From being a genius in the classroom, to being a genius in the entertainment industry, Femi Bakre never envisaged running Nigeria’s biggest online platform for comedy, KraksTV. In his words, “Kraks was accidental.”
A bookworm, his modest ambition back then was to read, get straight A’s and become a business owner. The 27-year-old entrepreneur is a graduate of Electrical and Electronics Engineering from the University of Lagos. He emerged the best graduating student for the 2012/2013 session with a 4.86 CGPA. In other words, he made a first class and was the best graduating student.
He founded KraksTV in August 2015. It is a comedy channel with a presence on YouTube, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, with 2 million followers on Instagram alone. The Columnist gathered that this comedy platform which was founded with zero capital, today, boasts of a staff of over 30 people, and provides services which include digital marketing, branding, content creation, and consultancy for its clientele.
In the last five years, Bakre through Kraks Media has helped First Bank Nigeria, Jumia, Infinix Mobility, Tecno Mobile, DUFIL, Orange Drugs, Mavin Records, Heritage Bank, DSTV and many other premium brands achieve their goals with Content Creation and Social Media promotion.
Kraks also discovered talents like Teni the entertainer and Wale Turner.
In this interview with Yusuf Mohammed, editor and publisher of The Columnist, Femi Bakre talks about how he started KraksTV, the journey so far and other sundry issues.
The Columnist: Why did you go into comedy? Is it something you have always been passionate about or you went into it strictly for business? Have you always had a thing for comedy?
Femi: Well I am someone that naturally loves to laugh. I love watching comedy films. Anything that makes me laugh is my favourite thing but then the KraksTV journey, I wouldn’t say it was intentional. It was more of accidental. Something I discovered.
The Columnist: When you were in the University?
Femi: After University. It was during my service year. My friend and I were trying to come up with different business ideas. He said why don’t we have a website where we share funny videos? We searched the Nigerian internet space and realized that there weren’t enough people doing it. That was when we discovered the need for that. We created a website for it. I created the social media accounts because social media was getting big then. There were just a few people on Instagram back then. I started posting funny things I found online. Over time I started to discover that I actually have the passion and the talent for stuff like this so I learnt how to create content. I learnt how to manage social media account and grow it. I learnt photo editing and video editing. It was more like a journey. I was just having fun. It was during my service year so I had so much time. I did what interested me at the time. It wasn’t for profit making at the time.
As the audience grew, there was now a sense of responsibility to keep doing what we were doing because people liked the contents we put up. Every day I wake up, I ask: how do I satisfy this set of people? How do I make them laugh? How do I make them happy? There was no money making agenda from the get go.
One day, someone sent a mail and said I would like to advertise on your page. And I asked how much. The person sent 10 thousand naira to my account. I was like wow I can actually make money from this thing. It was more of hard work and consistency paying off in the end.
The Columnist: How did you come up with the name KraksTV?
Femi: When we were trying to come up with a name, the name I suggested was kerewa. Kerewa was more like a household name in Nigeria. If you tell Nigerians Kerewa, they know it. It sticks. My friend said why don’t we go with Kraks? As for me, I preferred Kerewa, but we ended up going with KraksTV.
The Columnist: You graduated with a first class from the University of Lagos in 2013. Not just a first class but as the best graduating student. You know most people with your qualification would be in the corporate world as employees. Did you ever work anywhere?
Femi: My first job was at a telecoms company in Abuja. I hated that job. I was so comfortable; I was used to being handed things so I didn’t really know the meaning of hustle. I used to get pocket money from my parents. I think I was a very entitled child at that time. When I got a job that had me going night shift, that had me going on weekends, I just couldn’t comprehend it because it’s not like I needed the money. I was just doing it for IT. I travelled all the way to Abuja for IT. Imagine going to work on Saturday and some of your friends are posting pictures of how they are having fun and playing football (laughter).
I said that wasn’t for me. After a month, I quit that job.
The Columnist: Only one month?
Femi: Yes after one month I quit that job and came back to Lagos. Also, I didn’t have a lot of friends in Abuja back then so it was a very lonely experience for me. I came back to Lagos and got a job at Huawei. I worked at the microwave transmission department. I loved that job so much. The other job was in a network centre. Just sit down in the office and pick calls and be talking to different engineers to discuss faults. It was boring. But the Huawei job got me going around Lagos and visiting different places. That was when I discovered that I actually like going out and I like the adventure. It’s fun when your work involves freedom. Not just sitting down in the office from nine to five. I discovered that if I get a permanent job, it should be one that would allow me to move around.
