but there has to be a way this can be improved, hence the reason Tell! is trying to create a Nexus and become the first social journalism platform in Nigeria, a place where people get to read news told in a relatable, exciting way.

Although I & my cofounders understand that we’re out of our wits in this field, we believe that through creativity, commitment and dedication we can get to sail through our current sea of ignorance and bring Tell! to the shores of nationwide recognition through social journalism, atleast.

Y Combinator’s Startup School

If there is one thing I always say to my cofounders, it is the utmost need for us to learn as much as we can as fast we can about things that would help us grow our Startup and properly define our product. We were really fortunate to have recently been accepted into Y Combinator’s Startup school. Harvard university has an acceptance rate of 5.9% while Y combinator’s Startup school has an acceptance rate of 1.5%, thus the reason getting enrolled for it is a big deal for us. We hope to leverage on this opportunity to learn from the biggest names in Tech and Silicon Valley to someday build Tell! into an amazing product.

 Creating a Niché

“The degree to which you’re successful is approximate to the degree to which you build a product that is so good people spontaneously tell their friends about it”

-Sam Altman (President Of Y Combinator),  excerpt from our first lecture at Startup school

This principle worked for all the big names at Silicon Valley; Facebook, Google, Twitter e.t.c and look how well they turned out! But the truth remains that Silicon Valley isn’t Nigeria. Not everyone would really care about your platform and those who do don’t usually have the time to show that they really do care by telling others about your platform. Besides, it’s not so easy to impress a Nigerian irregardless of how amazing the features on your platform can be. We understand this and we know it won’t be easy to reach that stage, but we hope that one day Tell! gets to mean a lot to writers in Nigeria to the extent that they get excited about it and tell other writers about Tell! (see what I did there? 😏)

One of our attempts at creating a niche is the Tell! Internship recruitment programme. This internship programme would be strictly for writers from target communities in which we intend to carve out our niche and we hope to use the internship programme to establish a better connection between the platform and writing communities,-Start small and scale up progressively

Looking Forward…

The journey hasn’t been smooth from the beginning and I don’t expect it to get easier moving forward.  I believe I have a great team of cofounders and a great product and I guess that’s all that truly matters. We would continue to learn as much as we can and be as creativity & innovative as possible. We would learn from failures and mistakes and be as pragmatic in our thinking as possible. We would also try to keep the platform relevant by integrating new & exciting features on a regular basis. The last 12months have been a good foundation, but the truth is we’re just getting started. Let’s take this journey to discover just how much Nigerian(African) writers can achieve with their writings and their ideas

P.S: So now I think I can quote myself abi? Who the hell do I think I am😒

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What do you think?

  1. Building a website can be pretty tough at the beginning, but I’m glad you kept at it.

    Thank God you didn’t listen to those nay-sayers and now your dream has grown a whole lot.

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