Posts in Projects

Here and Back Again: ChattrBoxNg and The Big Story 

The last 3 months have been a roller coaster on all fronts. Last night, I and my team recorded the 12th episode of the ChattrBox podcast and it dawned on me that we’d logged 3 months on this thing already. Incredible. 

Now, some backstory. 

It all began on some Friday night, late in May,  when my friend Henry Igwe – Copywriter and Editor at Naij.com – showed up at my house in Yaba. He was in the area to meet up with some folk to record some other podcast he was working on at the time. Recording didn’t happen. Logistics nwhatnot. It was too late to head back home so he came over to my place. We talked about work and stuff and memories and trajectories from Uniben. When he tried to sell me the idea of us starting a podcast together, I kinda shrugged it off. Like, I was too busy with work at the moment and I’d not-too-recently started managing a new team. There were KPIs to be met. Too busy, maybe later, I said. We left it at that. But Henry is a marketer and, by the next weekend, I was heading to a studio in Lekki to record a podcast whose name we hadn’t even decided on yet. We figured out the name just minutes before recording began. The Chatterbox Podcast, by Henry, Solomon and Cyclone. (Cyclone is a singer and an actress. She was in uniben too) 

Fast forward to the first weekend in August. We had put about 8 episodes out already on SoundCloud and were getting some good feedback. Then we went on Ebony Life TV as guests on The Crunch. Henry was basically working his media connects and marketing the podcast with the single aim of getting us to do it in the big leagues: on radio. Ebony Life TV was the first crack at the good stuff. 

We moved on from that and progressively got better with the pod. Better traction too. Owen, friend and classmate of mine,  joined us the next weekend and became a regular on the  pod as Cyclone got progressively more preoccupied to continue with us. By mid August, radio came calling. Henry’s connects had come through and we answered the call to do a “clean” version of our podcast on radio. You know, for the NBC nwhatnot. Can’t have Henry cursing on radio and getting us corporate flak. Lol. 

Getting on radio was massive. LagosTalks 91.3fm is the sister station to Naija102, Beats and Classic fm. We got a 1 hour, prime time slot for the show on Saturdays. Couldn’t get much better than that. And the feedback has been great. Now, we do the radio show and still record the  podcast every weekend. Whew.

I still do my 9 to 5, working at Nigeria’s best and foremost Travel-Tech start up and that is a massive experience all on its own. Now, media is part of the mix as well. Was speaking with Stanley Azuakola (Editor/Founder of The Scoop and good friend – and classmate of mine) a few weeks ago and we joked about how I always manage to end up being on radio and/or TV, no matter where I go. Three years and three cities after, same trend. There’s no escaping this stuff.

On The Big Story, we do a quick run down and analyse the biggest stories that make the headlines every week. Same thing for the podcast, except it’s not particularly radio prim and proper nwhatnot.

Lagos is intense. There’s hardly ever any free time but we do what we must and scale the hurdles every day. We are young now anyway. Might as well expend the energy well now before our time in the sun is up. I’m eager to see how this all pans out though. Should be good.

The fifth episode of The Big Story airs today at 11am, Nigerian Time. Tune in to LagosTalks 91.3fm to catch it. Or stream it online. You can also catch up on previous (and subsequent) episodes of the ChattrBoxNg Podcast on our SoundCloud page.

Follow me on Twitter for real time updates on what I’m working on. 

The Auto Hydrogauge: Annals of Invention

Early Days

In the summer of 1997, just around the time of our Primary School Leaving Certificate exams, me and my buddy, Victor hung out together frequently on weekends. Like many of such trips at the time we were trying to test some new invention we had crafted. To be brutally apt, Victor was pretty much the brain behind those inventions. He always had a knack for tinkering with and designing electronic devices that was so uncanny it left everyone in awe. Not exactly the prodigy in schoolwork, which my teachers were wont to claim I was at the time, Victor’s extracurricular dealing, and especially his resourcefulness when it came to appliances was quite extraordinary.

I remember a certain afternoon we were at my house to test a water heater we had made from tin cans of milk – some contraption formed out of conjoining two different sets of cans via conducting wires ringed through a pair of holes punctured at adjacent positions on both cans. The can with the smaller diameter was inserted inside the other and the connecting wires intricately extended into a plug head. My folks weren’t home that afternoon. But the lady who lived next door was and she was breathing down our necks, regaling me with threats of how she was going to rat me out to my dad. We were scared shitless, and I’m not sure what scared us more – a lot of things going wrong with the testing (including us getting electrocuted), or what would happen if my neighbor ratted us out to my dad and it rubbed him wrong. We went ahead anyway. The testing proved a success, as many other subsequent tests for other inventions proved later on.