The third experience was after my University. I worked in a software company for three months and that involved sitting in the office from nine to five doing coding. I didn’t enjoy it. I was always having back pains and headaches. It wasn’t comfortable.
The Columnist: How long did you stay there?
Femi: I think two to three months. It was fun for me because it involved software and it is one of the things I am passionate about. But I didn’t like the whole experience of sitting on a chair from morning till evening. I was always having headaches. That was when I realized that this nine to five thing might not be for me. My job has to do with freedom. Freedom is something I cherish. Let me live my life on my own terms.
I had to create my own hustle as a result. And I thank God that I have been able to create the life that I have always wanted.
The Columnist: Starting out, did you see it becoming this big?
Femi: Not at all. One thing about me is that I like to do what interests me at every point in time. In this week, this month or year, if photography is what interests me I will give my all to photography. It is all about getting positivity from the things that interests me. I never saw Kraks becoming big. I did it for the love of it. I liked how ordinary followers were growing. I was seeing results from my work. That is one thing that motivates me. When I am putting in efforts and I am seeing immediate results. The followers kept growing and the engagement was growing. The number of comments, views, likes and followers. Even without money, that was something that made me feel good. Before you know, from 10,000 followers to 20,000 and to 1,000,000. I was like we are actually here. It was never planned. I was just enjoying the process.
The Columnist: What were some of the challenges at the beginning?
Femi: Social media platforms. Things involving media rights. Personally I feel like the internet should be a free place. Not free in terms of pirating movies. I feel I should be able to take a little clip from this place and use it creatively and give credit to whom it’s due. Most times you just see posts getting flagged for copyright infringement when it is a clear case of fair use. Companies that are money mongers go about reporting posts for copyright infringements. We lost our Facebook page. We had like 800,000 followers on Facebook. That was a major source of traffic for our website. We lost that about two years ago.
The Columnist: That was a setback?
Femi: Yes the impact was really bad. It affected our website. We are yet to recover the kind of traffic we were getting from Facebook. That was really bad. It is not only Kraks TV. There are a lot of platforms that grew really big on Facebook and just disappeared overnight. All these social media platforms fail to realize that people put in a lot of effort into building these communities. You can’t just wake up one morning and take down pages. It’s not fair. I can say for a fact that I am sure Kraks as a platform is probably one of the major drivers behind people joining Instagram in Nigeria. People were joining instagram just to follow KraksTV. These companies don’t care. It’s all about the money and adverts. They don’t’ care.
We lost our Facebook page in the past. We lost Twitter last year. It was restored though. They keep bringing up new polices. They don’t understand that people have invested hugely in these platforms for so many years. They bring new policies and their robot is flagging a post from five years ago. Post that you forgot even existed. It’s hard to track back. You get punished for things you did in the past, things that you probably posted when you didn’t know better. It’s being really tough.
We are trying to move forward by building a platform that is not totally dependent on social media or the online media. We are trying to have a strong offline presence also. That’s why we have diversified our business. We have internet management now. We have a bunch of talents that we are grooming. We have events. There are kraks events. Kraks house party and Kraks fest. We are diversifying our brand so that one unit wouldn’t be enough to take it down. The show must go on irrespective of the challenges that we face.
The Columnist: Speaking of Kraks festival and house party, when did you start?
Femi: We started Kraks house party two years ago. Kraks fest was three years ago. We are known as a fun brand. We started asking ourselves, how can we bring the fun to real life? Creating lasting memories in peoples’ minds, we say let’s have a party. The idea being the Kraks House party is that you pay once and you have access to everything. Unlimited food and drinks. I don’t think anybody in Nigeria does that. What we did was come with a different approach. We reached out to different vendors and sponsors. The feedback we got from the first edition of the Kraks house party was immense. People keep saying there was so much food. They were looking forward to the following edition. That’s something we are really proud of. Creating a unique experience is key for us.
The Columnist: A lot of people tend to think a business is capital intensive once it becomes big because they hardly notice it at the early stage. They say: if you don’t have money you can’t go into this kind of business. How was it at the beginning? Did you spend a lot of money?
