‘The essence of co-working is to amplify creativity, connectivity and collaboration’
Held at the IMAX Filhouse, Lekki, Lagos, the conference, which is a global event that happens in major cities all over the world, including London, Dublin, New York, Cape Town, Melbourne and others, brought together global experts, entrepreneurs, investors, service providers, and leading figures in Nigeria’s co-working industry to explore the drivers of the growth in co-working spaces in Nigeria, with focus on the value being created.
In this interview, Kola Oyeneyin, creator Co-Working Conference Nigeria and founder/CEO, Venia Business Hub spoke on the initiative and how young entrepreneurs can take advantage of the opportunities it presents to build their business.
This is the second edition of Co-Working Conference in Nigeria, what exactly is the essence of this project?
The essence of co-working is to amplify creativity, connectivity and collaboration.
This platform provides opportunity to entrepreneurs to create new ideas and connect to other people in pushing this new idea.
It’s an opportunity to let entrepreneurs understand that collaboration is very important in driving their business ideas.
Co-working is for spurring innovation in a generation that is coming of age and creating new ideas that are now botherless.
What it means is that you can now be in Nigeria and still connect with someone in New York, share ideas and build with someone that you have never met before.
Who are your targets for the conference?
This conference is bringing together all the players that are driving this agenda.
They include stakeholder, who are investing in the ideas and policy makers.
The Vice President of Nigeria was here today to endorse this initiative as one of today’s platforms driving innovation in Nigeria.
We have ecosystem people, who have invested in this place just like us; we have created hub in Nigeria to ensure that people leverage on.
This initiative has created opportunities for young entrepreneurs and companies such as Taxify; other international companies coming into Nigeria come straight to these places to operate.
About eight years ago, it was just three of us in the co-working space.
But now, we are about 107 co-working spaces in Nigeria.
However, I want to see spaces in Kano, Jigawa, Maiduguri… not only in Lagos.
My job as pioneer is to enlighten and inspire as many as possible.
I was happy to see investors like Dr. Omobola Johnson and others here to see how they can help people to kick off this dream of inspiring entrepreneurs in Nigeria.
So, the conference is a convergence of all, who are interested in these spaces.
So far, what are the challenges facing this initiative in Nigeria?
The biggest challenge in Nigeria is infrastructure; power, Internet and enabling environment for entrepreneurs to thrive.
If you take an entrepreneur from Nigeria that is not doing so well to London or New York, Berlin, with the same amount of work he puts in Nigeria, he will be successful because the environment is built for him to succeed. Over there, they have light and connectivity.
So, what we have done is to create the enabling environment for entrepreneurs here; if you are creative, all you need to do is come and plug in and work.
You can work at night, weekend or even once a week if that’s what you can afford.
When you walk into any of our hubs, you see colors, furniture that inspires you.
You see light and other entrepreneurs doing much; you derive energy from those people.
How important is the co-working concept to small business in Nigeria?
A lot of startups today look at co-working space when they are about to start.
However, our entrepreneurs still have this mindset of having a big stores and billboard, which signifies that they have arrived.
But that’s at the cost of light and other things.
So, we tell them to cut their cost; so many big companies started from somewhere, so, small business need to cut off that idea of being in their own building as startups.
Taxify came here and was looking for a company that can provide insurance for the cars and they met at Venia Hub.
Today, they are their insurance partners covering over 20000 drivers; that’s collaboration and there are many more like that.
Some people, who are interested in using co-working spaces, are sometimes worried about security of their data. How secure is your network?
The world is so advanced that data protection is something we shouldn’t worry much about.
Most of our data we collect from people are extremely saved on our server; they are not in a physical form but in the cloud. With cloud technology, we ensure we protect our users very well.
You had the maiden edition of the conference last year, what has changed this year?
Yes, we had the first edition last year; what we did was basically to open up a space and tell people the opportunities that are there.
This year, I’m looking at the crowd that is three times the number last year.
This year, the Vice President of Nigeria was here to endorse this project.
So, in terms of progress as an industry, we are making good progress.
However, there’s still a long way to go, but I’m excited about the future that lies ahead.
With obvious challenges in this sector, what future do you see?
Well, the biggest challenge in Nigeria is talent; finding the right people, who have the right kind of mentality, work ethics and the right approach to work.
I must tell you, talent is a big issue. Also, infrastructure is another issue.
But I see a future where every single person starting up a business as a startup think co-working first; a future where every investor putting money into a business thinks how do invest through co-working spaces.
I see a future where every government policy written is thinking, ‘how does this affect co-working and how does co-working shape Nigeria.
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