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Knowing, Understanding Your Customers, Key to Building Viable Local Startups- Georgina Campbell-Flatter

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Georgina Campbell-Flatter, Executive Director, Legatum Centre For Development and Entrepreneurship at MIT, USA with CFA

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), has been ranked as the top University in the world for the third year running.

This can be attributed to a number of factors. Areas where the institution is obviously very strong are in the areas of technology, innovation and entrepreneurship.

A team of MIT officials recently arrived in Nigeria, for Open Mic Africa. They also visited a number of Startups they found interesting.

A member of that delegation was Georgina Campbell-Flatter, Executive Director, Legatum Centre For Development and Entrepreneurship at MIT, USA, with whom I had a very interesting discussion on her thoughts on the Nigerian Startups ecosystem and how to build viable ones.

On what her experience has been, so far, in Lagos, Georgina stated that it has been awesome and great. “The energy in the city is amazing. The people are great. I’m having a beautiful time and our hosts are incredible”, she stated.

Shedding light on some of the Startups that her team had visited, Georgina mentioned some Startups, but was, particularly, excited about Wecyclers, run by Bilkis, whose Startup is all about offering an innovative model for recycling waste, thus, helping to clean up the city of Lagos. She stated that waste are collected, processed and sold for a profit.

Georgina also spoke glowingly about Max , a delivery service that makes it easier for Lagosians to send and receive packages in under 3 hours, because of the adoption of the innovation of the Motorcycle delivery model, thus, beating the usual Lagos traffic.

Georgina stated that, this is instructive, as Max has been able to create as much as 4,500 jobs that did not exist five years ago in the city.

On how local Startups can benefit from the MIT ecosystem, Georgina stated that it is a matter of the mindset.

“When we support entrepreneurs, we encourage them to think about two things. It’s the mindset in spirit and its’ scale.”

She stated that spirit is natural, as there are people who are excited and eager to provide value to their ecosystem.

She stated, however, that matching them with the needed skills to build and scale their business is what MIT does to help the Startups. Georgina stated that there is a Professor at MIT, who has written a book, with a disciplined approach on 24 steps to working through your business.

“The key point behind everything that he teaches and everything that we teach at MIT is that, you have to understand your customer. You have to know who you are serving”, she pointed out.  

Georgina stated that, embedded in the MIT approach to teaching, is the idea of mind and hand, and she thinks that Nigerian Universities too can take queue from there.

“Everything we teach, has a theory component and also a practical component”, she reiterated. She emphasized that it is not all about standing out there with some power point, talking out to entrepreneurs, because, they want to be involved. They want to engage. They want to GSD, which means ‘Get Stuff Done’. You can’t really teach that”, she pointed out.

She stated that the approach is to teach in Class a little bit and, then, carry out some project work by getting the students out to the field.

“One of the assignments we have, is you have a decent technology idea, go and speak to 50 potential users of that technology and come back and tell us what they thought of it”, she stated. She went on to say that, students also have to develop other business skills, such as, how to pitch, how to story-tell, marketing, finance, which leads to building a good business.

Georgina is of the opinion tgat, support structures are key to the growth of an entrepreneur. “You really do see results when students come into our program, they might have a great idea, but not a good sense how to approach that customer, how ti build up that product to meet the needs of the customer and by walking them through simple steps”, she reiterated.

On how important the fusion of technology and entrepreneurship is, to the growth of the ecosystem, Georgina stated that technology alone is not helpful, but when you match technology with coomercialisation, (entrepreneurship), one can really see the impact that brings to the society.

Georgina concluded by saying that she is eager to have as many entrepreneurs as possible from Lagos, to come over to MIT for training.

Nigeria CommunicationsWeek believes that technology makes life more exciting and helps improve the lives of people around Nigeria and indeed the world. So since 2007, we have devoted our energy to independent reportage of technology and how they affect lives.