Femi: I keep telling people, Kraks started with mainly me and a mobile phone. Maybe I had the privilege of having unlimited data. I managed social media on my phone. All the things that I learnt I watched on YouTube on my phone. Most of the videos of Kraks that went viral back in the day were through my phone. I did everything on my phone. There is no excuse. I feel like the internet has bridged that gap. You can actually make a fortune by spending zero naira unlike before where you have to have a shop or register. With the internet, just grab a website, create a social media account and you are good to go. Just offer value.
The Columnist: Are there some challenges today?
Femi: Yes we face some today. Moving from an unstructured business to a structured business was really tough. About five years ago, we were just on instagram page but over time we had to register the company because when you start working with serious clients you have to register your company, pay salaries and pay taxes. These are things I didn’t learn at school. No one taught me. We just kept growing as a company. Back in the day I could hardly take a break. I had to be on my phone 24/7 posting. Now I can go on holiday for a whole year and the Kraks platform will still be fine.
But moving from unstructured to structure wasn’t easy. I have had my own fair share of employee troubles. Having your best employees leave you. People just see people doing things online but they don’t know the heartbreaks and what they go through. It’s been a rollercoaster. Anyway, it’s been fun all the way.
The Columnist: Were your parents supportive at the beginning? You graduated with a first class. I believe they might have wanted you to do something else initially.
Femi: Well, I went for masters abroad. I don’t think I wanted to do that. It was more of family pressure. You have gotten best grad. Everyone is talking about you, my peers and family. Everyone was asking what’s next. I feel like all my life I have always had autonomy. I have always done what I wanted. I was smart at school and used to come first. No one used to tell me to go and read. I knew when to read and when to do my assignments. I was in control of my life. But all of a sudden because I was best graduating student in UNILAG, everyone had a say in my life and it was a very annoying phase for me. That point in time Kraks was my passion. I like to do what I am passionate about. During NYSC, kraks was what I wanted to do. Due to family pressure I went for my Masters.
When they started seeing the results, when Kraks started going mainstream, when people started saying oh are you the father of this boy that owns Kraks, when we won the future awards in 2017. When they started seeing the results, their support became more intense. When the results started coming, they just knew that this boy knows what he is doing and we have to trust him.
The Columnist: How have you been able to avoid controversies? You have been able to live a life that is controversy free.
Femi: It’s just my lifestyle. I am a very low key guy. I have always been like this. I wouldn’t say I am a saint. I wouldn’t say I am the most pristine guy out there. I just mind my business a lot. I am not bothered about what Toke Makinwa is wearing or who they caught her with or who anyone is dating. All those things don’t interest me. I am comfortable in my own skin. I am always in my own zone. And I associate myself with people that are private. People that are loud mouth or controversial, I don’t mix with people like that. Of course I wont say I have not had controversy with people. But then people that I mix with are people that can keep their mouths shut.
The Columnist: You are low key and private, how did you take the news that your brother, TobI Bakre would be going to the Big Brother House?
Femi: I was excited but I didn’t think about the effect it would have on me personally. That’s something I didn’t envisage. I didn’t think it would spill on me. The thing we have always been big brother fans in my house. We have been watching big brother for a long time. Even when we weren’t supposed to be watching it, we did. I remember the days of shower hour, when we were younger, we watched.
I feel like the way my brother had lived his life, big brother was his destiny, his kind of lifestyle and how he has always been. It only made sense that he would go to big brother and actually make best use of that platform. Everything just checked out. It was not a mistake or a coincidence. It’s just been Tobi’s lifestyle for a long time. That’s who he is. I was happy for him. That this boy is finally going to live a celebrity life because he had always been this fake celebrity (laughter).
Back in the days Tobi used to post our schools fees on social media. He was about that stupid life (laughter). I didn’t have time for that. I was happy for him that finally he got the chance to be his real self. I just didn’t expect that I would come into the limelight like that because I like my low key private life. Now when I go anywhere, if it’s not Tobi Bakre’s brother, it’s Mory Coco’s husband. And I am like my name is Femi Bakre. It’s been fun. I have no regrets whatsoever.
The Columnist: How do you handle online trolls? There are people that would say things just to get under your skin. How do you keep your cool?
