As a Nigerian living in Lagos, I find it very interesting to read how people from other parts of the world describe their first experience in Lagos. No matter how they feel at first, every one of them will eventually want to revisit Lagos again and again. Nellie’s experience and thoughts about Nigeria and the startup community are no different, after she’s been here for a few days organizing the Seed Stars World Lagos Start-Up competition. I recall some years back Monty Munford had a similar experience, as well as Sarah Lacy.
The uniqueness of all these experiences shows a people with so much passion to succeed in all they do, despite the challenges around. The spirit of never say never, the spirit of everything is possible especially for young Nigerians who have caught up with the global start-up frenzy of building businesses focusing on Technology and Innovation. That is the spirit of Naija which was also present at the Seed Stars World Lagos 2014 Competition.
For this event I had to defy the rain, cancel some engagements, and even the traffic that Friday morning couldn’t stop me from getting to the CC Hub – the venue of the Start-Up competition – all because of passion for the ecosystem. I really didn’t know what to expect but had already made up my mind to support and be part of it. And so I got there and the pitching had already started 15 minutes before…
The ambience and orderliness I met was not the typical Startup events that I have witnessed at the hub, I felt this will be very interesting seeing the calibre of people on the panel as judges. I could easily spot Tomi Davies, Ndidi Nwuneli and Femi Longe; these were people I knew very well.
Tomi Davies is the face of support for the emerging Startup ecosystem in Nigeria, he supports startups in Nigeria through his TVC Labs, the Lagos Angel Network, Mobile Monday and also within the West African region with the West Africa angel fair that had its debut in Lagos a few months ago.
Mrs. Ndidi Nwuneli, the founder of Leap Africa is synonymous to entrepreneurship in Nigeria especially among the young people.Her initiative has received global recognition. Femi Longe is one guy I knew before the advent of CC Hub. He is passionate about the youths and change for the social good of the people, and so it’s good to see Femi has garnered a lot of experiences pioneering affairs at the CC Hub and helping startups shape up their skills towards making impact in the society.
On the panel also I can easily spot these two oyibo amongst us, am sure this is Julien and Nellie from the Seed Stars World that I had been introduced to, via email. While Julien was making sure that everything is moving smoothly and that we adhere to the guidelines and rules of the competition and also keep to time, Nellie was also on the panel asking the right questions, such that really tells you what is actually important in the search for the winning idea.
The next person on that panel judging the start-ups, who for me was very vibrant in his questions for the pitching startups, was Simeon Ononobi, someone whom I have not met before. Simeon won the last year’s Seed Stars World Lagos competition and also came second on the global scene.
After a few of the start-ups that pitched like EasyAppetite, Yellow Navigation, CribPark, Asuqu, Cube, crea8tive image, gave their presentations, we had a few minutes launch and networking. It was time to ask Simeon about his experience so far after winning the last year’s competition. Simeon who didn’t hide his feelings, gave me a big smile and said “it has been a rewarding experience after taking part in this same competition last year,a whole lot has changed about my business and even as a Startup Founder”. He also said that in addition to the money he won at the competition, he has also got some funding from the Seed Stars Network. His business has got a great leap over the last one year and shows a great gratitude to the Seed Star world for this.
Simeon also had an opportunity to advise Start-Ups in Nigeria to take up opportunities especially as most young people in Nigeria believe that such opportunities to win money does not happen and are fixed or influenced most times. He encouraged them to keep to their dreams against all odds, in conclusion he said “my advice to you is stop complaining, just shut up, and make a Startup.
With all these unique qualities in the judges, i was confident that this team of judges will be impartial and at the end of the day select the right winners.
And the Winner is ….Green Energy
Green Energy won the regional round of Seedstars World Lagos 2014.
After presentations from about 18 start-ups that competed during this regional event in Lagos, the top 3 winning start-ups comprised 1st place winner Green Energy, which converts plastic waste into petroleum, 2nd place winner Ideacentric lead by Silas Okwoche, which featured its Nerve phone, UI and apps that were created especially for the African market, and 500shops, an innovative e-commerce solution. Based on their success in the regional round, Green Energy will be invited to Geneva in February, as part of the Seedstars World Final Event. Choji Bare, Green Energy’s Founder stated: “This win has left me speechless. There was some very good competition today and the win means a lot for the future of Green Energy.”
For me it was an event that lived up to its expectation seeing the Start-ups that were selected. They reflect the growing challenges in Nigeria which offers great opportunity for the country. Generating usable Energy is a major challenge in Nigeria, making our own mobile phones will emphasise our leadership in the mobile world and then the growing consumer market is driving global trends like mobile money and ecommerce.
In conclusion, I wish that more time would be dedicated to the organizing of such competition in the future, especially in advertising and pre-selection of start-ups, that will continue to ensure a strong pipeline of applicants. And for Nigerian start-ups who intend to build the next facebook, Google, twitter or whatsapp here is an advice on the right attitude to have:
The words of Thomas Edison, the great inventor suitably summarizes the attitude you need to have as an aspiring techpreneur. In his words” The most important factors of invention can be described in few words. They consist first of definite knowledge as to what one wishes to achieve, one must fix his mind on that purpose with persistence and begin searching for that which he seeks, making use of all accumulated knowledge on the subject. He must keep searching no matter how many times he may meet with disappointment. He must refuse to be influenced by the fact that someone else may have tried the same idea without success. He must keep himself sold on the idea that the solution of his problem exists somewhere and that he will find it. When a man makes up his mind to solve any problem, he may at first meet opposition, but if he holds on and keeps on searching, he will be sure to find some sort of solution. The trouble with most people is that they quit before they start. In all my experiences, I do not recall having ever found solution to any problem connected with my work on my first attempt. And one of the most surprising things is the fact that when I discovered the thing for which I am searching, I generally find that It has been within my reach all the time; but nothing except persistence and a will to win would have revealed it”
And that is the Spirit of Naija!
Thanks to the Seed Stars World Team for coming to Nigeria, others like them should please come over and support the Nigeria Startup Ecosystem.