It’s important to note that we didn’t really work on anything that was groundbreaking in nature, water heaters, antennas and TV signal boosters and basically just tinkering with devices that were available to us at the time – not so terribly important stuff. We were just a bunch of curious ten year olds laden with dreams bordering on extremely ambitious for the little town we resided in at the time.

By senior high, Victor had gone on to work on an amplifier he was building from scratch which he hoped to use in our school chapel at the time. My participation in the tinkering had progressively waned but he kept on strong becoming an expert of some sort, the go-to guy for fixing electronic devices. He never did finish work on that amplifier though.

 

Christmas 2012.

I had recently returned from the NYSC Orientation Camp and spent much of the holiday season indoors to regain myself. On the week before Christmas Victor came to visit me. We had barely seen each other all year so there was a lot of catching up to do. Dinner was almost ready and we sat on the balcony regaling each other with tales and dreams. It didn’t take long before the talk of what to work on next – something that would really matter – formed the bulk of our conversation. While we bantered over ideas, the water tank in the next compound opposite my house overflowed and water seeped from beneath their gate onto the street. Seeing that was a tad irritating, like a splinter in my mind. We bantered a bit about that and then I asked how come we didn’t already have a device to control the entire process of pumping water such that the machine gets to automatically stop when the tank filled up and start itself when the tank emptied out. We pondered in silence a bit and Victor came up with a solution, using the analogy of the water system toilet tank mechanism to explain that it was possible to implement the same theory (with a little tweaking) on the tank of water pump machines if we could build a device to control the machine and the entire process.

Light bulbs were instantaneously lighting up in our heads by the time we sat at dinner. We were discussing/analyzing everything from related engineering design, sensors for the tank to electronic specifications required to build the device. Before bedtime we’d agreed that it was doable. Victor was positive he could build it and was going to procure the instruments required so he could start building the device by weekend. We didn’t yet know what to call it.

First prototype
First prototype

We went scouting the next morning for instruments and placed orders for the ones we couldn’t get that day. Within the next week a prototype was ready for a test run. By dawn on January 2, 2013, I was on a bus heading to the east to resume at my place of primary assignment for my service year. I had fears my absence may stymie the progress we’d made on the device, but Victor soldiered on and perfected the device after doing some remodeling on the prototype. We kept the channels of communication open via WhatsApp and calls. We would analyze and figure out a way to surmount challenges that crept up and Victor would tinker some more.

By June 2013, after having successfully installed the device in two locations, an opening came up to feature the device at the famed morning television show – “This Morning on ITV” on ITV Benin. Sunny Duke, the show’s anchor/producer, had heard of the device and wanted to have Victor on the show to talk about the device. I was 500 miles away so I was going to miss the opportunity to be there. After our chat on the night before the show we had just one little thorny issue left to resolve: we still hadn’t named the device. Naming a product can be a pain. We had a few options to work with but by morning we settled on the name that seemed more apt – Auto Hydrogauge. The name went up on the screen on live TV and Victor talked about the device. From the reports and pictures I got later that evening, it finally dawned on me. We had made something that mattered.

 

Moving Onwards

The TV interview/exhibition is in the distant past now and we’ve forged on to try to make the device more mainstream and marketable. We formed and registered a tech company, Royallabs Technologies, to incorporate the AHG project along with the others we have in the offing. The present goal is to develop a business strategy to put the AHG out there in the open and make it a viable, profitable product. Neither of us currently has the sufficient business acumen required yet but we’re pushing. We have a few requests pending at the moment in Benin and there’s a pretty big exhibition coming up in a few weeks at an event were a lot of people – potential clients, we hope – would be present. Word of mouth is currently what’s driving the publicity.

 

Victor talking about the AHG on ITV's This morning on ITV show
Victor talking about the AHG on ITV’s This morning on ITV show

 

The Road Ahead

When we first hatched the idea for the AHG on my balcony two Christmases ago we just wanted to do something that mattered, something that affected people’s lives for good on a large scale. We believe, with this product, we have achieved that. We understand of course that there may be other device elsewhere in the world that does what the AHG does, but we believe we’ve made something totally home grown and new in this part of the world. What’s more? It’s as effective and impactful as it is ingenious. We believe it’ll make life a lot easier.

Next point of action involves getting it out there for more people to be aware. Maybe what we need is an angel investor to make an investment that’ll push this product properly and build a fitting business model around it. Hopefully, that comes soon enough and we can set off to work on other projects. Until then, every resource available – friends, social media, word of mouth, etc – comes in handy in promoting the product.

 

Installation at a client's residence.
Installation at a client’s residence.

 

We can’t really say for now how it’ll go with the AHG project, if it’ll prove profitable or not. It’s still trying to go mainstream yet. But with Royallabs Technologies, and the repertoire of projects waiting in line to get the nod, Victor and I have finally incorporated an idea we nursed over a decade ago to build devices that makes people’s lives easier. And the Auto Hyrogauge is good start.