Femi: I feel like God blessed me with a talent to ignore. I just know how to ignore people. People will always have an opinion. People will always say things. I would say I am comfortable with my own skin. I know what is true and what isn’t true about me. There’s nothing anyone can say. I have been looking at myself in the mirror since when I was a kid and I have always seen a very handsome boy. There’s nothing anyone can tell me in that regard because I know I am fine. I may not be the sexiest guy out there but I am fine as a man. I have perceptions about myself that are deep and no other opinions can change. It’s very easy for me to ignore all these things. I mind my business. When I see all these faceless accounts posting I know they are cowards. If you have the mind, post the nonsense with your actual account. I feel like trolls are faceless cowards. I see it as one those things that comes with this business of social media. But it’s best you just ignore because the moment you respond to a troll, you are empowering millions of other trolls. If everybody learns to ignore trolls, people will stop trolling. That’s my approach to trolls.
The Columnist: When was your breakthrough? Was there any special content that blew KraksTV?
Femi: The thing is there was a particular year that we just kept releasing back to back viral videos. But I think there was one that made us blow in Nigeria, and another one that made us blow overseas.
Let me give you a brief history. I saw a video on Igwe Tupac. “Why are you all snitching on my ass like crazy.” From the moment I saw that video I thought of something creative that’s how my creative conscience works. The ability to combine different experiences to create something unique. I saw that video and said this thing will go with snoop dogg’s “drop it like it’s hot” beat. In my mind it made sense but I didn’t know how to mix and match audio. I had a friend who was a producer. And I said Victor help me with this thing. He was too busy. One day I decided to do it myself. I opened windows movie maker. That was like the first beginner video. I devoted a whole week towards editing that video. I mixed the Igwe Tupac video with the Snoop Dogg video. It was perfect. It was beautiful. I just posted it online and it blew. Don Jazzy posted it. Everyone posted it. It was just special. It wasn’t like anything anyone had seen in Nigeria before. Of course there were a lot of videos that went viral but that one was just “who are these guys?”
That really gave us street credibility. The second one that made us known internationally. LAX did a song. And there was a video of a dancing man trending. I looked for the original video online. I changed the colour of the man’s shirt. Then I didn’t know how to use after effect. I used that opportunity to do my current creative project with what I have learnt with after effect.
I devoted a whole week. Rotoscoping is hard because you have to trace every single frame. And In a video, one second can contain 24 frames. When you are editing a video of 30 seconds it’s a lot.
A lot of sleepless nights but I was able to pull it off. And the dancing man just became a meme. Then tomato became expensive. I created a meme of dancing man for tomato. There were a lot of dancing man video all over the world. That’s what really made the song popular. It was special.
The Columnist: You have been able to carve a niche for yourself in the Nigerian comedy industry. Going forward, do you see yourself diversifying into other areas that don’t have anything to do with comedy?
Femi: We have actually diversified. Back in the day our only business was making people laugh but now we have gone from comedy strictly, to entertainment in general. I feel like entertainment is all about engagement: what gets people talking. Regardless of whether it is funny or not, as long as it gets people talking and people asking questions, get people to comment and share.
It’s just that at Kraks with comedy being our core, we are just trying to mix it. Now we are a fun brand. Generally, Kraks is about fun. Whichever way we can make people happy. Whichever way we can bring fun into people’s lives, we will do it.
The Columnist: What you did for Igwe Tupac, did it make him more famous?
Femi: Yes he might deny it. But I think that was his breakthrough video.
The Columnist: Are there other entertainers KraksTV helped?
Femi: Yes Grace Idowu, she is a gospel artist. We discovered her on Kraks. We were doing this talent show where we invite talented people to the studio to showcase their talent and it has helped a few people. Grace Idowu has an amazing voice. I am proud of that.
Teni too. Back then when Teni used to make funny videos. Teni also got discovered on Kraks. I have met her a few times and she says Kraks really helped her when she was coming up. Although I have not seen her say it in her interviews for reasons known to her. But she has said it to me several times.
