“There is little success where there is little laughter” — Andrew Carnegie
The biggest bet that turned into the biggest win for me in 2022, was trusting myself enough to start SentientXT. Especially, coming on the heels of the back-to-back challenges of Ballgecko.
I didn’t want to start an Agency — I didn’t want to start an exact replica of the various shops Iyke and I had worked out of over the last decade.
I wanted to start and I did start (along with Iyke) a creative company that venerates creativity and demonstrates results. Creativity delivers an advantage for businesses who need to convince people to take specific actions. Campaigns are sacred rites, that can change the direction of a business, can create/cost jobs, start social movements, change culture, inspire changemakers, and help define what’s next. Creativity matters, Emotional Creativity matters even more!
Starting SentientXT was always a matter of when rather than if, all my life there has always been one clear vision: solve the most difficult business problems with creativity, technology and human intuition.
That’s what we are doing with SentientXT(SXT).
SentientXT is shorthand for Sentient Extended Technology. It’s derived from Sentience — It’s the capacity to have/experience feelings, based on a level of human awareness and cognition.
People are illogical, yet in our variate nature, we behave within patterns, and one erratic moment only sets the tone for a repetitive cycle in the future. This is simply because everything we do can be sequenced against a set of universally established emotions.
We may speak various languages, behave within the gambit of different cultures, earn disparate income, still we share the same emotions.
Learning to Pause, Restrategise,
Roughly over 2 years ago, I decided to pursue my dream of building a media solution for the lack of inclusivity of young Africans in global conversations(and economic rewards) of sports consumption (not participation). It was (and still is) a big dream. One that, if successfully cracked would change the sports landscape in Africa completely… It’s a dream that has almost claimed my life while trying.
We successfully built the Ballgecko app; a live audio first social ecosystem for African fans with a wallet that enabled the exchange of value amongst peers through gifting, subscription and e-commerce. Mid-way this year, we got stuck, a series of unfortunate events left us out of money, people, energy and in serious debt.
Ballgecko had to be paused.
One of the biggest lessons this year was the power of taking stock, assessing the big picture and telling myself hard truths about the viability of my venture, confronting and scoping in exacting standards & detail the task required to succeed with it.
Finding My Flow
The next thing after introspection is deciding on the next course of action. Midway into the year, I was competely frozen, I had tied my life purpose and creative energy to Ballgecko that I could not bring myself to doing anything else.
I took advantage of the loneliness that followed the exit of almost all colleagues at Ballgecko to start meditating and praying more. I made a conscious effort to focus on gratitude rather than regrets. At this time our creditors and ex-colleagues were already asking about owed wages, and there was no revenue.
The pressure was mounting daily, it was like everything that wanted to go wrong was going wrong.
An impossible situation.
Iyke was already neck deep in managing the tension from people asking for cash while I was doing my best to climb out of weariness and find my creative flow again.
Iyke and I started talking to various entrepreneurs, business owners, operators and managers. We would share our Ballgecko story, what we learnt and in many cases we found common ground, they faced similar problems. Problems that could be solved with Creativity.
Within months, we went from writing/making voiceovers to full length radio commercials, media campaigns, product development and having clients on retainer.
We quickly built a reputation as ‘the fixers’ (something we overdid to the point of being overextended into the latter end of the year)…
Lyon and Iyke would fix it…
We doubled down, and turned this reputation to a superb advantage. Balancing the need to pay off our debts with an insanely high preference for surpassing client expectations. Even if it was going to cost us money. And boy, it did!
I got lucky to be able to connect fully with the mentorship dimension of my relationship with Oje Ojeaga, a fine role model, senior creative and an advertising genius.
When it became clear, I would need to pause on Ballgecko, Oje was a strong adviser on pausing rather than ending.
“Lyon, you would never put out that statement about ending anything. I understand you are tired and all, but forget about any nonsense statement…” — Oje
When I would write the copy/scripts for our first campaign as SXT, Oje was patient enough to help review my ideas, enriching my mind and perspective with insightful thinking and polished word-smithing.
A Happy Company
As we continued on the bounce, I had to recruit a new team for SentientXT. Getting back into recruiting was difficult because my people challenges with Ballgecko was still quite fresh in my mind.
After giving it a lot of thought, I formulated a hiring policy. I would only hire people who were happy by our job offer. We would negotiate with potential employees in such a way that they were happy with our remuneration offer, and excited enough to share our perspective on doing meaningful creative work that solves the hardest problems for brands/businesses.
I also ensured that everyone in our resource pipeline were exciting folks, they stirred up a well of happiness in me. I looked forward to working with them, sharing the same workspace with them everyday.
We are turning into the new year on the back of a strong wind of growth that is as equally uncommon as it is astounding, and are recruiting into our growing team, and I am excited about the possibilities ahead of us as a company and business. More so, about the fantastic folks joining us!
We also decided on a 4-day work week for everyone at SXT. Our week ends on Thursdays, adding an extra day to the weekend. So far, this suits us well, and has brought a sense of urgency to our work. Nothing is delayed that doesn’t need to be delayed. We ship work faster, and our clients are happier.
As we take on the new year, we are going to keep exploring ways to be more intentional about being a happy company in every way we can.
We have enjoyed an impressive start to our journey at SXT, having only fully launched in Oct/Nov 2022.
Every business is defined by the people it serves. We made a decision to serve only bold brands at SXT. Brands that need to win, not brands who would like the idea of winning. In our earliest days, we took on a certain client, a relationship that got stifled over time. Before resigning the account, I could trace the challenge to the fact that we were never meant to work on the brand. All brands could be great brands, but not all brands are bold brands. This brand wasn’t one.
We unlocked a few bold brands this year. I wish I could talk about them all, but I would rather let the work do the talking.
Things to do more of in the new year
Trust my guts: I doubted my instincts at various times this year, and it cost me heavily each time. I am looking forward to a more principled and deliberate approach to everything in 2023.
Bet on people: Opportunity and access still remains unequal in Africa, I would always believe in the potential and capacity in everyone I meet.
Ballgecko continues: If there is anything we have learnt, it’s that Ballgecko requires a ton of cash to scale, we are working towards a relaunch around June 2023.
I am grateful for the opportunity to create daily. And finally, to build a creative business in partnership with discerning and ambitious clients looking to drive results that matter.
Bring on 2023.