Africa In Focus

Africa In Focus: "The mainstream thinking now is that Africa is different and we could get it right if we want. The choice is fully ours, and it is now time for us to define what we want."

African Development Bank (AFDB) President, Dr. Donald Kaberuka.

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

LAGBook Founders Explains Name Change To Available.fm





As an aftermath of the 31 December 2012 ‘lagbook.com’ auction on Flippa, Canada’s Gulf Pearl Ltd owned by Shidan Gouran, bought the rights to the brand name ‘LAGbook’ and the domain names of the popular African social network, including the names and emails of its then 800,000 registered members for $10,000 USD. The auction, which started on New Year’s Eve, ended on 21 January 2013 after 6 bids.

According to Chika Nwaogu, one of the founders of LAGbook, ‘we listed LAGbook on Flippa because we wanted to focus on our new game development project. Initially, we wanted to run the game outfit along with LAGbook, and our plans was to release our games on LAGbook, but the game development process inhibited the attention we gave LAGbook.

Though LAGbook was a self-sustaining social community with over four thousand daily signups, we still had to work almost round the clock to ensure that it’s spam free, and new features are added to encourage our existing members to keep using LAGbook. We couldn’t do both, so we had to hand LAGbook over to an equally capable hand and that’s what resulted in the auction listing on Flippa’.

‘The auction closed on the twenty first day of January after six bids, and was sold to Shidan Gouran who owns Gulf Pearl Ltd and Bazaar Media Pte Ltd. Shidan and I spoke over the phone and had a couple of chat sessions via Skype. With my persuasion, he decided to keep LAGbook on the social groupware platform GROU.PS in which LAGbook grew on since 21 July 2010. Shidan told us to make a press release that we had received an investment of $10,000 USD from his company, rather than report it as a total buy-out. LAGbook was to be run by Versamel Limited (registered in the United Kingdom) with my twin and I as the company’s CEOs and CTOs, and Shidan as the company’s Chairman, but we had some incompatible ideas with that of Shidan’s, so we had to discontinue working with Shidan on LAGbook. Shidan decided to let go of the ‘Versamel’ name since my twin coined it. The company was eventually dissolved, and everybody went their separate ways. We were to launch Befondit (a crowd-funding website) and Jamaa (a social blogging utility) under Versamel, but with the dissolution, these projects were abandoned’ Chika continued.

‘Shidan decided to move LAGbook from the GROU.PS platform because he wouldn’t pay what GROU.PS was requesting, which was approximately $3,000 USD when rounded to the nearest thousand. As a result of this, LAGbook was moved on 8 April 2013 to a new platform and its name was changed to PicRate. The move didn’t include the migration of LAGbook’s
over one million registered members, rather, a message was sent out to the members from ‘Frank Ogini’ about the new LAGbook, and a promotional message to encourage them to register to the new network.

The domain names ‘lagbook.com’ and ‘lagbook.net’ started redirecting to ‘picrate.me’ on the same day too’ said Chidi Nwaogu, one of the founders of LAGbook.

When speaking on the restoration of the old LAGbook under a new brand name ‘Available.fm’ Chidi said, ‘Emre Sokullu, the founder of GROU.PS sent us a message containing his messages with Shidan, which made us aware of why LAGbook was moved. In the same message, Emre expressed his interest in partnering with us to restore and administer the old LAGbook under a new brand name. We loved the idea, and named it Available.fm. Before then, my twin brother and I had decided to halt our game development project after Shidan expressed his dissatisfaction in our level of involvement in LAGbook. When Shidan bought the LAGbook brand, he told us that he wanted us to remain involved, as he felt we had done a good job with the network. We took the offer but indicated that we will only remain involved on a part-time basis because of our engagement with our new game development project. But on the long-run, we had to halt the new project for a while because Shidan seemed dissatisfied with our input, and we felt that his team and himself couldn’t get things running smooth without our input so we offered to be involved full-time.

Nevertheless things didn’t work out and we left to set up 2bro, which is a web, desktop, and mobile application development company. Our games will be released under the same name too. Available.fm is LAGbook restored; the same member login with the same member size, the
same contents like photos, videos, files etc. Everything is basically still the same; the only difference is the brand name. We had to change the brand name since Shidan bought the rights to the previous one. Before Emre’s message, many members of LAGbook had contacted us expressing their dissatisfaction in the name change and the new platform, so Available.fm should be good news to such members’.

When speaking on why Emre wanted to partner with them to restore LAGbook, Chika said, ‘while growing LAGbook on the GROU.PS platform, other network owners loved the way we used GROU.PS. They wanted to design their network just the way we did ours, and most times we get messages from other network founders to help redesign their network.

Our network was featured as one of the example networks on GROU.PS because of the way we used the platform. According to GROU.PS, we had built extensively on their platform showcasing the full potential of what GROU.PS can do. Our rapid growth in Africa and beyond eventually
made us the largest social community to be ran on GROU.PS. According to Emre in a Techcrunch article, LAGbook grew to 35,000 members in just six months, so I guess he was impressed with our fast growth and the way we used the network too. According to the Techcrunch article, we were the inspiration to the addition of the ‘Facebook’ template and features, which eventually gave birth to GROU.PS 2.0, and according to Emre, this increased user activity across all their networks by over 200%. Periodically, we would help other founders with codes and tips to customize and grow their network respectively, and GROU.PS will share this with all other founders via their social network pages.

LAGbook was one of GROU.PS superstar networks and Emre said he believes in what we are building’.

LAGbook has be restored on the GROU.PS platform under the new brand name Available.fm for people available for friendship, and or a relationship. The social network, which has over one million registered members, will be run by 2bro. 2bro is a web, desktop, and mobile application Development Company headed by partners, Chidi and Chika Nwaogu, the founders of LAGbook. 2bro was incepted on 20 May 2013, on the brother’s twenty-third birthday. Cloud9, the game development division of 2bro, is currently working on the first Nigerian three-dimension video game ‘Ole’. Ole (a survival game) will be released on Windows, Mac, Android, and iOS. Cloud9 will subsequently release later titles like ‘Boko’.

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