David Lanre Messan popularly known by the insignia (DLM) is an Idea Strategist. His entrepreneurial trajectory into creative space evolved into becoming a digital enterprise strategist, serial entrepreneur, startup advisor and angel investor. Armed with these huge creative strategies, he became committed to helping entrepreneurs and business leaders around the world develop digital enterprise models, raise funds and drive business growth. At a time when some would meander through short cuts to make it in life, young David became a devoted searcher of knowledge with positive results. From a humble background, undeterred, he craved for success through a meaningful pursuit and has become a global resource person in the area of business strategy and development.
My story from the beginning
I came from a humble family of 6 comprising of my mom, a West African merchant, my dad, a school teacher and 3 other siblings in the suburb of Lagos. We are a humble and highly disciplined family that is contented with whatever we have, based on the family financial strength, but was raised in the line of education as my father never joked with learning. I attended Green Pastures Nursery and Primary School where I obtained my primary school leaving certificate; Mushin High School where I obtained my SSCE papers, then proceeded to read Mass Communication at Lagos State Polytechnic. I also advanced my studies in Marketing Strategy at Nexford University; Disruptive Strategy at Harvard Business School and Entrepreneurship and Innovation at Scalabl Global Academy.
From all indication, my early exposure to books as a son of a teacher was an advantage to my quest to study hard for success in life. Secondly, my mom is a business woman who understood how to multiply money. She is a caterer and itinerant merchant who travelled across the west coast selling smoked fish and locally ran a canteen that fed thousands of people in Ejigbo, Lagos. From her, I picked up the knack for entrepreneurship. I also helped her sell different things ranging from food to doughnuts which served as an enhanced exposure to the business of multiplying money.
My parents raised my siblings and I, like we are from a rich home and fundamentally taught us the need to be contented and work hard. They exposed me to the power of curiosity and exploration from an early age and that helped me to become conceptually insight driven which is a cardinal characteristic of an Idea Strategist. Note! I developed myself to become an Idea Strategist in the course of 3 intensive years or so, just like Malcolm Gladwell will say 10000 hours will make you an expert in anything. The art of entrepreneurship came from my mom while the science behind intelligence and application of knowledge was from my father. These values were my basic principles that propelled me to a height.
Foray into career development
Lanre Messan said his life journey was filled with a lot of self-developments. He recounts his childhood experience sometime in 2001, when he vowed never to be like where he is coming from, saying, “I understood that the only way out will be knowledge, so I did everything to seek knowledge.” The young and voracious reader did not spare most of my father’s books starting from ‘Think and Grow Rich’ by Napoleon Hill and other inspiring collections. The most intriguing aspect of his self development and success consciousness according to him was when he had to hawk gala in traffic to raise money to buy internet night browsing time at cybercafé. This however, enabled him to research and explores the new world of information and opportunities. Also, in a quest to augment his meager resources, he took a teaching job that paid more to spend extra time at cybercafés. According to him, some websites like Mindtools.com and Entrepreneurs.com really helped in that process. Other research resource outlet was following the leadership newsletters of John C Maxwell which really helped him to understand leadership.
“From these efforts, I started a social project in secondary schools called (Lifeguard Youth Concerns) that focused on teaching abstinence, entrepreneurship and leadership to senior students. I also got the opportunity to enroll for LEAP Africa Youth Leadership Programme in 2006 and this really helped me a great deal. My focus on the ultimate goal kept me waking up and pursuing my dreams.
“Through my project, I was selected in 2005 by MTV/Staying Alive Foundation as a finalist; was rated one of 100 best authors by the WorldBank in 2006 out of 1900 authors in the world, for sharing my ideas on how I plan to solve community problems. In 2007, I founded Green Yaggy, a project under my first company, Infinite Impact, to help democratize the process of starting a business and accessing technology opportunities. I was able to impact directly the lives of over 250 youths and indirectly 5000 youths and these earned me a place as African Business Leaders Forum (ABLF) 101 Young African Leader in 2007 and in 2008, I won the LEAP Africa Nokia Top 10 Youth Leadership Award. In 2011, I was selected as a pioneer global shaper of the World Economic Forum (WEF) and grew to become the community’s curator in Lagos and a contributor at various programs of the World Economic Forum and Grow Africa.
“In 2014, Green Yaggy tried to collaborate with MasterCard through a third processor to launch a youth oriented financial inclusion project but it failed. That is what has become agent banking now in Nigeria but it is okay. Beyond this, I have founded other companies that have positioned me as an Idea Strategist where I have raised over $7million for small businesses and have provided strategy for growth for over 250 businesses and startups in the country.
