Africa Needs Its Own SXSW-Style Festival And This Man Has The Vision To Pull It Off
Idris Olorunnimbe is thinking about his legacy.
We’re at Africa House, part of the SXSW 2018 (South By Southwest) festival in Austin. The Nigerian founder and CEO is talking about his 2-year-old Lagos-based talent management firm, Temple Management Company.
But he’s thinking about the William Morris Agency. The longest-running talent agency, WMA was founded in New York City in 1898 to promote vaudeville performers, and it’s still going strong.
Olorunnimbe came to SXSW to learn about advances in technology. His business in Africa intersects with business in the U.S., and technology is the biggest area of intersection, he told Moguldom. He’ll leave, he said, with something else in his pocket — the conviction that Africa can play host to its own festival on the scale of SXSW.
“Today, the same music you can find on any of the major streaming or music selling platforms are accessed everywhere else in the world. The same with the local platforms that we have at home for music or TV — it all rests there. You can sit and home and not care where the content that you’re digesting is from.” — Idris Olorunnimbe, founder and CEO of Temple Management Company.
Temple Management may only be 2 years old, but it’s the first pan-African talent and event management company to focus on sports, entertainment and art. It has offices in Lagos, Abidjan, Nairobi and Johannesburg.
Clients include the Nigerian Women’s bobsled team; Iyanya — one of the biggest Afrobeat artists in Africa — and Victor Ehikhamenor, whose art is exhibited around the world. Olorunnimbe also owns a record label, a TV and motion picture company, and he’s all about finding African excellence.
When Olorunnimbe came to SXSW, his goal wasn’t necessarily to see if he could pull off a festival on the scale of SXSW in Lagos — or Abidjan, or Johannesburg — he told Moguldom.
“My goal was to come and reassure everyone who is doing the kind of business we’re doing that there are credible people that are doing it on our continent and there are people you can do business with, that you can trust, with integrity, (who are) building a legacy.” he said.
Now that Olorunnimbe has immersed himself in SXSW 2018, he said he’s convinced he can not only pull off a festival of this scale in Africa, but pull off one better.
Here’s more from Olorunnimbe’s interview with Moguldom.
Moguldom: What brings you SXSW?
Idris Olorunnimbe: SXSW is the place to be – the biggest festival that covers tech, music and culture — the major things that business struggles across. If you’re home and you’re not here, you’re losing.
Moguldom: How does your business in Africa intersect with business in the U.S.?
Idris Olorunnimbe: The biggest social intersection is tech. Today, the same music you can find on any of the major streaming or music selling platforms are accessed everywhere else in the world. The same with the local platforms that we have at home for music or TV – it all rests there. You can sit and home and not care where the content that you’re digesting is from.
Moguldom: Where is tech headed in your business? What role does crypto and the blockchain play in your business, if any?
Idris Olorunnimbe: Music or film as a commodity needs to be consumed and paid for so overall the biggest connection is the willing seller and willing buyer. Ultimately if it’s not paid for, my clients are going to suffer and when my clients suffer, I suffer. I live on a commission so all the things we do, we only get paid if they get paid. The easier it is for these payments to be made, (the better.) Part of the challenges back home are that a few of the platforms that offer the products, people have problems using their local cards to pay. So once my naira card is not accepted in the dollar store or Google, I need something that is able to speak in my domestic currency and the domestic currency of where I want to buy from. It’s as simple as that.
(Learning about advances in tech) is one of the reasons I’m here. Another is to let the world know that Africa is open for business. Some of the areas of business that we operate in, there’s a bit of a credibility issue dealing with people on that side of the world. We find that some of the people who have been there don’t do it full time. Those that do, do ad hoc.
What we’ve done is built a structure that can deal with it end-to-end. I’m the CEO but I am supported by a team. We have (people working full time in) legal, financial, business government and partnerships, someone whose job it is to make sure the right things are being said about us and our clients. Its one of the things that we lacked on the continent because until quite recently, entertainment was seen as a reserve for losers — people who failed in other things, who can’t cope maybe in law or engineering or medicine — and just go to entertainment, which was thought to be easy.
That in itself has stunted development in our growth. We’re pioneers. Temple Management is actually a pioneer. We’re the first to actually do the kind of business that CEAs (CEA is a Chicago-based nationwide event staffing agency) and the WMAs (William Morris Agency is a Hollywood-based talent agency) are doing. The first on record was established in 1898. We are 2 years old. We started in 2016.