 

For more details on the Auto Hydrogauge and other engineering projects I’m involved in, please check out the Royallabs Technologies Facebook page.

All in a Year’s Work: My Writing Chronicles

One year is an awful long time to wait for a new blog post. I’ve been busy and lazy at the same time. Very busy with work and other ish and lazily hiding under the guise of that to leave this here blog (and you my teeming audience *straight face*)unattended to.

But I’ve started this post near the end. Let’s get back to the start real quick.

Last year was a tough year. The long wait to get drafted for service pretty much gnawed away any inspiration I had to keep the blog – and some other stuff – going. Being made to suffer due to an inherent ineptitude/irregularity in a system, it took a lotta grace to not lose my mind. Anyways, all of that ended in September as the draft finally came at the end of the month.

By mid October I got a mail from one of the editors over at Ynaija, telling me I’d been selected to be among the Y! Superblogger project. The gist was all over the web, on Twitter and various blogs, and I was awed, to be honest. Friends were ecstatic for me and I felt like, yeah, now Imma be able to move outta my father’s house and finally have a girlfriend, yo. Lol… I checked the shortlisted bloggers from across the country and I kept wondering how I made the cut considering I was arguably the most inconsistent writer in the lot. I mean the list had people, quite renowned, who updated their blogs daily! I guess I was picked for my content, maybe.

Anyway, the Superblogger project kicked off in the first week November – same time I shipped out to camp in service of the Fatherland. The project required me to send in an article every week that month so I quickly wrote 3 in a matter of days and sent in the drafts as it wouldn’t have been possible to write in camp. My first piece went up November 14 – just over a week into camp (which was a horrendous week as the first week usually is, but we’ll be reading about that on another post). It’s been a good ride since, getting the avenue to reach a wider audience. And the mere satisfaction that came from seeing a lotta people appreciate my art and have a discourse on Twitter about stuff I wrote far outweighed the persistent inner turmoil it took to write them.

Also, at the turn of the new year, my buddy Stanley Azuakola (yep, Google the name already. Dude’s a rock star writer) of Guardian and Ynaija fame, told me about the project he was working on and gave me the honour of being a part of it.The ScoopNG site went up on January 6 and it’s been magnificent. Writing about politics, public policy and affairs is hard for me as those aren’t really my forte but the opportunity has helped me learn to pay keener attention to Nigerian politics and affairs thereby helping to make useful contributions to the national discourse.

So Imma just put the link to the Superblogger and Scoop articles I’ve written since that got published. Check them out if you haven’t. A second reading won’t hurt too:

The Limit of Intelligence was my very first piece that got published by Ynaija in the Superblogger series. I wrote about factors we overlook which had a bearing on students’ performance in college.
Looking Through Time is arguably the coolest piece I wrote last year. This one got tweeps tweeting about it for days.
The Story of Death, a piece borne out of an old blog post of mine went up on Christmas eve.
Obeying the Clarion Call was my first piece (Scoopinion) for The ScoopNG. I basically ranted and analysed about the NYSC scheme.
The Value of Vanity was my first post this year for Ynaija. Looking in the mirror inspired this one.
Grading Good Governance was written when the Minister of Information’s good governance tour came to my place of primary assignment in February.
Water board blues was borne out of a nostalgia for the days when our taps worked.
Curriculum Adaptation went up on the ScoopNG in March.
Virtual Connections and the Distance Dilema went up in April after a hiatus. This one has a poignant feel to it.
Winning the Porting Race, published by the ScoopNG in May was about addressing the drama and attendant issues with the MNP service launch late April.
When the wells dry up addresses the possible issues that will define Nigeria when the sun sets on the golden age of oil.

So, there you have it, the first chapters of my Ynaija and ScoopNG chronicles till date. Check ’em out and lemme know what you think. Remember, sharing is caring.

It’s good to be back. I’ve been busy with work, serving the Fatherland and all. Working at a broadcasting corporation barely gives me enough time to do other things. But I try to find the time to write and do stuff I love still. Many thanks to my buddy AY for consistently but ever so subtly nudging me to post here again. Writing is hard, more so if you’re writing for a magazine/newsletter – it’s pretty much like having an assignment hanging over your head everyday for the rest of your life – but it’s exhilarating stuff too and I love it.

I’m grateful for the audience Ynaija and The ScoopNG afford me. All that’s left now is for the pay to start rolling in when I write and then I’d truly have arrived, hehe.

Most importantly, I’m grateful for you, reader, who visits this lowly blog of mine to see my latest musings.

*throws on cool shades and work up my Arnold Schwarzenegger voice*

I’ll be back.