Wennovation Hub - Africa's High Impact Innovation Accelerator

Competition Finalist

This entry has been selected as a finalist in the
The Power of Small: Entrepreneurs Strengthening Local Economies competition.

The Wennovation Hub is a start-up business accelerator located in Ikeja, Lagos with a focus on incubating high impact start-up growth businesses, and development of projects in West Africa. Since 2011, it has incubated half a dozen tech start-ups and raised over half-a-million dollars for them from local and international investors. It is operated by LoftyInc Allied Partners Limited.

About You

Organization: LoftyInc Allied Partners Limited, Operators of the Wennovation Hub Visit websitemore ↓↑ hide↑ hide

About You

First Name

Michael

Last Name

Oluwagbemi

About Your Organization

Organization Name

LoftyInc Allied Partners Limited, Operators of the Wennovation Hub

Organization Website

Organization Country

Nigeria, LA, Ikeja

Country where this project is creating social impact

Nigeria, LA, Ikeja

Age of Innovator

18-34

Gender of Innovator

Male

Is your organization a

Hybrid

How long has your organization been operating?

1‐5 years

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Innovation

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Name Your Entry

Wennovation Hub - Africa's High Impact Innovation Accelerator

Select the stage that best applies to your solution

Established (past the previous stages and has demonstrated success)

How long have you been in operation?

Operating for 1‐5 years

The Need: What problem are you trying to solve?

In Nigeria, West Africa’s largest country, between thirty-five and fifty percent (35%-50%) of youths are unemployed. Overall, the youth unemployment rate in Nigeria stands at an unacceptable level in excess of thirty percent! Already, the social consequence of this malaise is evident in the crime rate- both domestic and international, as well as the low economic output of the country with 140 million people and counting, relative to her peers.
While Innovation can provide a fast and cheap route to create wealth, there are no established support for innovators and entrepreneurs, and where they are present: funding is lacking. This has led to rising tide of poverty and crime, as increasing numbers of youths graduating from tertiary institutions are unemployed and poor.

The Solution: What is your solution? Be specific!

Our solution is the Wennovation Hub, a Start-Up business accelerator that draws upon a rich pipeline of entrepreneurial ideas emerging from higher institutions in Nigeria and among the Diaspora, leverages access to a network of contacts, space and broadband into fast-paced prototyping and business development. Finally, the Wennovation Hub mobilizes internal and external network to seed and fund businesses emerging from the platform. Ultimately, the Wennovation model gets entrepreneurs from ideas to funding literally in 6 months! The crucial distinction in the hub’s incubation model is that participants come singly with their various ideas for high impact entrepreneurship, and leave in groups…of businesses. The hub literarily make innovators collaborate by putting premium on team oriented solutions to unique problems (by “bandstorming”), and the speed of identifying, prototyping and launching these solutions into revenue generating businesses in exchange for flat 10% equity.

The Model: Walk us through a specific example of how your solution makes a difference; include your primary activities

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology organizes an annual program (Accelerated Information Technology Initiative) where students are posted to developing countries to train their peers at local universities in a specific ICT Domain. Wennovation Hub entered a partnership with this program (MIT-AITI team focused on Nigeria) since 2011 , to identify the top 2-3 teams and incubate their biz plans upon completion of an accelerated technology training (focused on mobile applications development).

During MIT-AITI 6 weeks program at the University of Ibadan in July and August 2011, Wennovation Hub trained 30 students and ultimately selected 7 of them from 2 teams as our pioneer Wennovation Camp participants. Between October 2011 and February 2012, this group was taken through our fast paced incubation process culminating in an investor pitch event to a local VC (Heirs Holdings Limited), which led to commitment of $400,000.00 to the first cycle of Wennopreneurs. Today, Valleybits Technologies' EventDiary.com.ng business that offers event management and organizing platforms for Nigerians is up and running, and Opacus Technologies business rating and CRM platform will be up and running in few weeks. Both companies employ at least a dozen employees between them; youths, that are not likely to be unemployed and have made a difference. We provided training, space and equipment (including broadband) for these teams, as well as access to our network of mentors, contacts and funders which have yielded these success stories. We continue this year at the University of Lagos, Akoka.

The Marketplace: Who are your peers and competitors? Identify others also working to address the needs you are and what differentiates you from them. What challenges could these players pose to your success or growth?

Tech Hubs immediately began being established in Lagos, upon us pioneering the sector. Today, Innovation Venture Design (IVD) and Co-Creation are two competing peers in the sector. IVD is operated by the Non-Profit FATE Foundation, and is focused on a residency program where its entrepreneurs spend considerable time developing their ideas. They tend to focus on industrial/manufacturing type ideas while we tend to move with scalable, low-cost ideas. Co-Creation on the hand is located in Yaba, and is focused on ideation and pre-incubation, leaving the actual incubation work to others. Eventually, Co-Creation may emerge a competitor if it expands into the incubation space. However, its sole focus on technology (web and mobile start-ups) is both a strength and a weakness.

