The Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, is not your ideal location to start a business, outside of government. It has, however, witnessed an influx of people, which has stretched its once robust infrastructure.But on the flip side, this has led to a thriving private sector that is evolving, outside of government.
I have stated again and again that what Nigeria needs is a small government and a much larger private sector. We must encourage and nurture private sector players to solve national problems, while government focuses on regulation and policies devoid of nepotism.
Before now, it was difficult to grasp the concept of an Abuja start-up ecosystem, but thanks to organisations such as Startup Arewa; Ventures Platform Hub, comprising Ventures Park, Ventures Platform Foundation and Ventures Platform Fund; Network of Incubators and Innovators in Nigeria, Box Office and Layer3.
Today’s piece is, primarily, to highlight some of the successes, challenges and prospects of the Abuja ecosystem and those who have worked hard to make this a reality.
Frankly, I give these folks kudos because they reside in a city where entrepreneurship may not be super ideal because the reality is: why rack your brains, trying to run a start-up when one ‘connection’ alone can make you super wealthy?
In 2016, Ventures Platform Hub, founded by Kola Aina, came on the scene, with a bang. Yes, the bang was loud because, first, it was located in the heart of Abuja; next, it was truly creative and artistic as it was primarily built out of shipping containers. The hub, alongside all of its activities, quickly took its place as one to reckon with and it has since grown over the years, positively changing the landscape of early stage investment and hub operations across the country.
Entrepreneurs across Africa generally lack the necessary support imperative for starting and advancing digital enterprises. Prior to Ventures Platforms’ formation in June 2016, Nigeria’s technology entrepreneurship ecosystem was concentrated in Lagos and scanty elsewhere.
Since VP’s emergence, the organisation has spearheaded the development of the Abuja tech ecosystem, providing funding, mentorship, infrastructure, community and other forms of support, designed to engender the growth of the ecosystem.
VP’s campus; “Ventures Park”, has the most vibrant community of founders and innovators, working side by side and supporting each other. Through the VP accelerator programme, the company supported 14 start-ups, drawn from across Africa, hosting them at the Ventures Park, in a programme designed to foster knowledge exchange. The majority of these start-ups continue to operate and thrive in Abuja, to this day, with firms like Thrive Agric and Mobile Forms, proceeding from the VP programme, to global accelerators like, Ycombinator and 500 Startups, respectively.
Following the success of VP’s accelerator programmes in 2016 and 2017, it has adopted a more aggressive approach to providing localised, tailored-support to start-ups from all over Nigeria and Africa. The VP Fund has made equity-based investments in over 30 companies, building market-creating solutions, including popular Fintech firms, such as Paystack, Piggyvest and Thrive-Agric, that have provided loans to over 15,000 farmers and Crowdforce, which has built a 100,000 —strong network. These companies have created thousands of jobs both directly and indirectly. Through the ‘How to start a start-up series’, and Start-up Nigeria Program, VP is providing support, to start-ups, from 19 states, across Nigeria and student entrepreneurs, across five campuses. The common trend across all VP’s activities, has been a commitment to invest in innovators and entrepreneurs in order to unlock the potential of under-served sectors, people and places in Africa.
One other organisation that has added great value to the growth of Abuja ecosystem is Startup Arewa, founded by Mohammed Jega. — Finish Reading on the Punch