Myself, holding the Mic at #HackgrowthwithUX

5 important lessons I learnt about Nigeria/Lagos startup ecosystem from hosting a tech event.

Last month (precisely June 17th, 2017), over 130 people filled up the 6th floor of ccHub office. The audience was a mixture of startup founders, c-suite executives, highly skilled professionals and newbies who all showed up to network and learn how to use design to hack growth at #HackgrowthwithUX event.

The event was the second in a series of event I convened to address specific pain points by a panel of subject matter experts. A big thanks for supports received from Paystack, ccHub, Osaze Osoba, Imogie Mubarak (R.I.P) and my partner, Osioke Itseuwa. All these made the success we recorded to eclipse everything that happened at the first edition held in 2016 at Hotels.NG’s office, which had 64 people in attendance.

Some of the panelists at the event. Osioke Itsewa and me wore the “hackgrowth” shirt.

If you like pictures, you can see all the dope” pictures we took. Asides the pictures and funs, I personally learnt some useful lessons about the tech ecosystem.

Here they are:

LESSON 1: There is an obvious thirst for knowledge.

Undoubtedly, the ecosystem is still growing and it has its teething problems, yet, there is a thirst to learn and connect with each other. A proof of this was that #HackgrowthwithUX held on the same day with 2 other major events by Google and Andela in Yaba axis alone, yet the hall was packed full, as you can see from this section of participants at the event.

Lessons I learnt and actionable tip for you: Nowadays, there are several meet ups that are designed to foster comradeship. ( I recently attended Yaba4Tech) and I like this series of tweets that put what is happening in the ecosystem in context.

The good thing is that “community meet-ups” are rising, like Laravel, #forloop, Usable, Dribble, #TechPointInspired etc. You don’t have and excuse not to be active at such events to network with peers and meet new people. You can keep up to date with any of these events by checking TechPoint’s weekly event updates or visit Eventbrite for local events (both tech and industry events) to attend.

2. More people are willing to share.

Earlier this year, I wrote about how we should build a culture to help each other.

It is obvious to me that more and more people are willing to freely share what they know with the ecosystem as long as the opportunity exists. For example, in selecting the panelists for this event, we “spoke” to nearly 20 of the best UX/UI and Visual Design experts of leading startups in Nigeria (including fintech, eCommerce, hospitality and social innovation). Almost 80% turned up for the event, excited to share what they know. There were a “few surprises” that showed the ecosystem is filled with positive energy. Few of such gestures worth mentioning include:

  • Chimdindu Aneke who offered to do design sprint sessions for 3 startups (a gesture that can attract up to N750,000 in services fees).
  • Mubarak Imogie, (of blessed memory) who in addition to volunteering to speak in the panel also volunteered to give 60 pet bottles of drinks.
  • Then, there was Aniedi Udo-Ubong, Google’s Developer Manager for Sub-Saharan Africa showing up to grace to occasion in order to engage and share with the participants despite his busy schedule on that day.

Lessons I learnt and actionable tips for you: I have met people at tech events who often complain than others are not doing enough for the ecosystem, yet they themselves have not taken the first step. Enough of expecting so much from the government or others, when you are not supporting in any way. A good way to start is by sharing what you know via blog posts, Medium articles, podcasting (as I advised here).

For anyone interesting in convening events, you can offset a big part of your cost obligations by asking tech hubs and co-working spaces owners to host your events in their space. If you are in Lagos, the offices of TechPointNG, ccHub, Hotels.NG (see point B) are good places to start.

3. Lack of sponsorship is a big deal.

The apathy of local companies to sponsor tech events is alarming. They will rather sponsor music/comedy events than “intellectual” meet ups. A friend of mine, who is an influential Tech-entrepreneur in Nigeria recently held his event in a 4-star hotel; despite his connections there was low participation by sponsors. Second example happened 2 months ago where the organizer had to call off the event because sponsors did not release funds.

It is unfortunate that companies are missing the opportunity to put their brand names behind “moving trains” and contribute to the ecosystem when it does NOT directly impact their bottom line. Even for #hackgrowthwithUX, our supposed sponsor quit on us and we eventually resorted to a “substitute” sponsor to save the day.

Lessons I learnt and actionable tip for you: Try as much as possible to make your events (especially if it is free) to be on low-budget. Or you can structure your events such that sponsors do not have to pay in cash; a few of them want to share branded swags. Also, I expect that a big part of logistics for many tech events is space (which can require up to N100,00 or more), you can turn to co-working spaces and hubs for this, as long as it drives value to their primary purposes (see lesson 2).

If you need sponsorship and mentoring, you can follow up with this offer made by Seun Onigbinde at #TechPointInspired.

What else did I learn?

In addition to the above, there are two other things that I learnt.

Lesson 4: The demand for “tech” skills is rising outside the tech environment.

Incumbent companies do not want to be disrupted by tech entrepreneurs, so they will soon start to compete with startups for the same talents. A good reference is one of the panelists that left a role at a VC-backed startup to work in similar role with a recruitment agency. You have also probably figured out that the Presidency itself is becoming digitally innovative with the appointment of people like Tolu Ogunlesi; this means that at your skills are becoming more in-demand.

Osaze Osoba moderating one of the panel sessions. Panelists from left include: Imogie Mubarak (R.I.P), Fareeda, Quartey, Joseph and Somto ifezue.

Lesson 5: Food is an integral part of every meet up in Lagos.

My partner (who is a community manager) made it clear to me that attendees nowadays hold you to that standard. LOL.

Finally,

I believe that our startup ecosystem needs to host more events in order to share knowledge and network with each. At the moment, a large number of events is focused on developers, but I expect more to spring up to cater for other obvious needs of the ecosystem as noted in the recap post of a Ghanaian who attended #HackgrowthwithUX.

So, why did I write about my experience?

Simple. I did this because I hope it will challenge you to consider contributing to the ecosystem and success of others in anyway you can. You should reflect on the words of the late famous radio personality, Charles Charles Bruce Chukuma (aka Chaz B) who said:

“if each one could reach one.

Then each one can teach one.

What a much more beautiful nation Nigeria would be”

Over to you, I will like to know the lessons you have learnt attending or hosting tech events, let me know your thoughts in the comment.


All the pictures are taken by creative lead for Think_Senpai. Do you want your tech event covered? Reach out to him

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