MONEYWISE—Tale of 2 Media Partners Clash

Mike Awoyinfa's Press Clips

(Book Excerpt: Proshare, BEYOND PROFIT by Tosin Adeoti)

I got an advanced copy of “Proshare, BEYOND PROFIT—How a Nigerian Company Built a Culture of Credibility,” by Tosin Adeoti, an exciting, well-put-together 364-paged corporate biography of Proshare, a company founded by my friend, Olufemi Awoyemi.  The book presentation is on Wednesday, July 3, 2024 at CIBN Hall, Adeola Hopewell Street, Victoria Island, Lagos by 11a.m.

Let me bring you a small aspect of the book, subtitled “Moneywise.”  It’s an offshoot story on how individual differences, disagreements, personality clashes and “clash of cultures” between two founding entrepreneurs ended in their parting ways which impacted on Moneywise, “a weekly personal finance publication that pioneered print personal finance and investment finance reporting in Nigeria.”  The two founders are Olufemi Awoyemi and Ayo Arowolo.  Awoyemi, the hero of this book would later start Proshare, described in the book cover jacket as “a unique model of sharing credible financial news and predicting outcomes for Nigerian financial markets, solely using the unreliable internet facilities of the early 2000s.”  I was pleasantly surprised to find my name and that of my late friend Dimgba Igwe in the book described as “welcoming ally” who assisted Moneywise in our time as Managing Director and Deputy Managing Director of The SUN.



The year 2003 saw the formal creation of a corporate entity called P2P Media Limited, publishers of Moneywise, a weekly personal finance publication that pioneered print personal finance and investment finance reporting in Nigeria.  Femi Awoyemi established the company in partnership with Ayo Arowolo, an award-winning journalist and former managing director of Financial Standard, which was one of the country’s foremost financial print publications at the time.  The two entrepreneurs were both seasoned professionals with the skill and experience to analyse the Nigerian capital markets, and they were prudent enough to begin their new business by starting small.

The company commenced full operation in Awoyemi’s 5-bedroom duplex at Omole, Lagos.  The decision to use his duplex was reached when cash flow threatened to become a problem for their fledgling business.  This way, both founders could save money on rent and channel the same into running the start-up to offset the realities of surviving a harsh printing business climate.  Since the building was also within walking distance of the Omole office, significant costs were also saved in terms of transportation.

The Moneywise office had a staff strength of about 20, most of whom were journalists.  Awoyemi was particularly pleased with the office library, which was populated by a lot of Ayo’s old books and newer finance books and well patronized by the staff.  He felt it was very forward-thinking because, although he had worked in banks and other conglomerates, Moneywise was the first place he worked that had a proper library.  Moneywise was highly influential at that time, with testimonies from all over the country on the impact that the newspaper was having on personal finances.  Ayo Arowolo created Moniplexes, a tool for financial testing, which the company soon made available to help people assess how well they were managing their finances.  Awoyemi acted as the CEO and managing director of Moneywise, while Ayo was its managing editor.  With Ayo challenging and encouraging him, he realized that they could do much more.

But ultimately, they experienced issues in their partnership, and there are several conflicting accounts of the reasons for the friction, depending on who is asked.  Unearthing the exact truth of the Moneywise issues may well be impossible, considering how much time has passed and how coloured individual accounts are based on bias and sentiments for each half of the duo.  The author’s attempt to reach Ayo Arowolo for comments proved abortive.

Still, there is no doubt that there were some personality clashes between Monewise’s founding partners.  Arowolo reportedly did not like some of the changes that Awoyemi wanted because he thought they were impulsive.  While Awoyemi thought that an amazing writer like Ayo would benefit from working in a practice-structured environment that allowed them to write outside the box.  Ayo was of the opinion that Awoyemi was not putting all his energy into the running of the company because of his numerous absences from the country and ideas that challenged conventional wisdom.

Peter Obiora, Proshare’s head of news and investigation from 2008-2010 who was also at Moneywise at the time, describes the situation as a lack of synergy between the ideas of two brilliant men: “They had different interests and ideas; it was basically conservatism versus dynamism.  Their methods of idea execution differed markedly.  Awoyemi was more modern and forceful.  He was a man of ideas that had value and was always looking for more ways to create revenue.  But Mr. Arowolo was more stoic, and he preferred to run Moneywise in the time-tested tradition of how a regular newsroom would function.”

There was also a clash of cultures.  Awoyemi was of the opinion that the leadership was better served by mingling with the elite of society to improve the finances of the company, with activities that included joining private member clubs in Lagos. He felt that to get the latest trends and scoops in the financial industry, those were the places to be.  Ayo, being devout and more conservative in nature, believed that the company ought to concentrate on creating value through products and services and that innovation in news coverage was the way to go.  He believed that embracing the nightlife would necessarily expose him to vices contrary to his beliefs.  While both approaches had merit, the partners found themselves struggling to find a middle ground and never reached a compromise.  Even though the direction both partners wanted to go were so different, Moneywise’s reach in the first six months of its operation exceeded their expectations and, with it, revenue.  With sales going well, the journalists and staff clamoured for more newspapers to be printed so they could reach even more people, an idea that took off brilliantly.  Reputable people started approaching them about investing in the company itself, and they got to partner with distinguished men and women such as Pastor Sam Adeyemi of Daystar Christian Centre, who wrote columns.  Ayo had interviewed him much earlier in his career, and they stayed in touch.  Working with personalities like Sam Adeyemi gave Moneywise great credibility among a whole new demographic since, as a pastor, he had always preached the gospel of success.

Ayo also later played the role of editor-in-chief of Moneywise’s Personal Finance publication that was published in The SUN newspapers, a pioneering collaborative publishing partnership that ran until 2005.  This was an idea mooted to bridge the gap between the growing cost of printing and the need for reach.  Moneywise found in Mike Awoyinfa and the late Dimgba Igwe a welcoming ally, which allowed for experimentation.

At the height of the company’s growth, there was talk about competing with established brands.  Awoyemi, however, did not want to compete with other publications.  He wanted to Moneywise to carve a niche as the premier personal finance brand in Nigeria, an underserved blue ocean in the economy.  To him, collaboration was the way to go, as printing could not survive the oncoming technological advances that were converging on models.






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