Africa’s Largest and Fastest Growing Social Network | Interview with LAGbook’s Chidi Nwaogu

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LAGbook  was founded in 2010 by two twin brothers Chika and Chidi Nwaogu when they were just 19 years old and freshmen at University.

Today they say its  Africa’s largest and fastest growing social networking utility with over 4,000 daily new sign-ups. LAGbook is most popular in India, Romania, Germany, Pakistan, United Kingdom, Malaysia, Philippines, Canada, Turkey, Bangladesh, United States, Mexico, France, Denmark, Indonesia, China, Bulgaria, Australia, Israel, Hong Kong and Nigeria.

They also add that LAGbook ranks #2 in the city of Yaba-Lagos, where the social network was incepted, and #37 in the city of Hirtshal, Denmark.

But its not the social networking site we are after but their age, courage and energy and its amazing how beauty inspired entrepreneurship!

TechZulu caught up with Chidi Nwaogu, co-founder and CEO brings you the energy behind the twin co founders.

What is LAGbook?

LAGbook is an African-based social network for meeting new people everyday. We’re focused on expanding the social experience of our users, and not limiting them to connecting and sharing with the people in their life or the people they already know. We’re a social discovery network, and according to our Data Use Policy, it’s okay to add as friend, poke or send private messages to LAGbook members that you don’t know outside LAGbook.

When was it launched?

LAGbook was created on 17 Apr. 2010 and launched on 25 Apr. 2010, same day we purchased the domain name, lagbook.com

Where is LAGbook based?

LAGbook is based in Lagos-Nigeria, with operations in Yaba and Festac Town.

Who are the founders and team and their backgrounds?

LAGbook was founded by my twin (Chika) and I (Chidi). As of writing, my twin and I serve as the Co-CEOs and Co-Presidents at LAGbook. We’re a team of 5. Other people on the LAGbook Team include Josh Osemwegie (our Chief Financial Officer), Nosa Ilegbinehi (our Chief Publicity Officer), and Emmanuel Alugo (our Chief Technology Officer).

Josh Osemwegie is a graduate of Geophysics at Covenant University, Otta, Ogun-Nigeria. My twin, Emmanuel Alugo, Nosa Ilegbinehi and I are undergraduates at the University of Lagos, Akoka, Lagos-Nigeria.

Who are your mentors, role models?

We don’t have mentors at the moment. We read up and many-a-times our experience teaches us the best and bad practices in engineering a social corporation, both technical, financial, and marketing.

We’ve got loads of role models, which includes Mark Zuckerberg, Larry Page, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Paul Allen, Jack Dorsey, Sean Parker, and Linus Tovald. These are all great tech people, who have changed the world of computers, internet and software. People we admire.

What inspired you to come up with LAGbook?

It’s a pretty lengthy story if I’m to go into the little details, but I’ll try as much as possible to make it brief, yet adequate.

It was during our first semester. We got intrigued on the faculty of a beautiful girl we saw on campus. I believed she wasn’t a Science student, and my twin believed she was a Science student. We argued and had to adjourned the argument until we found a way to verify who’s right and who’s wrong.

Then I (Chidi) brainstormed on a little yet brilliant idea to verify who’s right and not. We create a social network for students of the University of Lagos. Students have to register with their matriculation numbers, and supply upon registration, their course of study, faculty, department, mode of entry, year of entry etc.

Students will create a social circle that mimics their social activities in school. It all worked out fine. We had over 3,000 students registered within two months of run. Finally, the girl whose information we wanted registered on LAGbook. We recognised her of course with her stunning profile picture. Unfortunately I was wrong and my twin was right. She’s a Science student.

We finally closed our argument with a massive and growing asset in our control, LAGbook. Expansion came thereafter. We expanded to the Nigerian population, next to the 24 African English speaking countries, next to everyone with African descent and finally to the youth demographic (18-30) around the world.

Why the name?

LAGbook was initially founded as an exclusive social network for students of the University of Lagos. We wanted a name UNILAG students will appreciate and see as their own and a name that will permit expansion in the nearest future.

LAGbook fitted this description perfectly. UNILAG students saw LAGbook as theirs, thinking it means Unilagbook or Lagosbook. This reflects on our fast growth after inception. Over 3,000 UNILAG students were registered on LAGbook after our second month of run.

After expansion, we emphasised the capitalisation of the letters “LAG”, which means “Ladies And Gentlemen”. After expansion, Nigerians, Africans and everybody accepted it and this reflects in our growth curve. We attract over 4,000 new members everyday from over 200 countries around the world.

How does LAGbook work?

First, people met new people or made new friends through traditional social networks like schools, churches/mosques, neighbourhoods, or any social gathering of people. But we cannot deny the fact that some people are shy or uncomfortable to walk up to others and introduce themselves or business ideas. Thus, the need for social discovery networks arise.

LAGbook allow hundreds of thousands of people to meet at a single place where ever they may be, regardless of religion, location, sex, age or social status. People get to make new and long lasting friends, business partners or life partners. Whatever you’re looking for in a person, chances are that some other user on LAGbook is looking for the same thing in you.

LAGbook caters for the youth demographic between the ages 18-30, because they are the population of people who wants to be discovered, be heard, explore, redefine themselves and their status. They are the inventive/innovative part of the society that have the brain, will and drive to change the larger society. At LAGbook, we want to bring this population of people together and foster synergy that will bring about local and international change.

What Problem Do You Solve?

Many social networks today limit people to connecting and sharing with the people they already know, or the people in their life. People are prohibited to add other social network users they do not know. This prevents people from making new friends or meeting potential business partners.