“I have written papers on digital enterprise integration for international magazines and have spoken on various international platforms on strategy, fundraising digital and business growth cutting across the United States of America, Dubai, Iran, Turkey, United Kingdom, India, etc. In Nigeria, I have spoken on various enterprise topics at over 200 top events such as Junior Chamber Conferences, RISE networks, Lagos State Government etc. In the course of my career, I was appointed Communications Consultant to Lagos State Public Service Staff Development Center and have worked with some top politicians providing technology strategy and grassroot insights and then worked for 5 months as Senator with the World Business Angels Forum.
“I am currently on the international scene serving as an International Partner for Nigeria with World Business Angels Investors Forum (WBAF), Turkey; Scalabl Global Ambassador for Africa and a community organizer for Harvard Business School Online. Harvard Business School recently published an article on my works on their website as recognition for what I do as a strategist.
“An interesting part of my career journey was when I made my first 3million naira at age 23 as an entrepreneur, grew it to about 30million at age 25 and lost it all in business the same age. One thing that never left me was the template to make another million. I have also built a brand name in the international community with key bodies spread across the Middle East, North America, South America and Africa through my fundraising campaigns for businesses in Africa, especially Nigeria.
I have explored the business world, the entertainment industry, the political space etc and now I am just focused on helping people and businesses to go digital through my new-found company, FirstFounders Inc.”
Speaking further on his strategies to disrupt the economic space, he stated; “I am focused on raising digital entrepreneurs, going forward, teaching them how to leverage on the digital transformation wave going on in the world now and how to make impact and profit from it. I want to help business leaders capture new value by transitioning their traditional business models to a robust digital enterprise models that help them experience increased revenue, operational efficiency and agility and strong internal capabilities that put them forward in the new future. The goal is to achieve all these through my digital entrepreneurs and I will launch several digital businesses across key sectors of the economy.”
It is no news that the Covid-19 pandemic has changed a lot of things globally, and looking at the dawn of the pandemic which however, will usher in a ‘new normal’, Lanre-Messan disclosed what the future will look like by taking a clue from what his company, FirstFounders is doing.
“FirstFounders led by myself have been helping several entrepreneurs across the world and Nigeria transitions their business models from traditional to digital. We have invited to series of trainings in India, Turkey, Iran, USA, UK and of course here in Nigeria where I provide valuable insights and practical know-how on what to do to adapt to the change COVID-19 has brought forward. FirstFounders is a digital enterprise builder leading a robust digital transformation for traditional businesses and new startups. We are helping companies build digital businesses by using the technology required to create new value through developing digital business and operating models, customer experiences and the internal capabilities that support the core operations of the businesses we handle.
“We understand that “Successful organizations operate with a clear business direction, using a vision and roadmap that define the way forward. Together with clients, FirstFounders redefines how to be digital at scale—reimagining processes, redesigning ways of working and re-engineering process infrastructure, to activate operational agility, efficiency, and business growth. We help envision and build better products and experiences, developing go-to-market approaches and inventing disruptive new business models—all to generate new growth, meaningful differentiation, and real economic value. Our core focus in leading digital transformation cuts across people, processes and technology.”
Beside the highly placed values inculcated in him by his parents, Lanre-Messan said there are other role models he looks up to for inspiration. “Unfortunately, I cannot point one person who stood by me but I follow so much everything Richard Branson does and have learnt a great deal through Virgin emails received from him and his books. Pastor Poju Oyemade of the Covenant Nation is of immense insights and his teachings have guided me a lot in business and spiritual things. Beyond that, I am my biggest inspiration and God is my greatest guide,” says Lanre-Messan.
Continuing, he quipped some words of advice to the young and would be clouts by saying, “My biggest advice to anyone, is ‘know thyself and understand the magnanimity of your purpose’, so when the challenges come, you will understand that it hits differently. You must know if you are a maize type of person or a bamboo type of person. A maize dream will manifest in 3 months but a bamboo dream will manifest in 7 years…just know thyself in order to have capacity to manage chaos. In summary, be Patient with your dream and never stop hitting the spot you felt the juice will come out from.
Meanwhile, David Lanre-Messan, still single, was very amused when asked about his sunny side of life. He said, “I did not live a normal life. I hustled for everything from childhood till I matured. So, when boys would say I have a girlfriend at 17, I do not know what it means. But by the time I understood and wanted to explore, I was badly burnt but now I am happy about those times.
“Secondly, one memorable moment was when I told my friends that I will be recognized internationally before 2006, and it happened. Another memorable moment was when I converted 30 of the books I have read into a commercial readable automated PDF e-book and with it, I made my first 3million naira.”
My take on Marriage
I am still single but will hook up when the time comes. For my type of woman, I love light complexion, highly intelligent and enterprising woman.
On relationships, I have kept mutual relationships with some female folks and have kept relationships that are beyond normal but what is ultimate is to respect the woman folks and understand that they are more intuitive than men. A man can never outsmart a woman. Lesson learnt is to communicate clearly whenever you are with a woman else you may be quickly misinterpreted.