In this encounter, Onyero provides more insight into his mission in Africa, and his desire to reconnect with his roots.
You are an internet enthusiast and have created commercial web presences since 2005, focusing in the fields of marketing and advertising. What more can we know about you?
I am a British citizen with a Nigerian background who has been interested in technology from childhood. I’ve experimented with and later hosted chats, websites and now a social network and streaming service.
You started off owning a travel and tourism company prior to delving into the web marketplace with business development. Take us through your career journey and what has the experience been like over these years?
Travel was a means to the present place for me. I wanted to show others – many others – what these sights I’d sent people off to see really looked and felt like, and how the locals welcomed their guests. Doing that one by one was okay but I had a much better idea, spurned on by the Internet. With that, I could show millions, not just one at a time.
Since your emergence on the scene, can you give us highlights of some of the projects and brands you have worked with?
When I started Bebuzee, I hosted live events to promote the site, sometimes sponsored by businesses hoping to connect with the young audience I had amassed. These live events were helpful in popularizing my Bebuzee brand, but not enough. Reaching further using social media tools, we were able to reach many millions.
You recently launched Bebuzee, an online streaming platform officially. Can you tell us about it, its focus and how it has fared so far with your mission to revolutionalise movie streaming service in Africa?
Actually, we launched Bebuzee in 2012, but content was localized first to Britain then to Europe. We added real estate transactions and other features to grow our audience. But I always wanted to return to my roots. So the very recent launch in Africa is my attainment of that goal. Content is localized. Viewership is sponsored and free to the user, including Nollywood movies, talk shows and news.
We are the first to do this in a seamless single platform, and hope that African smartphone users will soon grow to consider Bebuzee like their operating system – like Windows – and remain inside Bebuzee for everything including person-to-person messaging, once Bebuzee android and IOS app has be launched in April.
Unlike other global platforms such as Netflix and Amazon, Bebuzee’s content will be tailored to suit the African viewer marketplace. Is this in line with your objectives to become a global force in streaming content?
First things first. The millions of underserved African citizens with smartphones are our target for the near and foreseeable future, in addition to growing more users in the UK, Europe, North and South America and Asia.
You are affiliated to over 50 Nigerian films studios and production companies from which your contents will come from a select catalogue of over 20,000 movies and with up to 50 movies available weekly. How would your affiliates benefit from being that you are offering free-to-watch streaming movie services?
There are three kinds of stakeholders for Bebuzee: its advertisers, its content providers, and of course, its audience. Content providers are paid a portion of the advertisements as streamed, and viewers benefit by paying nothing. Everyone wins.
So far on the average, how many users has Bebuzee garnered?
At last count, we have well over 21,000,000 users. We expect that the number will double within the first six months of serving the African market. Lately, most Nollywood productions and releases end up directly or almost immediately after streaming on our platforms.
Do you think this is a healthy development considering that the cinemas and the purposes they serve need to be sustained alongside the culture?
Streaming was a second cousin to the theatres until COVID-19 disrupted everything. Necessity reversed that quickly, and there will never be the same balance of movie viewers as before COVID. We all love the live experience of tasting the popcorn, the laughter of others, and the big screen. In my opinion, that will never die.
Think of this as the same evolution we are seeing in the retail world as online shopping goes from one percent of retail to twenty percent and beyond.
You were inspired by your Nigerian roots hence turning your focus to Nigeria in creating the premiere Bebuzee platform for entertainment and news for the African continent. Can you take us through your Nigerian root and background?
I was born in Nigeria and left the country at a very young age, I am a British citizen with my relatives all keeping me grounded in my heritage with stories and visits.
What fond memories do you hold growing up as a child and what impact has those formative years on you and the person you have become today?
When I was 10 years old, I imagined one day building a huge drone that would transport people from one location to the other. So I decided to create a model helicopter using wood as a material and implanted a system that would raise it from the ground. The first result went wrong because the heavy wooden frame prevented the model from flying.
I realized the wood was too heavy and prevented the helicopter from flying. I tried again with some cardboard and the result went better, the helicopter rose and fell. So I decided to use plastic, plastic from water bottles, my helicopter managed to get off the ground, I don’t know if this had an effect on me but I think it taught me to never give up and be determined and work hard to get what I want.
There’s been so much disruption in the global market space in the last one year owing to obvious reason(s). To what extent would you say Covid-19 has driven and impacted the tech and virtual market space since the outbreak of the pandemic?
Remote working has presented challenges to companies in the technology sector, who have had to train and retrain employees, but it has also presented opportunities as workplaces restore a culture of learning.
What have been your major challenges as well as your success story as an entrepreneur?
The obvious challenge has been building this expansive network with angel investments made in increments over the years. It’s a double-edged sword in that had we unlimited funds, we would have spent them too early and perhaps elsewhere. Our journey takes us to the right place at the right time now, and we retain control of the company as a result of happenstance.
What do you consider as the greatest influence in your life?
I have read much about Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk and how they started with little and grew their businesses with a focused mission and unbelievable amounts of passion. I take that as my lesson: passion and vision. I have other heroes in my life, but these two rise to the top for where I am today.
As someone who is based in the UK do you at any occasion grow nostalgia to want to come home?
Certainly, I expect that this focus upon Africa and Nigeria in particular will cause me to spend more time in the Nigerian marketplace. I look forward to this as a reminder of my roots and a reward for these efforts.
Who is Joe Onyero on the other side not related to technology, business and project development?
A very determine person who starts his working day at 6.30am but on the other hand an ordinary man who reads and get lots of information, a very positive man and curious about life. He likes to devote time to running and gym five times a week, he loves a healthy lifestyle. He loves watching his favourite football team and spending time with his family. He loves to travel and in fact have visited over 70 countries but when he can’t travel, like this pandemic period, he travels through travel documentaries.