As a young African entrepreneur with little funding, you may want to meet new people on social networks that may help in the growth and development of your new internet start-up. This idea is prohibited by the policy of some social networks to add only the people you know. Most people who attempt to add people they don’t know, gets blocked for adding new friends for a certain period of time.

At LAGbook, we’re focused on expanding your social experience. We are a social network for meeting new people everyday and not limited to only the people you already know. On LAGbook, a member can have unlimited amount of friends and add unlimited amount of members everyday to their friend list. Thereʼs no upper limit or restriction. We are the social network without boundaries. That’s why you see “Add as Friend” on LAGbook and not “Add Friend”.

LAGbook is Africa’s largest and fastest growing social networking utility with over 4,000 daily new sign-ups. We’re most popular in India, Romania, Germany, Pakistan, United Kingdom, Malaysia, Philippines, Canada, Turkey, Bangladesh, United States, Mexico, France, Denmark, Indonesia, China, Bulgaria, Australia, Israel, Hong Kong and Nigeria. LAGbook ranks #2 in the city of Yaba-Lagos, where the social network was incepted, and #37 in the city of Hirtshal, Denmark.

Many of our users are satisfied with our social discovery solution. Here’s the words of a Kenyan user, KHALIDA JUMA MAKASI:

“Hey guys you are awesome, I live in kenya and I’ve always wanted to make friends with Nigerians and thanks to you now I can!”

Why LAGbook when we got Facebook big in this Space?

LAGbook and Facebook offer totally different social services. Facebook connects you with the people you already know, the people in your life. LAGbook expands your social experience, we’re the social network for meeting new people. A Social Discovery Network.

Twitter keeps you in touch with your favourite celebrities and interests. Myspace is a social entertainment network that suggests new musical acts to you and keeps you updated with new releases of your favourite musical acts.

These are all social networks with different niche or approaches to social networking.

Who is your target user?

LAGbook is targeted at the youth demographic (18-30), though we permit registrations of people 13 and older.

Where do you see LAGbook in five years?

LAGbook two years ago was a start-up with 3,000 members. Now, its a social networking giant with over 300,000 members. In five years, we should have well over 10 million registered members. We’ll not only be an African phenomenon, we’ll be a global social brand. This is based on current growth data extrapolation.

Have you had any challenges?

Since the inception of LAGbook we have had countless challenges, which mostly revolved around finances. Raising fund to meet up with the increasing user growth and activities on LAGbook has not been easy though. Some day two months ago, our servers crashed and burnt. We went offline for almost 8 hours. This was because of the crazy traffic to LAGbook, one we clearly weren’t ready for.

Thanks to the fund we realised from our recent partnership with Blackberry Nigeria, LAGbook was able to bypass the phase of slow page-loading as a result of low internet bandwidth. We also raised fund for CPC advertising, which doubled sign-ups. We also had the luxury of adopting new programming and hosting techniques; techniques we couldn’t afford to practice without funds.

Recently, we faced our greatest challenge, which was laying off over 80% of our workforce in order to maximise profit. So many people criticised this move, calling it “tyranny and unjust”.

Are you top in Africa as a social network or do you have competition?

LAGbook is the top social networking service born out of Africa. We’re the only African social network with international penetration. We’re the only African social network recognised on Wikipedia’s List of social networking websites and DiggChat, a website that collates your favourite social networks under one roof.

We’re the largest social network born out of Africa. Before year-end, we should hit the 700,000 member mark and join the successes of social networks with over 1 million registered members by March 2013. We’re Africa’s fastest growing social network. We attract over 100,000 new members every month, and if there is any local competition from other African-born social networks, it will only fizzle out in little or no time.

What is your business model?

At LAGbook, we rake in revenue through online advertising. We have a number of virtual advertising services on LAGbook that we offer our users for a reasonable and affordable fee.

Below is a list of all our advertising services:

  1. Featured: This service helps our users get their contents on LAGbook more visible. This includes contents like Videos, Photos, Blog Posts and Forum Threads.
  2. Dating: This service helps our users extend LAGbook into a dating community.
  3. Friend Suggestion: This service helps our users promote their profile on LAGbook. This makes them more popular with hundreds of new friend requests every day.
  4. Sponsored: This service helps our users promote their website to hundreds of thousands of people.
  5. Search Ads: This service helps companies/business leverage on the increasing activity of users searching for other users using our Search box utility. The search ads is displayed before top organic results, giving them the power to divert huge traffic to their LAGbook pages, or external website.
  6. Backdrop: This service helps companies/businesses promote their brand to hundreds of thousands of people by taking over our Login/Sign up page. An image of the company’s artwork is displayed as the backdrop of our Login/Sign up page.

We’re working round the clock to introduce new innovate ways of monetizing at LAGbook.

Briefly tell us how you fund your business?

LAGbook is funded basically on revenue realised through our online advertising services. Since inception, we’ve recorded 256 advertisers and have realised revenue spanning over 5 million Naira. LAGbook is funded with money realised from our advertising services, our website development company, our venture capital firm (LAGbook Capital), and our lovely Dad.

Any partnership deals that have benefited you?

Yes, we’ve partnership with an appreciable number of African and multi-national companies. LAGbook has been in partnership with Etisalat Nigeria and Blackberry Nigeria. Currently, we’re in partnership with Dropbox to expand its African reach.

Sam Wakoba

Sam Wakoba travels around the world's technology hubs and events writing about startups, VC’ s and ventures. Spends nights reviewing trending gadgets, ICT initiatives, and disrupting technology.

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