Where Should the Next #StartupSouth be Held?

Uche Aniche, Convener of #StartupSouth

#StartupSouth is seeking for the general public’s opinion about where it should host the next edition of its annual conference: The sixth edition. Also, it’s asking for thoughts about who should be invited to give a keynote or engage in a fireside chat or on a panel session.

We’ll attempt to give an answer to the burning question: which state in the South-South/South-East(SSE) region should #StartupSouth6 be held and why? But first, let’s have a quick rundown of why #StartupSouth exist and how its helping founders in the region access opportunities that were previously out of their reach.

#StartupSouth Conference is an annual gathering of successful and aspiring Startup founders, Investors, Policymakers and general stakeholders. It gathers communities and clusters and put a narrative forward that with innovation and collaboration in the SSE region, it could reach its full potential.

Secondly, #StartupSouth connects, exposes and attracts investments to startups and founders residing and operating out of SSE. For example, GreenAge Technologies got funded $20,000 from the South-South/East Angel Network’s (SSE Angels), the network’s opening funding round and was facilitated by #StartupSouth.

For a #StartupSouth event to be held in a particular state, it needs founders, active tech communities and clusters: business, health, education, manufacturing and other servicing sectors that can leverage on innovation to spur growth. A model reference is #StartupSouth3: Made in Aba edition where it tried to explore ways innovative technologies can help improve the manufacturing process and bolster sales for Aba’s traders. Aba, Abia State is one of the largest leather shoe-making markets in West Africa.

There are eleven states in the South-South and South-East region, #StartupSouth has only been held in four: edition one and two in Port Harcourt, Rivers State – edition three in Aba, Abia State- edition four and five in Owerri, Imo state and Uyo, Akwa Ibom State respectively.

Anambra State or Enugu State?

Some persons have suggested Anambra State or Enugu State as both have active tech communities, annual tech conferences (StartupAnambra and Genesys Ignite) and group focused communities like Forloop, Google Developer Groups and Facebook DevCs – all debuting with at least a hundred members each.

Both states have organised conferences and have important tech personas across Nigeria like CF Agbata, Emeka Okoye, Jude ‘MI’ Abaga, Prosper ‘Unicodeveloper’ Otemuyiwa and a couple of others either to speak or offer support services. Attendees of these conferences are majorly intermediate engineers and designers or early-stage founders who have gone on to raise at least seed capital and actively doing business, exactly the type #StartupSouth says it’s interested in supporting and connect to funding/market opportunities.

Hubs and Partnerships

Hubs are moderately available in both states. Noticeably, DevAmplify Hub in Anambra and The Genesys Tech Hub in Enugu, the biggest hubs based on community members – can assemble about 200 individuals each from their community for a #StartupSouth conference.

Innovation Growth Hub recently launched in Onitsha to help traders in Nnewi auto market and Onitsha main market to do business with ease by introducing technologies like eCommerce and online payments.

Partnering with these hubs doesn’t just give #StartupSouth access to tech community members, it gives #StartupSouth access to anyone: Traders, market leaders, makers, policymakers and stakeholders across different verticals where technology can be leveraged.

Everyone, in context, that KR Foods, a palm oil processing company pitched and won N150,000 prize money at #StartupSouth5 Uyo. #StartupSouth doesn’t just support tech startups, it supports startups leveraging on technology.

Leveraging on Achievements

Did you know that during the hardware sessions at the just concluded #StartupSouth5 at Uyo, they were no hardware on display?

Now, here’s where things get interesting for Enugu and Anambra.

Nnewi, in Anambra State, houses the biggest market for auto parts in West Africa. A market that attracts millions every year from all over the world. The first wholly made-in-Nigeria motorcycle, the ‘NASENI M1’ was manufactured in Nnewi, bet you didn’t know that.

Nnewi is referred to as the Japan of Africa, it is home to many major indigenous manufacturing companies including Innoson motors, the first indigenous car manufacturing plant in Nigeria that makes cars used in other African countries like Mali, Sierra Leone and Ghana.

Building a hardware involve a lot of creativity, money and an enabling structure/environment have to be in place. Collaborating with the auto industry could open up access to Infrastructure, Innovation and Investment to startups in SSE tinkering with hardware.

#StartupSouth could leverage on is the story of the ‘Anambra Girls’ from Onitsha, that went to Silicon Valley and represented Nigeria in 2018. The girls won the Gold Medal at the World Technovation Challenge 2018 for building a mobile application called the FD-Detector, an app developed to tackle the challenge of fake pharmaceutical products in Nigeria. These girls are what #StartupSouth could attract funding opportunities for.

Arone, an Enugu-based delivery startup is revolutionizing the delivery of medical supplies in Africa by making it faster, cheaper and more eco-friendly with the use of autonomous drones.

Many hospitals in Africa, especially in rural areas, are ill-equipped, Arone is developing a solution to deliver basic medical supplies like blood and oxygen to these rural areas quicker than an emergency van would, to avoid death due to delay with treatments.

PlayJoor, an online gaming company is disrupting youth’s nightlife in Enugu State. The startup is building a community of gamers that’s fabricating a new type of urban socialization and is making it possible for individuals to play African games with anyone across the globe.

In an article recently published on 4kreport, it was revealed that people love PlayJoor and are willing to pay for their services but the team is met with a major constraint we’re all too familiar with: limited resources and funding. #StartupSouth6, if hosted in Enugu could expose both PlayJoor and Arone to venture capitals looking to support founders building the region’s future.

Enugu’s hardware cluster is developing. From the establishment of a laptop assemble plant to generating electricity from organic waste using a technology it built locally and building an on-campus hub where Arone and GreenAge founders took off from The Univesity of Nigeria, Nusukka is at the centre of these innovative strides. The institution is arguably the most innovative in Nigeria and the most supportive of student entrepreneurs.

Two of the country’s best universities, University of Nigeria, Nssuka and Nnamdi Azikiwe University are located in Enugu and Anambra respectively with popular alumnae like Peter Obi, Dora Akunyili, Oge Okoye and Gideon Okeke.

Individuals in both states are known to possess a high entrepreneurial spirit and said to have the best apprenticeship system popularly called ‘Imu-Ahia’, which literally translates to ‘to learn market/trade’.

Both states are bedrocks for innovations in hardware, software, manufacturing, business and entrepreneurship waiting to be explored. #StartupSouth with its influence and pool of investors network could help expose the best of both states and attract funding to local founders.

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