KOT Wars, Tik Tok Magic, IPOs


That’s hello in Zulu.

I just returned from a leadership program I can’t recommend enough: Beyond Your Edge. The facilitators, program and entire experience is among the best I’ve been to anywhere in my career.

It, like many leadership programs, comes down to what you put into it, but coming back from the final retreat this last week in Malindi I learnt a lot and continue to practice and grow.

The future of The Letter N

This week I’m curious to hear what you use this newsletter for. What would you describe as ‘why’ you open (or don't open) our newsletter and skim/read it?

We’d sincerely like to know. My team and I are working on a reader survey and want to get your feedback.

That said, I have a question for you as a dear reader of this newsletter. If this is your first time getting the newsletter, we have not asked anything like this for over 50 issues, so your feedback matters to us to at this early stage.

Have you recommended it to people? One of the ways we grow is by you forwarding this to people and by asking others to join. You can send them this link if ever in doubt.

Has this newsletter done anything for you lately? We’d love to know your story and have +20 testimonials from academics, CEOs, marketers, technologists, students and everyone in between.

Lastly, we’re looking into this newsletter and the way we deliver value to our audiences. Do you follow us everywhere else: Twitter, Facebook, Instagram? If so, do you get to know a bit more about us there?

The reason I state that is we’re considering a range of subscription offerings next year aimed at executives and one of the best ways to do this is to set the table to see your appetite.

We’ve already been speaking with a small set of ‘beta’ testers, so if you want to join our inner circle, please shoot me an email and we’d be glad to add you.

Next year or prior, we’d be keen to give you, the readers, a chance to speak to each other (yes, you’re a pretty smart bunch and we’ve been asked this before). We’ll be starting a community aspect to this newsletter and would love to gauge your interest in joining this. We often have Twitter threads, chats and quotes that we’re tagged in that get good conversations going.

We’re looking at premium content including:

  • A longer (yes, longer) newsletter with premium insights and a point of view
  • Access to a monthly call where members get a trend-spotting presentation and a point of view from a subject matter expert in our network.
  • We’re experimenting with premium video or a podcast or both. If one of these catches your fancy, we’d be very happy to hear your preferences.

That's said, feast your browser tabs on our tasting menu of links below.

What to Sip

"Kenyans on Twitter are a powerful bunch, I learned this the hard way. I just wondered whether you would tweet that hard about what you got, rather than about what you hate?" - Bishop TD Jakes.

Jake's was speaking at the SOAR Africa Leadership Summit that took place here in Nairobi. His perspective on the power KOT holds to change the narrative of our nation out there packs a punch. He believes that we as Kenyans are using the right tool (Twitter) but in the wrong way, (expressing anger as opposed to selling what’s good about us).

Let's go back to 2015 when KOT got CNN to apologize for their “hotbed of terror” headline. This was right around the period when the then president Obama was set to visit our homeland. #SomeoneTellCNN trended worldwide and CNN had to retract their statements. Still doubting the power, we all possess through social media?

More recently, in January of 2019, we had the tragic Dusit D2 terror attack here in Nairobi that left more than 20 people dead and 28 others injured. Kimiko de Freytas-Tamura New York Times journalist included some gruesome and distasteful images of the victims in her article about the attack. Within days the KOT uproar was felt with the demand to take down the images at the forefront. Needless to say, she gave a public apology and was soon quietly moved to London having only been the East African Bureau chief for a few months.

There have been many more instances where KOT has proven beyond reasonable doubt just how powerful they are when they rally behind a cause. But the two I've mentioned stand out as their impact was felt on a more global scale. So why are we not using our voice to impact social change right here at home? From the corruption scandals plaguing our country to the subpar health sector that is beyond appalling. Let's use our voices for our own greater good.

What to Nibble

I loved this deck giving an introduction to behavioral economics? A pretty open question with a lot of words to explain it, I was so glad to come across this deck that simplified and presented it so elegantly.

Currently, in the social media sphere, there's a new trend where various platforms are looking to hide the number of likes that posts (pictures and videos) get. Instagram was the pioneer in this. Walking in a supermarket a few weeks ago, I bumped into a friend and member of our newsletter community who had just returned from Japan. I saw it with my own eyes what a world with no likes looks like.

It is their attempt to help combat some of the mental health issues users of the app tend to exhibit as several studies have proven. Facebook followed suit with the idea and YouTube was not left behind with its attempt to hide comments.  

