Duke Man Crush Monday: Jason Chukwuma Njoku

Jason Chukwuma Njoku was born on 11 December 1980 in Deptford, South East London to a family of Nigerian immigrants. He is a British-Nigerian businessman, the co-founder and CEO of iROKOtv; a video-on-demand service for Nigerian movies.

Although, he was born in England, Jason didn’t experience affluence. His father even abandoned him shortly after his birth, leaving him alongside his four siblings to be raised by their mother, a full-time National Health Service Worker at the time. Her earnings could barely go half way the responsibilities before her.

He attended school in London, before later moving to a village in Nigeria from the age of 12 -15. Upon his return from Nigeria, he attended college where he completed his A-Levels and in 2005, he graduated from The University of Manchester where he studied Chemistry and made a 2:1.

He launched Brash Magazine, a student publication which ran for three years before it closed in 2008.

After eleven failed business ideas between 2005-2010, he went back to his mother’s apartment in Deptfort at age 30. Some of his business ideas included a blog network, a T-shirt business, and a web design company.

According to him, “I spent five good years of my life trying everything unsuccessfully. ”

During his stay with his mother, he discovered her television viewing habit and how she watched more of Nigerian movies than the British soaps then he said to himself, “The West had Hulu and Netflix – Africa had nothing, why not capitalize on the market since Africa had nothing like this yet?”

He also noted that in Africa, Nollywood movies were easy to find but reverse was the case outside of Africa as movie fans overseas took to sharing movies on YouTube, chopping them into 10-minute long videos to get around time limits the service (Youtube) then imposed.

Realising that there were opportunities in the TV industry in terms of internet television network, gaining inspiration from Western companies such as Netflix and Hulu, he decided to pick a career in Tech Industry; starting a Nollywood online distribution business.

He flew to Lagos, riding on the financial help of his best friend Bastian Gotter, a fellow University of Manchester graduate, to start the purchase of online licences of Nollywood movies.

At his two-bedroom apartment in Festac, Lagos where he worked, he struck a deal with YouTube in Germany as the official channel partner for Nollywood company.

In 2010, Jason and his partner Bastian Gotter launched NollywoodLove, a YouTube channel, which was profitable within just two months of launch.

In the same year, through an article by Sarah Lacy who worked at the time for Tech Crunch, NollywoodLove caught the attention of US-based venture capital fund Tiger Global who were interested in expanding their reach in emerging markets.

Series A investment of $3 million was secured from Tiger Global in 2010 and the company launched a stand-alone video-on-demand movie platform, iROKOtv, on 1 December 2011 with the site drawing 178 viewers from countries around the world.

Jason and Gotter have ever since gone on to raise an additional $22 million from international VCs, with inclusion from Investment AB Kinnevik and RISE Capital and have used the investment to build an extensive film catalog of 5,000 movies, launch offices in Lagos, New York, and London and invest in improving the company’s technology resource. Notably, Iroko has gone to make other funding investment of about $40 million.

In August 2013, alongside his business partners Bastian Gotter and Mary Remmy Njoku, Njoku launched a $2 million investment vehicle for Lagos-based Internet start-ups called Spark. The company initially invested in 11 companies, including a drinks distribution company called Drinks.ng, a real-estate and property online letting agency called ToLet.com.ng, and a hotel room booking site, called Hotels.ng, which has gone on to raise $1.2 million in VC investment from EchoVC Pan-Africa Fund and Omidyar Network.

In 2015, Jason decided to focus the company’s attention on an Android mobile app, rather than a streaming platform to target broadband infrastructure problems that Africa poses.

Through a blog post in 2015, he officially announced the closure of four startups considered failed businesses, namely: Bus.com.ng (an online bus ticketing service ), Insured.ng (an insurance comparison platform), Giddimint.com.ng (an online fashion store) and Christians.ng, an online dating platform for Christians.

In July 2012, Jason was recognised by Forbes Africa as one of the ‘Ten Young African Millionaires to Watch’. And on 29 August 2013, he was named as the CNBC All Africa Business Awards Young Leader of the Year for West Africa. He has also been named as one of Fast Company’s Top 1000 Most Creative People in Business.

Jason Njoku married Nollywood film star and producer Mary Remmy Njoku in Festac, Lagos, on 18 August 2012. The duo are blessed with three children.

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