We’ve come here (to SXSW) to create a platform for the best of Africa, to be able to compete and network with the best of the world. What you’re doing here, we can do there. We’re 1.3 billion people. Imagine the sheer number. If we have a 1-percent share of the market, imagine where we can go. We’re here, we’re ready to work, we’re ready to do this with you.
Moguldom: Who are the people you represent in entertainment, sports and art that U.S. content consumers are most interested in?
Idris Olorunnimbe: In entertainment: Iyanya, one of the biggest Afrobeat artists in Africa. We manage a group called Team Salut. They’re young and upcoming and Team Salut is going to take over the world. Jeff Akko — he’s only 21 and has the voice and discipline of the legends. There’s Bisola Aiyeola, who straddles entertainment — she also emcees and does comedy. Some of (our clients) are based out of the U.S. Mama Tobi lives in D.C. but is connected to home. He recently had a show in December. Chris Akinyemi and Aaron (Aaron Monroe is a multi-instrumentalist and music producer from Jersey City, NJ) live in the U.S. but their music is being sold everywhere in the world. We also have clients out of East Africa. Khaligraph (Kenyan rapper Khaligraph Jones) is the No. 1 rapper in the entire East Africa region.
In sport, we manage Marylove Edwards, who we’ve managed to get into IMG (In 2014, William Morris Agency acquired IMG, a global leader in sports, events, media and fashion, forming Endeavor.) We represent Georgia Oboh who plays golf. Georgia is 16. We represent Sophia and Rasheed Omidiji, who play football. Sophia’s just been invited to play for the Falcons in Nigeria — that’s our national team. Her younger brother is just a kid but the guy is gonna be better than Messi.
In art we have people like Victor Ehikhamenor, who has art exhibitions everywhere in the world, whose work is being collected by people who know quality art. It’s really really exciting — the best of Africa.
Moguldom: What do you hope to have in your pocket when you go home from SXSW?
Idris Olorunnimbe: Well there are a few things. 1. It’s reinforced that we’re not crazy. My colleagues and I — the four directors of Temple Management – are friends. We grew up together. The director of communications, I’ve known him since I was 6. The chief financial officer, I’ve known him since I was 13. General counsel, I’ve known since I was 17. When they left their jobs (in public service, at a bank and at the largest law firm in Nigeria) people thought maybe somebody cursed us and they were crazy. Coming here, being in Africa House and seeing African excellence, seeing the opportunities, seeing what other countries are doing with their platforms -(Argentia House, Brazil House) — it tells me that we are not crazy and everything we can imagine is doable.
So now in my pocket I have a very clear dream of being able to organize and host a festival like SXSW in Lagos or Nairobi or Johannesburg — in a city in Africa — and have everybody from everywhere else in the world come and see African excellence. We’re not talking about stories of people living in trees. We need them to see what we have done, to come and see what the opportunities are and to come and work with us. Everything that you don’t hear in terms of infrastructure is an opportunity to work together to build that. As of today I don’t know any musician who’s been able to top the entire continent. These are some of the things we must do. We’re as smart as you if not smarter. Look for us and let’s do business.
Moguldom: Do you think you could pull off a SXSW in Lagos?
Idris Olorunnimbe: I have absolutely no doubt. I think we can pull off one better.
Moguldom: Was that your goal when you came to Austin?
Idris Olorunnimbe: That wasn’t necessarily my goal when I came here. My goal was to come and reassure everyone who is doing the kind of business we’re doing that there are credible people that are doing it on our continent and there are people you can do business with, that you can trust, with integrity, and building a legacy. A lot of people who do this — it’s fleeting for them. For us, we’re doing something we hope to leave for the next generation.
I know that the founder of William Morris is no more but his legacy lives on. Coming here and seeing the scale, I just realized that, you know what, let’s show them how it’s done. If you read about Lagos, you find out that it’s one of the few cities in the world where we don’t sleep. I’m looking at Austin. People come from everywhere. I see the parties don’t stop. At those parties, the conversations we have about things that are going to shape the next 5, 10, 20 years — those are the things that you’ll also find in Lagos. I think Lagos today is the fourth largest economy on the continent. Lagos, not Nigeria. We would like to showcase African excellence and invite the world to come and mingle with us, trade with us, partner with us and ultimately make the best possible deals.