There is also Wale Turner. We posted one of his freestyles on Kraks. From there, he got signed. There are many examples like that. Most of the big names in the online comedy space, back when they first started Kraks shared their videos. We have imparted a lot of lives but I don’t think that we get the credit we deserve. I am not bothered but I derive pleasure in knowing that we are able to impart people’s lives. Whether they are grateful or not is something to be joyful about. Knowing that Kraks isn’t just about making jokes and money but we are actually helping people’s careers and putting food on their table. Some of them, their brands are bigger than Kraks brand now but it’s not a thing of envy, it’s a thing of joy. Doing things for the greater good. If about 10 Nigerians become big trough Kraks, it will one way or the other help the economy. Many of them are international now. They go for shows abroad. It’s a thing of joy. I can’t mention all because the list is endless. I hope someday they would give Kraks the credit it deserves.
When they are being interviewed they should just say it. We aren’t asking for money or anything. We didn’t collect money. We did it out of love. Give Kraks the credit by openly talking about these things because you say it in private and not in public.
The Columnist: You are 27 years of age. Many people your age don’t know how to go about their lives. Some have given up and just want to leave the country in search of greener pastures. What would you say to those who believe that the only way to make it is by leaving this country?
Femi: I won’t discourage anyone from leaving this country in search of greener pastures. If anyone believes he or she can’t make it in Nigeria, they are 100% correct. If another person thinks he can make it here, they are also correct. I think it’s a case of perspective. Where some people see problems, some see opportunities. Some people would look at Nigeria and say what a mess, I want to leave. Some on the other hand would say, what a mess, I want to make money by fixing some problems. It’s a case of perspective. Just follow your heart. Wherever you find yourself it’s the same process all over. Consistency, find things that you are passionate about, that’s key. I am very keen on passion. I can’t imagine doing things for only money. I feel like that’s boring and outdated. Find things that you are actually interested in. Kraks is a case of passion turning into something interesting. Follow your passion.
Another thing about Kraks is that it was just me trying to do something different. I have been a bookworm for a very long time. All I knew how to do was read and get As. Entertainment and Social Media wasn’t my thing but all of a sudden I decided to try something new and it became interesting. When you feel like your life is boring or you are tied down, just try something different. Try painting. Go out. Go to a different place. I feel like life is about having many experiences as possible. At the end of the day, 10 years down the line you are able to connect these experiences that make you standout. You can’t have these experiences if you are just in one place doing the same thin. You can’t get a different result. Go out and see different people. Don’t limit yourself. Don’t restrict your thinking. Dream big because everything is possible in this life if you truly believe.
The Columnist: With this clout you have gotten from KraksTV…
Femi: (cuts in). That word ‘clout’ has been bastardized on social media (laughter).
The Columnist: Do you see yourself going into politics or you are one of those who feel the terrain is too rough?
Femi: Not everyone needs to go into politics to make an impact. That’s what almost everyone seems to get confused.
With the Kraks we are trying to impart lives. We are making people laugh and helping to reduce the number of cases of suicide and depression. We have gotten a lot of feedbacks concerning things like that. That’s something good that we are doing. We are also helping talented individuals get discovered and put food on people’s tables. We have a structured company and we pay salaries and we pay taxes. I feel like that’s us imparting in our own little way. If every Nigerian can impart the economy in their little ways, I feel like the country would be better off. You don’t have to go into politics to make a difference. But of course if the opportunity arises, I am not going to restrict myself. I feel at times you don’t know what you want to do. Right now, I wont say I am keen on politics.
To be honest, I was hugely disappointed in the last general election result because I had faith in the electoral system. I was heartbroken. I went out to vote and the result disappointed me. You turn on the TV and you see how thugs are stopping people from voting. You see how young people are being killed and I am like it’s sad. I see videos of underage voters in some northern states. It’s heartbreaking. It’s discouraging knowing that it’s not free, fair and credible elections.
The Columnist: Some of your followers would like to know how you unwind. What do you do in your leisure time?
Femi: I play FIFA a lot. I love watching movies. I love travelling. I love playing football and chilling at home during the weekends. I am not really the outgoing type.
The Columnist: Do you still support Arsenal?
Femi: I used to support Arsenal but I have stopped (laughter)
The Columnist: Why?
Femi: I have been supporting Arsenal since 2002/2003 season. It got to a point where I became tired of the constant disappointments. Imagine someone disappoints you almost your entire life. From the top to bottom of the club, I didn’t see signs of improvement. Arsenal is not ambitious. They went from being a top club to being a mediocre club.