Social Impact

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What solution(s) does your initiative address to help emerging entrepreneurs and small businesses grow and thrive in underserved communities? (select all applicable)

Access to financing, Access to supply chains, Access to technology, Access to economic opportunity.

What has been the impact of your solution to date?

To date, Wennovation Hub has supported over 120 entrepreneurs in various forms through its WennoConsulting, Wennovation Platform, Wenno Space and Wennovation Camp programs. A soon to be launched WennoHunt Business Plan competition will scale this effort up, and our goal is to triple our impact in 2013. Eight high impact businesses that today employ more than 50 people have been incubated and seeded by the Wennovation Hub, while life changing solutions are delivered by technologies developed by our start-ups including one to tackle the challenges of piracy and distribution in the fledgling Nollywood industry.

What is your projected impact over the next 1-3 years?

Our projected impact in three years is to have impacted 1000 entrepreneurs, and adding at least 50 great companies to our portfolio of businesses in the course of doing business, generating 1,000 high paying jobs in the process and creating direct wealth and ownership for up to 150 people. In addition to this, we plan to develop fledgling initiatives like the West Africa Incubators Regional Network and Lagos Angel Network to impact even more entrepreneurs through the vision of our partnerships and solutions to concerns surrounding innovation and their funding in the ECOWAS (West Africa) region.Our immediate goal is to launch the WennoHunt Business Plan competition to scale up our program in the next year, and also to expand our space/staff to accommodate the increased demand.

What barriers might hinder the success of your project? How do you plan to overcome them?

Our greatest barrier to success is government interference and inadequate space/funding. We believe the first is being overcome by our team by ensuring we keep government agencies abreast of the social benefits of the sector, and creating an environment of trust with policy makers. The later issue is an execution concern, since we believe we provide a market for both entrepreneurs and investors that seek them; and creating the platform will be profitable in the long term as global investors are increasingly interested in Africa based start-ups. Our space (infrastructure) barrier can however be overcome by the help of our friends and well wishers; organizations like SAP & Ashoka that want to partner with us for change!

Winning entries present a strong plan for how they will achieve and track growth. Identify your six-month milestone for growing your impact

Launch the WennoHunt Program

Identify three major tasks you will have to complete to reach your six-month milestone

Task 1

Recruit Additional 4 Universities and Launch Tour Events in each of the Participating Schools

Task 2

Develop an online platform to screen business plans & manage the program

Task 3

Implement Phase 1 of the Program- Award Cash Prizes for Top 3 Ideas in each College

Now think bigger! Identify your 12-month impact milestone

Take 12 University Teams to Funding

Identify three major tasks you will have to complete to reach your 12-month milestone

Task 1

Implement Phase 2 of the Program- Identify top 12 winning ideas and award incubation

Task 2

Implement a fast-pace Business Incubation Program for the 12 teams

Task 3

Take the 12 teams to funding at a series of Pitch Events to Local and International Funders

Founding Story: We want to hear about your "Aha!" moment. Share the story of where and when the founder(s) saw this solution's potential to change the world.

I was putting in an essay for a World Bank Global Essay competition in 2010 January about Youth Solutions to Unemployment, when I stumbled upon an article in Forbes Magazine about Y Combinator. The Y-Combinator model of fast pace, cheap innovation that tolerates failure intrigued me. It dawned on me rather quickly that if it required $10,000 for Paul Graham to make a difference in California, it probably takes a tenth of that to do the same in Lagos, Nigeria. This was the beginning of an adventure for me and my partner, Dr. Wole Odetayo. I took the localized version of this model, clearly aware that there was no Silicon Valley in Lagos, but determined to create a Silicon Lagoon to the World Bank conference where I was selected as a Finalist in the Essay Competition. Ultimately, even though I did not win, we won a partner in Africa Leadership Forum that provided us a space to start from and today that space is known as the Wennovation Hub. The idea of the Hub of course is much bigger!

Sustainability

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Tell us about your partnerships

Wennovation Hub itself is a product of a partnership agreement between the operator (LoftyInc Allied Partners) and the backer (Africa Leadership Forum). ALF provides space and facilities for the hub, while LoftyInc provides the operating budget and staff. We have other partnerships with MIT-AITI, Google Africa, Monterrey Institute, Africa Wennovation Prize and Tony Elumelu Foundation among others. Many top flight universities have one form of partnership with us; these includes the University of Ibadan, University of Lagos, Obafemi Awolowo University, Convenant University and Babcock.

Please elaborate on any needs or offers you have mentioned above and/or suggest categories of support that aren't specified within the list

One category of support we may offer other initiatives is an opportunity to access the extremely difficult market that is Nigeria. Our experience will more than be helpful for other initiatives where needed.