Building a Community Through Blogging

(Eric Halsey) #1

The last lesson discussed how Teddy Ruge harnessed the power of the African diaspora to help build several businesses. A critical part of that successful strategy involved using blogging to build his own reputation and to develop that diaspora community. Here’s how he did it.

##The Process

“I blogged for about 5 years and around 2009 I started to put my boots on the ground and look into what I could get into and where I needed to be. Part of that was that I saw we were very quick to criticize but I didn’t see enough Africans getting in there. So I thought, I can’t keep criticizing that, I have to be the change I want. I wanted to be the chance I was criticizing in the industry. I wanted to convene spaces where young entrepreneurs could show the world what we could do.”
-Teddy Rouge, Founder of Raintree Farms, Co-founder of and Hive Colab

There’s no denying that Teddy’s success through blogging didn’t happen overnight. But the lesson he learned in those years is one you don’t necessarily need 5 years to learn: that blogging may have taught him a lot and opened many doors, but he wanted to use that experience to do more. But what got him there. The story that really convinced Teddy that he needed to be more involved involved the Million T-Shirt Contest and its creator Jason Sandler.

“Apart from talking about the topics around the diaspora I also blogged a lot about development and our role in it. At the time most of the discourse around that didn’t involve Africans. The emergence of Social Media allowed us to have a role i that discussion. One of the first times I saw the emergence of African agency online was around the million t-shirt contest. Jason Sandler made a name for himself with t-shirts, so he decided to solicit used t-shirts. I saw for the first time Africans descending on him and saying “you’re exactly what’s wrong with development” That was the first time my bullshit detector kicked in. I thought it was important to insert myself into the conversation.”
-Teddy Rouge, Founder of Raintree Farms, Co-founder of and Hive Colab

Those frustrations gradually channeled themselves into writing more about technology and its potential in Africa. As time passed, Teddy got closer and closer to knowing where he wanted to focus his energies.

“I was basically a wandering African. I didn’t know what I wanted to contribute. That required learning about the field, meeting people. talking to people. One of the first people I followed and blogged about was Eric Hersman, way before ihub launched we were talking about the state of technology in Africa and East Africa in general. I got particularly enamored with the undersea cable. I could see how transformational that could be and it pulled me into the technology sector. As bloggers we started seeing a community build around tech, entrepreneurship, coding, and building a community and those conversations.”
-Teddy Rouge, Founder of Raintree Farms, Co-founder of and Hive Colab

Years of blogging, making connections, helping to start discussions around everything from international aid to building tech communities in East Africa, Teddy had created a reputation and a community of followers he could harness for his next projects. Doing this require persistence, but there’s no denying it paid off for Teddy.