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Speakers At CFA Startup Hangout Urge Youths to ‘Stay & Invest’ in Nigeria

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(L-r): Wale Ajisebutu, vice-chairman, 21st Century Technologies; Dr. Nkiru Balonwu, managing partner, RDF, both speakers at the October 2017 edition of the CFA's Startups Hangout, with Chukwuemeka Fred Agbata Jnr, Founder, CFAtech.ng, Presenter of Tech Trends on Channels Television and the Convener of the Hangout.

By Justice Okemgba

The October 2017 Edition of the CFA’s Startups Hangout really lived up it’s expectation, as the Startups were fed with priceless nuggets on how to run their businesses successfully and improve on their lives and uplift the nation.

CFA’s Startups Hangout, is an event that brings Startups together to learn how to run and grow their businesses from invited successful entrepreneurs, as well as network with each other.

The two invited speakers for the October 2017 edition, which was held at Adna Hotel, GRA, Ikeja last Friday, were Mr. Wale Ajisebutu, vice-chairman, 21st Century Technologies and Dr. Nkiru Balonwu, Managing Partner, RDF, a Consultancy outfit.

First to speak, was Dr. Nkiru Balonwu. She stated that Startups need to be determined and stay focused, as these are key to achieving what they want to achieve. “Be sure of what you want to do and set milestones for the achievement of goals”, she emphasised.

She admonished the Startups to note each achievements as they are met and also know why they are not met and fight to see that they are met in the end.

She made it known to the Startups that, from her own experience at starting her own business outfit, not everyone will encourage them in their quest, but they should not be deterred. She advised them to seek for sponsors and mentors, but should also be ready to give them something in return.

Nkiru stated that Startups should ensure that whatever it is that they are doing, should be centered around solving a problem for their clients. She gave the example of her own experience, where her personal need to track the income and expenses of her income and expenses, prompted her to develop the Bukkipa App, a simple accounting solution, but she had to ask for inputs from those who are also in need of such a solution, so that they can patronise it.

Wale Ajisebutu, in his presentation to the Startups, gave the narrative of Nigeria as a country blessed by God, with lots of opportunities, which, unfortunately, the citizens are only seeing  and complaining about as problems.

He advised the Startups to stop complaining about what the government has not done and see all the problems that we have in Nigeria in the areas of inadequate water supply, bad roads, poor transportation, scarcity of food and agriculture, etc., as opportunities they can key into and start a business on, because the government cannot do them.

“You cannot see all these kinds of opportunities in England, for instance, because they have light, they have houses and they have roads, etc. You don’t need to run there. If you go there, you will just go and wash toilets and plates”, he observed.

“It was individuals that developed America and not the government”, he stressed. He gave the example of Cornelius Vanderbilt, who invested in and built railroads, John D. Rockefeller Snr, who invested in the oil and oil pipeline business and J. P. Morgan, who invested in the banking industry, all in America.

He stated that a good example of such individual, doing a similar thing in Nigeria, is Aliko Dangote, who invested in problem areas in Nigeria and is today, the richest African in the world.

Wale advocated for the adoption of a four-tier government, namely, Federal, State, Local government as well as Youth and Entrepreneurs, to take care of the interest of SME’s. He advised Startups to work hard, be consistent, dream big, think big, start small, be open, be curious and take risks. “If you do the right thing in your business in Nigeria, you will become a multi-billionaire in any currency”, he assured.

Wale further advised the Startups to build great teams, have good business concepts, build wide network of mentors and cover their costs to stay relevant in the business world. “You are in Nigeria for a purpose. Take advantage of it. The country is for you. You have to build it”, he concluded.

Other attractions during the October 2017 edition of the CFA’s Startups Hangout, include presentations by officials of The Bridge Clinic, who took the Blood Pressure of the Startups that attended the event and TAMS on Time Management, Payroll and Human Resource solutions for the Startups.

The event ended with the networking session, where the Startups interacted with each other to form alliances, friendships as well as synergize their operations.

The November 2017 edition of the CFA’s Startups Hangout, which will be the last for this year, also promises to be an exciting one. Watch out for details @ http://startups.cfatech.ng

 

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U.S. Promotes STEM Education in Nigeria, Trains 460 Students, Teachers on Robotics

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By peter oluka

Monday, the United States Diplomatic Mission to Nigeria, in collaboration with RoboRave International, a U.S.-based robotics education academy, began a week-long robotics workshop for 460 elementary, secondary, and university students, STEM teachers, robotics enthusiasts, and scientists.

