Benjamindada.com, modern tech media in SSA

2022: Coming of age

2022 was our coming-of-age year. We doubled our team, grew our user base by 50% and registered for tax. Find out more about what we did and how we performed.

2022: Coming of age
2022 at Benjamindada.com

The year 2022 makes it 4.5 years since we launched our flagship product—a media publication, benjamindada.com, that shares stories about tech and innovation in Africa.

Barely a year into writing on the site I was convinced that this was a project bigger than me. So, I registered a company to house our efforts.

Benjamindada.com went live on June 17, 2018, while BCSL, the parent company, was incorporated on September 5, 2019.

In another article, I will share a bit more about our journey leading up to this point.

But for now, I aim to answer the question(s): What have we done in 2022? and How have we performed?

To answer the first question, I break down our operations into three key segments. The segments are product ops (content), technical ops (engineering infra), and business ops (team, revenue & accounting).

What have we done in 2022?

Product

In our line of work, as a media business, our primary produce is content. And this content can come in different formats; audio, visual, audiovisual or textual. Before now, our primary content has been text-based. We experimented with audio, in the form of voicing out our stories—never actually done a native podcast.

While we continue to do textual content, we wanted to explore other forms of content because we thought it was more engaging. However, the roadblock to non-textual content was the huge capital outlay required to produce anything meaningful and up to our standards. Well, we finally shattered that ceiling in 2022!

Put together, here are the new things that we did in 2022:

  • Launched a routine audio conversation on tech and startups in Africa — BD Talks
    • BD Talks was born out of our Q1 retreat where we were figuring out how to provide more value to our audience, following advancement in tech — audio-centric conversations held on Clubhouse and increasingly, Twitter Spaces.
    • Twitter Spaces finally became publicly available in the last quarter of 2021.
    • So, we hosted our first episode in April 2022, where we got recipients of the famed UK Global Talent Visa to share tips with others in our community.
  • 📓 Launched a new web seriesThe Investor’s Corner (TIC).
    • TIC was a missing part of our tech-triangle puzzle made up of talents, founders and investors. More of this is in this cover article on why TIC.
    • Last year, we published a series targeted at talents—Under the Hoodie (UTH), and founders—Zero to Scale (ZTS). But nothing yet for investors.
    • Since its launch in October, we’ve produced six episodes of TIC speaking with the likes of Future Africa, Ingressive Capital, and DFS Labs.
  • 📹 Produced a video series on foundersZero To Scale (ZTS) II
    • Remember ZTS? It has now become our first-ever video production as a company.
    • In this nine-part series, we spoke to five male entrepreneurs and four female entrepreneurs. It took a lot of intentionalities to achieve such a split, glad that we managed to get that representation right.
    • Currently, we are now in the post-production and distribution phase. We welcome partners, sponsors and volunteers that can help us to spread the word about what African founders are creating. Please reach out via [myfirstname]@benjamindada.com

We did all these while running our usual programming. We:

  • Published 50 newsletters (one per week)
  • Wrote over 650 articles (about two per working day)
  • Worked with more than 70 clients and partners

There were other ancillary offerings we piloted in 2022 like our:

  • 📊 African startups funding tracker
    • Building this database was a no-brainer for us because we always have first-hand access to funding news and details
    • Since tracking in January, this database has proved useful for our reporting. For instance, without waiting for anyone else to publish 2022’s funding numbers, we can confidently tell you that it’s $3.6 billion
    • As a by-product, I know people who use this database to:
      • find startups, in Africa, that they could connect to or work at
      • do other non-funding related analysis

As a result, we will be keeping this and working to improve it further. Our MVP was built with a mix of Google Sheets, and Airtable. But we are looking to visualise more with tools like Data Studio.

Technical

This section refers to both the things you see and don’t see. For instance, our website is a product and runs on a Content Management System (CMS). What you see is the website, but what you don’t see is how we make it load fast, and useful.

This year, we:

  • migrated from a self-hosted CMS to a managed CMS which we pay for monthly. We did this:
    • to ensure a seamless, mobile-responsive user experience for our visitors
    • to natively offer premium features like comments, site search, newsletter reactions and user account management to our users. For us, as admins, we can now see analytics like top referral sources to our site, actual posts that drive sign-up, and user engagement rates
    • to be able to focus more on the content and less on the site engineering, uptime and security
  • added Microsoft Clarity for enhanced insights into users behaviour
    • Since we’ve added so many new features, it was important for us to see how our users are interacting with them.
    • With Clarity, we are able to see screen records of how users navigate our site. We also get insights into things like dead links, rage clicks, quick backs, excessive scrolling.
    • We only implemented this in Q4 and can expect to make more use of it in 2023.
  • indexed our site on Bing’s search engine
    • Before now, we’ve only relied on Google’s webmaster/search console. However, this year, we decided to become more intentional about our presence on Bing, despite it being very secondary to Google Search

Other user-focused features we added to our site include:

  • Social share buttons — for ease of sharing articles you like
  • Pagination — to improve page speed by reducing the number of content our site has to load at once
  • Table of Contents — to save our readers time and help them quickly jump to the part of our article that could directly answer their question
  • Progress bar — to help people know how far they have come and what's left, when reading an article on our site

In summary, from a product point of view, our promise to our users is an aesthetically-pleasing site that loads fast and easy to navigate.