As human beings, it is only natural to sometimes compare our lives to others. Worse still when your life is seemingly not going as you had hoped. Social media has heightened cases of depression and mental health issues.

There have even been cases of young people documenting their suicides live on social media. It is therefore sensible for us to address this as a society; find a way to make social media less harmful and more of what it was intended for, socializing.

I find it vapid I am increasingly less authentic when people overuse platitudes and motivational quotes. There's some good reflection going on how social media has deteriorated the true meaning of living fully. The empty platitudes tend to work because we are wired as humans to seek meaning and significance. My take, define your own best life separate from everyone else portrays on social media.

The practice of getting people and their irrationality to nudge them towards decisions is part of the underpinning of the mobile lending industry. I've referenced some pieces critical of the space and bring one more from Keren Weitzberg. Also looks like Brenda Wambui's Otherwise podcast had an episode on mobile lending in May that's extra listening for a deeper dive.

What to Bite

"I've been mentioning the rise of TikTok for over a year now. Americans - their regulators, authorities, brands, and audiences are all puzzled with the grip the short video social network has on teenagers and young Americans." You can tell that the media has been working this out. A particular feature in the New Yorker looks into how it holds our collective attention. I find TikTok irresistible to put down, and now I know why. Look out for the #TikTokKenya thread if you want to see the best of what's trending locally. In influencer marketing this week, a video from Kenyan comedian Eric Omondi prominently showcasing his TikTok account. He's done great comedic covers to music and songs over his career so it feels timely. He may also win over brands like Lato Milk to the platform over time. I don't know how well his work relates with young audiences (compared to other young Kenyan creators on TikTok). I imagine he might have jumped the shark compared to contemporaries of his like Sleepy David or newcomers like Kartelo. Sleepy does comedy shows targeted at kids and parents but isn't on TikTok as far as I know. Perhaps he's the one who should be. I still feel the most underrated creators are the ones making daily content dedicated to TikTok. The songs, dance and comedy I find funnier than all the big-time comedians who have some ways to get there.

East Africa Breweries lit up an interesting discussion with their influencers using the phrase “Paid partnership with Diageo” in their posts at the launch of Hop House 13 in Nairobi. Kenyans on Twitter especially poked fun at the formality of it all. I like that it's making transparency a core part of the service, even better that it is demanded from client-side thanks to a clear Diageo Marketing Code.

All this talk of social networks and people paid to intercept our attention to promote messages and products makes me consider healthier ways to interact with technology. I'm a big fan and practitioner of the cyber sabbath and unplugging.

Anything to lessen one's own “addiction” to their phone. The next level is a 7-day series of experiments to put yourself through called the Bored & Brilliant challenge.

One of the first steps to the challenge, I would say, is measuring how much time you spend on social media. A good place to start is setting limits through Screen Time (iOS) and the myriad Digital Wellbeing apps in the Android ecosystem.

My friend Sarah Peck just came off of a one-month sabbatical from social media and wrote a piece in Forbes about what it means to stay meaningfully connected.

She offers five main tips to help you control your social media usage; filling yourself up with the good stuff first, using tech tools to block social media during certain hours, allocate specific times of day for social media use, check in with your feelings before and after using social media, and finally, picking only one site and ignoring the rest.

Her ideas seem simplistic enough but you’d be surprised at what a challenge it can be to implement them given how addicted we truly are to social media.

I came across something quite intriguing recently, Shenzhen Chipscreen Biosciences Co. set a record on the tech board with an IPO price that represented an earnings multiple of 467.51 times.

Transsion, whose mobile handsets outsell iPhone and Samsung smartphones in Africa, is going public on Shanghai’s NASDAQ-style StarBoard, setting its IPO at 35.15 Yuan a share, implying a trailing earnings multiple of 42.8 times.

What I'm most engaged with is Transsion’s advertising network. Looking to what their ad executives showed my team and I, there are things they allow on their phones (Tecno, Infinix, Spice and iTel brands) that I've never seen before. The phones collect data on their users in the operating system and advertisements are shown on top of apps and inside the phone itself.

As Apple positions itself as focused on privacy, I see Transsion's pendulum swinging the other way with all the data it has made available on its African users.

There are no links à la carte this week. That said, do hit reply to this email to share your feedback with us on how you use this newsletter. I'm keen to hear back. Have a great week ahead.

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