Cool Jobs: Jason Njoku Brings Nollywood to International Forefront

IROKO Partners founder talks global expansion, million-dollar deals

Jason Njoku, iROKO Partners founder and CEO (Image: iROKO)

We have good news for you. You can have a cool career and make a good living. No need to choose between loving your job and paying your mortgage. The following profile, part of the BlackEnterprise.com Cool Jobs series, offers a peek into the nuts and bolts, perks and salaries behind enjoyable careers.

Web entrepreneur Jason Njoku, a British Nigerian national, left England in 2010 to return to Lagos, Nigeria and pursue the idea for his online venture. It proved to be the smartest move he ever made.

With offices in London, Lagos and New York, iROKO Partners has five Web brands including online film distributor iROKOtv and the music streaming platform iROKING. After accumulating 152 million views in 2011—and set to hit 250 million this year— iROKO is Africa’s largest content provider on the YouTube and Dailymotion platforms. Add to that success the $8 million investment the company received earlier this year over two rounds, led by U.S.-based hedge fund Tiger Global, and you have the makings of success.

For this special edition of Cool Jobs, BlackEnterprise.com caught up with Njoku to talk his career awakening, his return to Nigeria, and his determination to expand his business across the globe.

BlackEnterprise.com: What was the impetus for launching iROKO Partners?

Njoku: Moving home penniless at the age of 29 was a pretty humbling experience. After a number of failed businesses, I had nowhere else to go but home. It wasn’t cool. But once I was back at home and spending more time with my mother, I noticed how her TV viewing habits had changed. She was more interested in Nollywood films than Eastenders (a long-running popular UK soap opera).

In an effort to try and source more films for her, I instinctively went online as I’m an internet geek. It’s where everything begins and ends for me. I couldn’t find a reliable source of Nollywood movies online and so the idea for iROKOtv was born.

Why did you choose to launch the company in Lagos, Nigeria?

In the early days of iROKO Partners, I attempted to launch and run the business from my bedroom at my mom’s house. After a couple of months, I realized that this wasn’t possible. Yes, I could watch a bunch of Nollywood movies on DVDs at home, no problem. But to actually purchase the movies and have knowledge of the industry, which is quite fragmented, I had to totally immerse myself in the arena.

Nollywood moves at lightning speed and business is conducted fairly informally, so being thousands of miles away at the end of a phone line was never going to work. I had to be in Alaba Market, where the business of Nollywood is conducted. I had to be on movie sets, I had to be building relationships—so I got on a plane and moved to Lagos.

Our company sells Nigerian entertainment to the rest of the world; We couldn’t be anywhere else but Nigeria. We have people on the ground, with local knowledge and industry contacts.

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