Why Africa needs its own “Silicon Valley HBO” series


Silicon Valley: The 8 episode series on HBO that premiered on 6th April and is currently enjoying over a 1.6 millions views per week, behind Game of thrones’ record breaking 6.6 million weekly views. Actually the metrics of the Silicon Valley series are quite a stunner given the fact that it’s a much specific and minuscule genre –tech and startups. Critics are lauding it for being closest to the true representation of what really happens in the valley. In fact, it has already landed a contract extension to air the second season later in the year according to theVerge.

Forget the blockbuster Facebook startup story, The Social Network or even Google’s themed, The Internship and soon to be Twitter’s hatchery based on Nick Bilton’s bestseller. The heart of these movies is filled by hype and spin which has become the new face of branding. However, Silicon Valley just nails it where it hurts; from the Valley’s obsession with startup names, bogus valuation theories, mimicking some astute figures such as PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel played as Peter Gregory and even features a pseudo cameo roles involving Facebook co-founder Dustin Muskovitz, Tesla’s Elon Musk and Google’s chairman –Eric Schmidt. Skeptics, too, allude to the fact that the script is on point. Let’s take this straight home, there have been some web/T.V series about startups in Africa such as this Kenyan one but they still lack a grain of storytelling. Truths unfolding in the back stage. And the unfortunate bit about them is they don’t gain sufficient market traction. I will choose to believe that it’s due to production constraints in covering the entire continent.

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There has been a cacophony of terms to syllabify the legendary Valley in Africa for example the fast rising Silicon Cape in South Africa and Silicon Savannah in Kenya. U.S based Ugandan digital strategist T.M.S Ruge sternly warned the quite nascent tech eco-system in Africa to lose their newly found coolness and stop levitating about sounding synonymous with Silicon Valley. “Stop it, instead focus on building solutions to the problems that continue to eschew local communities” to put it in context. It felt more like the Lean startup architect’s –Steve Blank– rhetoric about getting out of the building and doing something real on the grassroots.

Unfortunately, most startup communities continue to shun advice given to them about focusing on locally relevant products. I have to note that some few brilliant ones are executing to the bone, which is very encouraging. However, the majority instead look at the likes of Silicon Valley models for strategic inspiration besides heavily consuming digital content from blogs and startup themed movies.

As this awesome blogger clearly put it; he no longer reads TechCrunch for obvious reasons; different portrayal of success and failure in perspective to an African entrepreneur among others.

The predominant image of Africa is still ruled by clichés and stereotypes, misconception and lack of information. The attention the continent and its people get in most of the international media is that as continent of extremes – extreme poverty and extreme exploitation.

But there is another reality, that of a thriving generation of African change makers who want to drive their communities, their countries, their continent forward. Young people, but also more established, who have this special future oriented mindset, trusting in their own capacities, their education and talent, their professional training and ambitions, their willpower and pride.

Their enormous efforts are mostly wasted due to a dearth of proper and adequate information about the uniqueness of the African markets (54 countries) in comparison to the rest of the world. Their is sheer lack of strategic information to guide entrepreneurs in their stormy strides towards innovation. The stories that continue to brace their news feeds are predominantly Sugar candy success stories from traditional media outlets or perhaps some TechCrunchy kind of headlines from a slew of local blogs still copy pasted from international sites. I commend new media avenues such as this, this and  this among others that have dedicated their resources to exclusively telling the real tech hard-talk-in-your-face narrative about what is really happening on ground especially through blog entries featuring analyses, news and reviews .

We appreciate the baby steps taken but there is still a long way to go. Production of content for T.V in form of movies or series should be next on the agenda. Undeniably, in Africa T.V greatly drives social media and vice versa. There is no better opportunity to tell the African entrepreneurial sojourn than what the T.V/social media blitz presents. No matter the packaging –web or local T.V– the real stories about success and failure must get out there to the budding entrepreneurs. A bold move by Jason Njoku was to share his insights, fears and experiences on his personal blog, a few more African entrepreneurs are heeding this route and that is just what we need to get started.

Any suggestions for a future name of an African startup/tech themed T.V series, that tells the real story?

PS: the name Silicon + [insert African acronym] not accepted.

Image of Silicon Valley Cast