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A Platfom For Young Entrepreneurs

For Founders of Co-Creation Hub (CChub), a Lagos-based technology incubation centre, the future of business in Nigeria and her competitiveness on the world stage depends on young people setting up successful technology businesses. By backing them and their aspirations, Nigeria will be able compete and thrive in the global race, Daniel Essiet reports.
AFTER 13 years’sojourn in the United States, where she re-
ceived degrees, including an MBA from prestigous Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and worked for some Fortune 500 companies, Mrs Bilikiss Adebiyi-Abiola returned home to co-found a waste recycling company, Wecyclers, where she is the Chief Executive.
Her vision was to transform lives by creating jobs for them and helping to build the economy. She has succeeded.
Her strategy was unusual – using a fleet of low-cost cargo bikes to collect waste. Another was the engagement of communities in recycling the waste by offering them incentives, such as premium on low-value materials – plastic bottles and sachets using low-cost cargo bicycles.The wecycles are designed , manufactured locally and are operated by youths from the communities.
The operators cover specific routes. They weigh the materials. The weight is entered into an SMS points platform to generate a personalised SMS. Wecyclers reward households with some points.The solution was not only innovative but self-sustaining. The company gave households a chance to capture value from their waste while providing a reliable supply of materials to the recycling industry.
Though the initial funding of the Wecyclers came from self-funding, the organisation has grown and gained international recognition for its work in Lagos. At least, two multinationals are partnering with the group. Last year, one donated a van and the other provided sponsorship for the improvement of the firm’s packaging.
Wecyclers has made efforts to eradicate inefficiencies in the recycling value chain by innovating in all aspects of the recycling from pre-sorting and collection to post-sorting and processing of recyclates. Businesses like hers have uplifted the country, creating jobs and winning awards.
These include the Cartier Women’s Initiative Award, Tech Award, Echoing Green Fellowship, MIT D-lab Scale-ups fellowship, MIT IDEAS Venture Grant, Yunus Challenge Prize at the MIT IDEAS Global Challenge Competition, and Carroll Wilson Fellowship.
Since August 2012, Wecyclers has registered about 6,725 households in two Lagos, built 35 cargo bikes, created over 80 jobs, and rewarded its subscribers with over $ 40,000 worth of gifts and cash prizes.
But Mrs Adebiyi-Abiola owes a lot to Co-Creation Hub (CChub), a Yaba-based technology incubation centre dedicated to supporting aspiring entrepreneurs. She is one of the entrepreneurs, whose company has been offered incubation space by CChub. A major attraction for aspiring young entrepreneurs, CCHub was established by two visioners – Bosun Tijani and Femi Longe – in October 2010 as social innovation centre.
Today, CcHUB is the nation’s first open living lab and pre-incubation space where creative social tech ventures take place. Mrs Adebiyi-Abiola believes that the story of tech entrepreneurship in Nigeria is incomplete without mentioning CCHub.
Much more than a co-working space, the hub is an oasis of calmness, conviviality and creativity in the Centre of Excellence. It is a rendezvous for technologists, social entrepreneurs, government, tech firms, and investors in and around Lagos where they find find solutions to societal problems.
In partnership with some individuals and organisations, CC hub has made it a priority to foster an entrepreneurial spirit among its talented professionals by setting up an environment to help them flourish. It provides resources for new businesses to get started. So far, CChub has helped more than profitable 20 ventures.
These include Wecyclers, BudgIT, Traclist,VacantBoard,Truppr andAutoBox. Other include jobsinnigeria.com.ng, wayopedia,www.caban.com.ng and Asà. Many of them are profitable.
The fledgling businesses get perks through partner organisations, such as money from an angel fund, technical support and web hosting services. They amenities include office space and Internet access. It also holds workshops, hackathons and networking events.
Some of the entrepreneurs incubated at the hub are assisted to update their skills and knowledge and to explore new opportunities. In the last two years, the promoters of the project have added new components to the process, including the business development procedure, to make the programme more effective for innovators.
The innovators, which are given incubating space, receive professional business development assistance in commercialising their technological innovations and finding them suitable business partners in Nigeria as well as in global markets. The hub presents incubates with a list of partners, venture funding firms and angel investors.
In its first six months, the hub attracted more than 450 active community members – who participated in its open living labs, events and trainings; more than 80 daily users of the hub – who work and leverage its resources for their ventures/projects; 21 start-ups and projects in pre-incubation – being mentored and supported by CcHUB and its network of partners and about 20 active corporate members – which provide support to its goal of harnessing creativity for social change.
CcHub has taken seven percent equity in its portfolio startups, which has reached eight. They include Traclist, Truppr, Wecyclers,Vacantboards and BudgIT. Its first venture graduated last December.
To support start-ups in their technological innovation drive, CcHUB and the Bank of Industry (BoI) have partnered to raise a $1 million seed investment fund to help small businesses to create social impact in the technology ecosystem.
Under the deal, the bank has made an investment of $200,000 to aid equity capital for emerging businesses. Indeed, the social innovation fund aims to provide equity capital, with support to early stage and fast-growing businesses involved in technology and services sectors.
Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and co-founder, CcHUB, Bosun Tijani said: “CcHUB incubation office was launched in response to the need to provide business development, mentoring and funding support to start-ups that showed traction from our impactful pre-incubation programme.
‘’Our seed investment ensures start-ups have a sure footing post-incubation to concentrate on rapidly executing their plans and learning from the market.” In addition, the hub leads co-creation initiatives aimed at creating novel technologically driven solutions to the myriad social challenges facing the average Nigerian.”
Recently, CcHUB boosted its incubation programme with the launch of a $500,000 seed investment fund to support early stage startups over the next two years. Startups will receive cash ranging from $10,000 to $25,000 to support business model experimentation and operations.
The hub’s Nokia-CcHUB Growth Academy is a first of its kind business accelerator programme in Africa. It is dedicated to providing intensive continuous hands-on support to help about 30 early stage mobile technology start-ups grow into high growth businesses and build world-class mobile applications.
The programme consists of three parts – training, app development and launch of world-class mobile apps for Nokia platform. Selected participants undergo hands-on, structured business and technical training to grow their ideas.The programme is delivered with Futurice, a leading global mobile software organisation from Finland.
CcHUB has launched an initiative to assess the technical talent gap in the country in a bid to identify, evaluate, and prioritise current and anticipated gaps in the IT workforce. Since inception, CcHub has established partnerships with some stakeholders, including Omidyar Network, Google, Nokia, The Tony Elumelu Foundation, BlackBerry, Schmidt Family Foundation and Samsung.
Apart from the challenges faced by start-ups, the hub spends over $2,000 monthly on maintaining a generator. Also, due to lack of infrastructure, the hub paid over $25,000 for wireless equipment despite enjoying a free yearly Internet supply worth $80,000 from Main One Cable Company.

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