The Untold Story of the Man behind iROKOtv

Jason Chukwuma Njoku (born 11 December 1980) is a British-born Nigerian entrepreneur, film magnate and African start-up investor. He is the co-founder and CEO of iROKOtv, one of the early video-on-demand movie platforms for Nigerian movies (also known as Nollywood)

A self-proclaimed serial entrepreneur, iROKOtv is Njoku’s 11th attempt at starting a business. He came up with the idea of launching a new distribution platform for Nollywood whilst living at home with his mum, aged 30, after a number of failed enterprises

Early life and education

Jason was born and raised in Deptford, South-East London, and has described himself as ‘solidly working class – a council estate kid if ever there was one’. His mother raised him and his four brothers and sisters by herself, whilst working a full-time job in the National Health Service. He attended school in London, then moved to a village in Nigeria from the age of 12 – 15. After he returned from Nigeria, he attended college to complete his A Levels, before securing a place at The University of Manchester where he read Chemistry. He graduated in 2004 with a 2:1 and launched Brash Magazine, a student publication which ran for two years, before it closed in 2005

Career

iROKO

After a number of failed enterprises between 2005-2010, which included a blog network, a T-shirt business, and a web design company, Jason moved back home into his mum’s house in Deptford. It was here that he came up with the idea of starting a Nollywood distribution business, “The West had Hulu and Netflix — Africa had nothing”, notes Njoku. Having studied the industry from afar, he flew out to Lagos, thanks to the financial help of his best friend Bastian Gotter, a fellow University of Manchester graduate, and started purchasing the online licences of Nollywood movies. He worked from a two bedroom apartment in Festac, Lagos, and struck a deal with YouTube in Germany to be the official Channel partner for Nollywood company.

In 2010, Njoku and Gotter launched NollywoodLove, a YouTube channel, which was profitable within two months of launch. That same year, thanks to a prominent article by Sarah Lacy who worked at the time for Tech Crunch, NollywoodLove caught the attention of US-based Venture Capital fund Tiger Global, early investors in Facebook, who were interested in expanding their reach in emerging markets.

Series A investment of $3m was secured from Tiger Global in 2010 and the company launched a stand-alone video-on-demand movie platform, iROKOtv, on 1 December 2011. The site drew in viewers from 178 countries around the world. Njoku and Gotter have since gone on to raise an additional $22M from international VCs, with inclusion from Investment AB Kinnevik and RISE Capital and have used the investment to build an extensive film catalogue of 5,000 movies, launch offices in Lagos, New York and London and invest in improving the company’s technology resource.

In 2015, Njoku decided to focus the company’s attention on an Android mobile app, rather than a streaming platform in order to combat broadband infrastructure problems that Africa poses.

In July 2012, he was cited by Forbes Africa as one of the ‘Ten Young African Millionaires to Watch’. On 29 August 2013, Njoku was named as the CNBC All Africa Business Awards Young Leader of the Year for West Africa. He has also been named as one of Fast Company’s Top 1000 Most Creative People in Business.

Spark

In August 2013, alongside his business partners Bastian Gotter and Mary Remmy Njoku, Njoku launched a $2m investment vehicle for Lagos-based Internet start-ups called Spark. The company initially invested in 11 companies, including a Drinks distribution company called Drinks.ng, a real-estate / property online letting agency called ToLet.com.ng, and a Hotel room booking site, called Hotels.ng, which has gone on to raise $1.2m in VC investment from EchoVC Pan-Africa Fund and Omidyar Network.

Personal life

Jason Njoku married Nollywood film star and producer Mary Remmy Njoku in Festac, Lagos on 18 August 2012, in front of friends, colleagues and Nollywood celebrities. They welcomed their first son, Jason Obinna Njoku on 30 July 2013 and a second child, Nwakaego Annabel Njoku, was born on 24 August 2015.

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