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…Startup success is all about technology, social impact

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Sokan

Sokan

How did Venture Platform come about Slush?
We partner with Slush to organise local competition in Nigeria. Slush organises such competitions in different countries, select best tech or social impact ideas to come to Slush yearly, and Nigeria was lucky to partner with them to host a local competition. We go through their guidelines to select the best ideas, we did that and we were lucky enough to have Payconnect incubated under Venture Platform.

What are the criteria for selection?
You must be solving a pressing challenge, it is not just about businesses that make money but the business must be sustainable and beyond that it must be making impact. The impact your business is making must be changing and transforming lives. You have to be a tech company; you could be at the idea stage.

Why tech alone?
I don’t really know but they very focused on tech. But the world is moving towards technology. We are at the digital age and everything is about tech. If you are not doing anything related to tech, it may be difficult to tell how your impact would be. Technology makes things very efficient and helps you to impact so many people at the same time. We have seen the advantage and the fact that every business now is leveraging on technology.

Why is Payconnect’s impact different from others?
Payconnect is providing low interest rate loans to the unbanked. This is something that is difficult even for multinationals. The traditional banks in Nigeria have burdensome criteria for these people to obtain loan. Pay Connect is providing loans with minimum collateral and provides it in 24 hours at low interest rate to those in the rural area. This is a big issue around the world and that got Slush’s interest in it.

Isn’t it strange that in a country of 180 million only Payconnect was selected?
When we started the application, we had about 300 applications. We were supposed to select 10 out of that but there were a number of businesses that don’t have social impact. They were not what Slush was looking for. The ideas are great but the world is moving from that perspective; we need to think about social issues and create businesses around that. There are other businesses that have social impact but they are not new. They were not surprising as people expect. We see what is happening across and we just only want to replicate?

How was Venture Platform selected?
It was just a matter of connection. Slush was looking for people like us. The office of the Vice President was contacted and because they could only work with hubs and they had worked with Co-creation hub in Lagos last year, I think they just wanted something different. After Co-creation hub, Venture Platform seemed like the ideal place for Slush. It was just a matter of recommendation.

How long has this hub been?
We are new. We launched in June, but we have gained so much traction. We became the space for entrepreneurship development, particularly in a place like Abuja, which has been tagged a place reserved for civil servants, signing of contracts and government activities. Because of the way we manage entrepreneurs we have become a place people can trust. The place provides co-working, living residence and programmes, seed funding, mentorship, access and a host of work to help the ecosystem and boost economic development in the country. We have interacted with close to 2,000 entrepreneurs and we are saying Lagos is not the only place for entrepreneurs. Right here, we are building a place where entrepreneurs can come and have their dreams and get support to make their dream a reality.

When you talk about seed funding, how much are we talking about here?
It is a very selective programme where we give up to $20, 000 to start-ups and about 10 per cent equity, and we also do match up if they were to get investment from other places.

Where does your Venture get its funding and support?
It is private fund. We look out for investment and donations. We call on people to support the work. We have different private investors.

How do you select your entrepreneurs?
There are different processes. You have to apply; you are screened and must get traction. You must be passionate and we have a one on one interview. We are particular about agriculture, governance, technology, education and health. And when you become a member, we brush you up and make sure your business meet and focus on the international market rather than your local area. We go through a lot of processes to make sure that your product becomes the best eventually. There are a lot of opportunities where they meet investors, get some feedbacks.

Does age play a role?
No. There is no age limit. Obviously, it is mostly youths that get attracted to the space because it is very vibrant, majority of the population are youth. Once you have an attractive idea we don’t care how old you are.


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Adaeze SokanPayConnect

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