You need (lots of) humans to run your tech startup

Nigerian startups have a person. This person signs the transactional and follow-up emails, follows up with customers on promotions and acts as the virtual face of the company. These are actual people, not manufactured names for a Helpdesk request. For example, Uche is the city manager for Taxify in Lagos and the other people work with their startups. This would be like in 2011, when Uber launches in New York, and all the city manager signs all receipts and ride confirmations.

This is very different from the asset-light, “Here’s a link to our help page” approach to customer service of western tech companies. These Nigerian startups discard the corporate veneer to become human, while the startups in the US are more likely to want to resemble a corporation.

In Nigeria, people love to complain about these accounts. They send too many emails and are too aggressive. However, they perform an under-appreciated function: They humanize the consumer startups that want to change human behavior. You may not trust a new online-only bank, but maybe you will trust Nosa from Kuda. This meets the customer expectation that there’s someone you can call when things go wrong with this new product or service.

This is just one of many ways that building a tech company in Nigeria is different from conventional Silicon Valley.

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