The training is being hosted at the American Corner at Co-Creation Hub (CCHUB), Yaba, Lagos (October 23-25) and at the Olusegun Obasanjo Presidential Library Complex, Abeokuta, Ogun State (October 26-28).

The workshop seeks to boost technology education in Nigeria by engaging the participating students in hands-on robotics activities to stimulate their interest in math and science as well as careers in the STEM fields.

One hundred (100) robots will be donated free-of-charge to participating schools in Lagos and Ogun states, many of them with little or no experience in robotics.

This is expected to provide the students and their teachers with an opportunity to put their skills to use following the completion of the training.

United States Consul General F. John Bray explained that the U.S. Mission is supporting the capacity building workshop in hopes that participants will be inspired to work collaboratively with the aid of technology to create innovative solutions to shared global challenges.

“In a world that’s becoming increasingly technology-driven, it’s more important than ever before for our youth to be equipped with the knowledge and skills to become innovators, educators, researchers, and leaders who can solve the most pressing challenges facing our world, both today and tomorrow.  We are honored to support this initiative that promotes science, technology, engineering, and mathematics — subjects collectively known as STEM— in Nigeria,” Consul General Bray said.

Mr. Kingsley Imade, program partner and director RoboRAVE Nigeria, explained that the training sessions will be facilitated by an international faculty, including RoboRAVE International Director of Global Programs Russ Fisher-Ives, and RoboRAVE North America Director Brian Montoya.

According to him, the sessions focusing on robotics designs and programming will provide a platform for teachers to learn how to implement the STEM approach in the educational process via practical scientific activities, throughout the training days.

“An education to develop robotics skills places students on track to develop such STEM enabling competencies like critical and computational thinking, collaboration and creativity that has lifelong advantages,” Mr. Kingsley Imade, director, RoboRAVE Nigeria, said.

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Ojobo, NCC Spokesman To Receive ESUT Honours

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By peter oluka

The Enugu State University of Science and Technology (ESUT) will on Thursday, October 26 confer an award of Excellence on Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Director of Public Affairs, Mr. Tony Ojobo.

This award ceremony is part of the high point of the Alumni Home Coming and 32nd Anniversary Celebration of the Faculty of Management Sciences.

In a notification letter of the conferment addressed to Ojobo, it was stated that the decision to confer the award on him was taken by the Faculty Board of Management Sciences at its 136th meeting held on September 25, 2017 where it “proudly took cognizance of your remarkable achievements in life, especially in your chosen career as a renowned technocrat and Public Servant, and unanimously nominated you to be conferred with an award of Excellence.”

The letter was jointly signed by Prof. Fredrick O. Eze, Dean Faculty of Management Services and Prof. Ike S. Ndolo, chairman, Alumni Home Coming Committee.

Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu State is the Special Guest of Honour, while the Chief Host is the Vice Chancellor, ESUT, Prof. Luke Okechukwu Anike.

The event is due for Dome Event Centre, New Haven, Enugu at 11am.

Ojobo is an Alumnus of ESUT.

The Man Tony Ojobo

Ojobo is an experienced director of Public Affairs with a demonstrated history of working in the telecommunications industry.

Skilled in negotiation, business development, strategic planning, strategy, and public speaking, he is a strong media and communication professional with a Master of Business Administration (MBA) focused in Marketing from ESUT Business School.

Currently, director of Public Affairs at NCC; Ojobo was the director, Human capital and Infrastructure at the Commission between October 2009 – October 2011 (2 years 1 month).

He holds Master’s degree, Public Administration from the University of Lagos (1993); and currently pursuing a doctorate honours in Business Administration, Entrepreneurship/Entrepreneurial Studies at the Walden University.

Ojobo is a certified member, Institute of Public Private Partnership, Washington, DC, USA., and has garnered many awards for his professionalism and outstanding performances at the NCC.

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