Spend even a little time in Lagos and you’ll quickly see traces of entrepreneurship and innovation everywhere. In fact, the city was recently ranked as the most innovative in the whole of Africa. The Lagos State Government has appointed an innovation advisory board that has started to map innovation hotspots throughout the city with the assistance of Co-Creation Hub. Of course, innovators and entrepreneurs still face many barriers and hurdles – access to finance, lack of skilled personnel, difficulties accessing business networks, corruption are just some of them. During our recent trip to Nigeria we were very lucky to meet some interesting innovators and exciting entrepreneurs who grappled with some of these issues every day.
The Angel Network Nigeria is working to build a network of angel investors interested in supporting start-ups and entrepreneurs. The fund focuses on early stage seed funding, mentoring, coaching and establishment of relevant networks. It’s a great example of African entrepreneurs and businesspeople giving something back to support a new generation of innovators and job creators. It’s still early stages for the network, but initial signs are promising. The Economist has a great piece on Nigerian entrepreneurs and angel investors that you can read here.
The Wennovation Hub, meanwhile, works directly with start-ups to accelerate their growth and progress. They provide support for entrepreneurs, create a pipeline for post ideation and encourage collaboration. They also provide infrastructure and some funding for scale up of projects in partnership with the Angel Network Nigeria. In addition, they run a virtual incubation programme and are beginning to connect to the diaspora, which they believe can import ideas into Nigeria. They provide services and support to businesses in return for an equity stake and are currently supporting a number of innovations, including OTG Playa (a media distribution platform), Opacus (an app for rating services and companies) and Valleybits (an event planning tool).
Over at the Co-Creation Hub, we met up with the brains behind Jobs in Nigeria – a mobile platform hosting job adverts that has 60,000 registered users and that has clocked up an impressive 100,000 downloads in under a year. As well as the smartphone platform, the team have launched an SMS job search function for those without internet access. While the SMS service can never be as comprehensive as the online platform, it’s great to see entrepreneurs tapping into this huge – but often overlooked – market.
And finally, no discussion of innovation in Lagos would be complete without talking about the work of the Co-Creation Hub. We’ve talked about them plenty on this blog, but it was great to finally get out to Lagos to see what they’re doing on the ground. There is huge demand for their space from innovators and entrepreneurs, with 20 start-ups being given tailored support at any one time. It’s a fantastic place and easy to see why it’s such a draw for entrepreneurs. With a range of events and a line-up of interesting people working on projects in fields as diverse as art and politics or recycling and budget transparency.