Showlove is a social platform making it fun and simple for users to request, give and receive gift vouchers, deal coupons and cash. By taking out all of the variables of sending gifts – what to buy, what size they wear, what colors they prefer, what hobbies they enjoy and so forth, Showlove helps customers make the right choice of gifting every time they decide to share a gift. In this chat with the BusinssDay Weekender, we find out who what gifts and technology can truly do for the gifting business.
How did three people from different disciplines of life decide to co-found a startup and how do you all individually contribute to the vision?
Chikodi: Well, it’s not our first rodeo. In 2019, we had a business that helped other businesses communicate efficiently and acquire more customers, and we’d done a good job with it. We already had clients like Flour Mills and Coscharis Group. But then we knew that to build a business that scales properly, and to take advantage of the current wave of technology sweeping the continent, we had to create a tech enabled business. We all know each other from way back and already have synergy working with each other. Seye has always been in marketing and growth while Josh is a super talented designer and product manager. I have always been in Commercial and Technology
Did three of you always want to own a start-up or did it come as a surprise? Tell us about your journey into tech.
Chikodi: Actually, we all had individual businesses. Josh had a design studio called Strawz Innovations, Seye had a content creation and marketing business called Aniron NG and I had a management consultancy called Prestidus. After we left Konga in 2018, Seye and I decided to merge our businesses and also brought Josh on board afterwards. So I guess you could say it was destined to happen, but we’ve always had interest in building something valuable for the Nigerian and African ecosystem
A recent report shows that Nigeria is indeed the unicorn of Africa, raising about 70% of the total tech funding in Africa this year. What sets Nigerian start-up founders apart?
For context, I think it is important to note that almost 20% of all internet users in Africa are Nigerians or live in Nigeria, so naturally Nigeria is the one country with the most attractive market for a technology business, amongst other factors. However, I watched a report a couple days ago which said while Nigerians account for just 1% of black people in the US, they account for 25% of all students in the top business schools in the US. This further goes the buttress what is now well known globally, that Nigerians, and by extension Nigerian entrepreneurs, are inherently ambition, and tenacious, if the saying ‘you are a product of your environment’ is taken into consideration, then the lack of infrastructure and support for SMEs often weathers Nigerian business owners into fine stones that can thrive in any sector or market in the world
Also due to market size and sheer volume of first adopters, start-ups usually succeed or fail fast, and the ones with prospect are usually backed early to build on observed traction
How do your disciplines come to play in the day to day running of Showlove?
My first degree was in Computer Information Systems and my second degree was literally Managing Information Technology, so you can say I’ve been formally trained to lead technology businesses. I also had the privilege of leading 13 different teams in my 4 years at Konga, which I also consider as part of my education
For a country like Nigeria, giving is a big part of the culture, why do you think it took so long to digitize the gifting industry?
While about 37% of the entire country (77M people) has shopped online or participated in an online traction, ecommerce still attributes for only 7% of all retail sales in the country, which shows us that Nigeria is still an offline market. However, this tells me that 77M+ people are likely to buy a gift for someone if it solves one or all of these problems – what to buy, where to get it, how much to spend and how to get it there in time, all of which Showlove’s unique value proposition solves
Culturally speaking, if you take a look at the avenues for gifting, they usually involve in-person interaction, parties, or gatherings, designed to suit physical gifts and cash. However, the pandemic changed that narrative, with major corporations holding their AGMs remote and people attending naming ceremonies on Zoom. Digitizing gifts is well in line to support our new normal.
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Tell us more about Showlove’s value offering and who exactly it’s for.
Chikodi: Showlove really just wants to make peoples’ lives easier and help them get more value out of their relationships. Be it a friend to friend relationship, parent to child, lover to lover or even employer to employee relationship. Our vision is to simplify gifting on the continent such that people can give the right gift at the right time, everytime. A reality where people find it easy to request the way they want to receive gifts, what kind of gift they want and when they want it, in a way that their givers can make the right decision of gifting within the shortest possible time is what Showlove promises. Primarily, we have two user profiles – givers and recipients, and users can wear either of these hats at any point along the customer journey.
What type of gifts can be found on the platform
Josh: A pretty wide range of gifts actually. We have hundreds of merchants across Nigeria providing services and products that users can gift each other. From categories like restaurants, to spa & beauty, kids & toys, fitness and much more. Also, this December we’ve added physical gifts like hampers and gift vouchers to stores like Shoprite, Game, Spar, Jumia and more. So basically, a user can give a loved one an actual gift to be delivered to them, or a voucher to any of these listed businesses.
What is your vision for the gifting industry in Nigeria?
Our vision is quite simple. We want people to be able to send gifts to anyone, anywhere on the continent with as minimal friction as possible. There are a number of problems affecting this proposition in the market today, from payments to product assortment, logistics etc. Showlove will provide the platform that makes requesting easy and giving even easier, with all inherent factors completely taken care of.
Showlove raised 300k in its pre-seed round earlier this year, what funding opportunities do you have available for investors?
We actually just opened our new funding round on Monday Dec 6th, and we’re in the market for an institutional investor to lead, still early days, but we’re very keen to close the round by February next year to execute the rest of our product vision by deploying our mobile app, extending our APIs to give a more robust assortment of eGifts and expand quickly into other African countries
Tis the season! Does Showlove have any activities planned for users?
Seye: Absolutely. It’s peak period for us right now being in the middle of the biggest gifting season of the year. We are already seeing unprecedented numbers from individual and corporate customers. We also have an ongoing campaign titled Give You, Give Me which spotlights the benefits of giving and how something you give also kind of rewards you who has given it. Users can find a really wide range of gifts on the platform no matter their budget, and give it really easily to the people they care about. Showlove will handle deliveries and ensure everyone gets their gifts on time
Have you ever received a gift that you don’t like? What was it and what was your reaction?
Josh: Oh yes. Several times. Quite honestly, my reaction depends on my relationship with the giver. In some cases, I’m able to say “Honey, I’m not really feeling these shoes, can we have them changed”. In other cases, I just keep the gift packed until I find someone I can re-gift it to. But I’ve received many unwanted gifts, and I must tell you, it’s not a good feeling.
If you could advise people who are looking to get into the tech startup scene as entrepreneurs, what will you tell them?
First of all, like coal, the steam engine, gas, oil and electricity of the past, technology today is leading the world’s 4th industrial revolution, so there isn’t a more impactful space to be in at the moment. Secondly, find a problem, stay true to solving this problem and never forget why you started in the first place. Seek advice regularly, continue to upskill and partner where necessary.