State of The Flip

Before we start, it would be inappropriate to write anything about African tech without acknowledging and sending our support to the #EndSARS protests happening in Nigeria against police brutality. One way you can help from abroad is to donate – Flutterwave has raised N2m to help with medical bills for those injured by the police and have opened it up to the general public. You can donate here.

State of The Flip

In November of last year, I interviewed Sam Sturm, Founders Factory’s Chief Venture Architect. He and I talked extensively about building products and about various methodologies, like the lean startup, that entrepreneurs can leverage at the early stages of their journey. At one point in our conversation, Sam turned the tables and started asking me questions about my entrepreneurial journey with The Flip. One question, in particular, really resonated – 

What does success look like right now? 

At the time of that interview, The Flip had not yet been launched, so success at that very moment meant proving to myself that I could produce something I was proud of, and then shipping my work. When we launched, success became getting people to listen to the show and celebrating every single small milestone. I have countless screenshots in my WhatsApp chat with my b-mic Sayo from when we crossed a certain amount of listenership, or when someone tweeted something about The Flip, or messaged him privately that they listened. 

We are now doing 4x that amount of downloads per day, and 7-8x on days we publish.

Now that we have finished Season Two, we need to change our answer to what success looks like. To be sure, I will still celebrate milestones and vanity metrics, and I am still grateful for every individual listener of the podcast and reader of the newsletter. But we have proven successfully that we can launch a high-quality show, and garner a high-quality audience. 

Now, success looks like turning this expensive and time-consuming hobby into a sustainable business that continues to serve our audience.

So how do we do that?

The journey so far

Before we take a look at what’s next, I’d like to reflect on the journey thus far, because it wouldn’t be possible to build what we wish to build without the foundation that’s been laid. 

The podcast, in terms of listenership, has overwhelmingly exceeded my expectations. I had set a goal of hitting 25,000 downloads by the end of 2020 – we surpassed that number in mid-August and have since crossed 50,000 total downloads!

The Flip is or has been the number one podcast in the entrepreneurship category1 in: South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya, Ghana, Senegal, Tanzania, Uganda, Mauritius, Namibia, Benin, Sierra Leone, Angola, Seychelles, Niger, Burkina Faso, Zimbabwe, Liberia, Botswana, Cape Verde, Chad, DRC, The Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Malawi, Mali, Mozambique, Sao Tome e Principe, eSwatini, as well as – interestingly – Israel, Pakistan, Iceland, amongst others. 

In Season Two, we published 10 episodes, featuring insights from 43 contributors from 19 different countries. 42 percent of our contributors this season were women – we’ll have to work on that for Season Three.

During this time we also published a weekly essay – The Flip Notes – sent via our newsletter, for which growth has been steady.

The Flip Notes started during lockdown, when it was increasingly difficult to schedule people for interviews, and it’s been a great channel not only for The Flip’s growth, in general, but also as a mechanism for going deeper during on a specific topic or point discussed in each episode. 

The most-read essay thus far has been What’s the difference between accelerators, incubators, and venture builders?, for which I made charts that I am very proud of.

The growth of the podcast and newsletter has emboldened me to grow The Flip even further as a community. I can’t help but feel that we are sitting on something bigger, that there are real opportunities to explore and problems to help solve given our high-value content and community. So what does that mean in terms of product?

The questions we’re asking

The natural progression for many publishers is moving from ad-driven revenue to subscription. But for me, I don’t wish to put The Flip’s content to be behind a paywall, nor do I wish for the content to be the sole product. The podcast and newsletter will always be free.

The lowest hanging fruit is podcast and newsletter sponsorships, and we are fortunate to be in active discussion with several interested parties. (And on that note, if your organization is interested please email me!)

However, I also think that there is much more value that we can and should create, and for that, we have a series of questions we are asking. 

The first set of questions are around community – if people come to The Flip for the quality and depth of insights, how do we continue to build more value here? I think it involves both greater depth of content and better fostering of intra-community engagement.

Source: Ness Labs

At the same time, there is an increasing interest in the African tech ecosystem from practitioners and investors elsewhere in the world – people who know tech, but who may have less familiarity with the nuances and complexities of the African markets in question. Is The Flip well-positioned to build bridges? I think beyond content, more handholding (i.e., deal flow and/or market entry services) will be needed here.

What are the other ways in which we are creating value that we ought to consider doing more of?

A few weeks back we published Much Ado About the Media on the relationship between the media and the African tech ecosystem. Underlying that episode is the belief that startups in the ecosystem are not transparent, which has knock-on effects on the quality and utility of tech-focused media. 

Here’s what Tomiwa Aladekomo, the CEO of Big Cabal Media had to say about that,

I think definitely there is more openness that’s required. There’s more engagement that’s required. I think more people need to tell their stories. And talking about your business model in a place where the business models are so immature is unlikely to ruin your business or have your competitor jump on you. I think it’s more likely to open insights that actually open your eyes as a leader of your own business and to what it is you could be doing better, and sort of engender critical feedback and useful feedback.

That’s the position we intend to take – to continue to take – for The Flip. And as we enter the next phase of our journey, it’s a position that I believe will have positive implications on the success of what we are building.  

It’s not lost on me that the answers to most of the questions above will come from you, the community. So please do reach out with any feedback you have or suggestions you wish to make, and let’s grow this thing together. 

  1. Per Chartable’s charts.