Business

This section will encapsulate every other thing it takes for us to operate as a business, aside from product and engineering. To operate as a business, we need:

  • a team
    • In 2022, we doubled our team from three (Daniel, Johnstone, Dara) to six (Johnstone, Dara, Anda, Emmanuel, David, Jumoke), excluding me. We also gave two interns an opportunity to work with us and we paid a stipend.
    • Our team increase focused on replacing staff that had moved on, bringing in dedicated talents for engineering and accounts.
    • In Q1 2023, we’d add one more talent focused on community-led growth
  • proper record-keeping and statutory compliance
    • in the second half of the year, we contracted Jumoke (a Chartered Accountant) to prepare a management report for the past three years (2019-2022), before asking her to stay on with us in a more full-time capacity. We’ve negotiated with an independent auditor to audit our books in Q1 2023.
    • we registered with FIRS and have filed our VAT every month since September 2022
    • In 2023, we will register with other statutory bodies like the LIRS, file annual returns with CAC and file other outstanding taxes with the FIRS

Hopefully, that gives you a sense of some of the work we did in 2022. Now, quickly, how did we perform

How have we performed in 2022?

As an organisation, we have three major performance indicators: user growth, impact and revenue.

Users

This can be a tricky thing to measure or track because of how the different analytics platforms track, report and define these numbers.

So, good news. According to Google Analytics (currently on GA4), this year, our users grew by 51.47% to 206K. We believe this growth is driven by:

  • our length of existence—the longer you exist as a media brand, the likelier that in the future people will refer to your old articles and that will increase your viewership in the new period.

This hypothesis is proven by the fact that half of our 22 most-read articles in 2022 were not written this year.

  • an increase in the number of stories on our platform, thanks to having one more writer—like the point above, if you write more stories, you stand a chance to get more views.
  • our emphasis on evergreen content. Hence why articles from years ago are still referenced and relevant in this day.

Impact

Currently, we operate as a social enterprise whose main focus is not profit but public service.

The British Council says “social enterprises are businesses whose primary purpose is addressing a social or environmental challenge rather than creating profit for owners or shareholders. They bring together the entrepreneurial skills of the private sector and the values of public service. They deliver positive social impact through their means (i.e. how they conduct their work) and ends (i.e. what they achieve).”

This year:

  • we’ve directly created jobs for about 20 people (our staff and the talents that produced Zero to Scale)
  • we’ve indirectly affected tens of families connected to the staff mentioned above
  • we’ve provided credible and trustworthy information for hundreds of thousands of people around the globe
  • our work has been featured on wikipedia, and other reputable local and international organisations

Revenue

As a social enterprise, we need to make money to fund our operations. But the difference is that we ploughed-back our profit to create more social change.

This year:

  • our revenue grew by 136% over last year entering tens of millions for the first time.
  • our expenses grew exponentially, no thanks to the video project we embarked upon. Without that video project, our expenses only grew by 55.7% and we’d have been on our way to a profit. But with the project cost included, our expenses grew by a whopping 181%.
    • Besides the project, salaries were our second biggest expense. We make it a point of duty to pay our staff a liveable wage.
  • we close our books on a loss. As a result, my Director allowance was 16% less than last year’s payout. For context, I’m not the highest-earning staff on payroll. My pay is in the 50th percentile.

Looking Ahead

In 2023, we will double down on our KPIs to:

  • Increase the size of our audience
  • Increase our impact
  • Grow our revenue

As a result, amongst all the other experiments and projects that we will undertake, we will also:

  • execute one major offline, physical event in 2023
  • produce a world-class ecosystem report
  • introduce a paid membership platform for users to fund our work and keep us independent.

Thanks for reading our year in review. We look forward to more of your support in 2023 as we curate and analyse startup and innovation stories for Africa.

See you in 2023, and subscribe for more updates!


Update

12:29 (GMT), Jan 3, 2023:

  • We've updated this article to include another feature we shipped in 2022, Progress bar
  • We also updated our user analytics to reflect the last day of December which is December 31. So, we did 51.47% over 2021 and reached 206k users.