“Amazon is hemorrhaging cash and might not survive. It struggles with a weak balance sheet, poor working capital management, and massive negative operating cashflow — the financial characteristics that have driven innumerable retailers to disaster through history.” Lehman Brothers’ Analyst about Amazon, June 2000
Yeah… that quote didn’t age well either. While the (now defunct) Lehman Brothers became the face of the crooked and greedy financial systems, Amazon is now one of the most powerful companies in the World. But Amazon’s story is far from a smooth ride. They barely made it through the Dotcom bubble and had to face a lot of negative press, skeptics, and simply pure haters through most of the nineties. They were lucky Social Media wasn’t a thing yet back then. The single most important reason Amazon survived it’s first 10 years is the fact that they raised enough money, sometimes only weeks before going Chapter 11
. All the Amazon cool products and features praised nowadays c
ame way later.
In Media headlines, it’s always either the end or salvation of the World.
Drama gets clicks. Press exaggerates stuff. Markets work in cycles, so does media and it’s sentiment. Financial Times called Jumia “Amazon of Africa” already in 2013. CNBC made a video
about how Jumia is beating Alibaba. You can’t praise someone forever, it gets boring. Bringing a hero down is what people love to see. Just ask Batman or Superman. Once editors run out of positive angles, they hunt for negative ones. That works in searching for topics about Apple, Google, Facebook, as well as AI, Renewable Energy, etc. It’s also worth mentioning that out of 5 recent negative articles I linked above, only one of them was written by a real journalist working for the title. All the others were either op-eds
, written by someone from the outside, an anonymous writer, or a former fired Jumia employee. Everyone has a dog in this fight and is either long or short on Jumia, including myself. A large portion of my book is about my personal experience
and reasons for leaving the company I helped build. But I do acknowledge the big picture here.
Jumia has become a scapegoat for the young tech industry in Africa.
“Their business model can’t work”, “The only way they won with me was by cheating” — say former competitors that lost the fight.
“They are too demanding, their model won’t work” — say former employees who couldn’t keep up and got fired.
“They conditions are draconian, they are rude, and also a failure” — say former business partners who failed to negotiate a better deal for himself
“Our market is different than the others. You need to adapt to our rules” — says literally everyone in every market.
There is a lot of frustrations among African entrepreneurs, many times very valid ones. It’s much harder for them to raise money from International VCs due to a lack of trust towards them. And African investors, on the other hand, largely don’t understand the technology as a sector. Jumia takes a lot of the blame for the “foreign vs local”, “African vs European” “white vs black” animosities.
Some people just want to see Jumia burn for reasons not related to business. They are cheering at the “neocolonizer”
retreating and having problems. I must say that in many cases I was disappointed to see people (who I considered reasonable and established entrepreneurs and executives) engaging in spiteful twitter rants about Jumia, where the only tangible thing that got disclosed in those rants, was their personally motivated disgrace towards Jumia. Germans have a word for it: “Schadenfreude”. Which means a pleasure derived by someone from another person’s misfortune
. I mentioned “ze Germans” which bring us another case.
Jumia nationality, a marketing tagline that hits the nerve.