I woke up to an interesting email today. Its layout is like so many I have seen before – an acknowledgement of the ‘good work’ they think TechCabal is doing, then what the email is really about. This one asks (I paraphrase): why is no one covering tech activities in the South East?
‘South East’ is South East Nigeria.
It’s not the first time I have seen emails like this in my box. The frequency has increased since we stopped taking comments on our homepage.
Why this is interesting (and significant enough) to attract a piece is how the writer prefaced the question about the coverage of South Eastern startup activities by sharing the fact that he understands that Lagos is the “Power House” of startup activities, before stating that there are stories in the region that needs to be told as well.
Seeing the bit about the ‘Power House’ slowly peeled back the veneer on a bias that has unwittingly filtered into my reporting here at TechCabal – equating the ‘Power House’ to the definitive system; equating the most active ecosystem to the only ecosystem.
Of course, there is the knowledge that there are other clusters in other parts of Nigeria working with technology and building products, but it never comes through and soon Lagos has grown to become (as a result of reinforcement) the only ecosystem. And so, not a few tech founders are convinced that; to succeed, you have to be in Lagos.
There is some truth to this. For one, being in Lagos creates an opportunity to meet with more investors. And then, there is the hasty, blink-and-you-might-miss-it atmosphere about Lagos that jives with the startup mantra – move fast, break things. However, the skill and technology needed to build technology products is as abundant on Bonny Island as it is in the Yaba corridor.
Some products have gone ahead to prove this. Hotels.ng was built in Calabar before Mark moved the business to Lagos. SimplePay, a leading payments company, operated exclusively out of Abuja in its early years. The latest winners of the Seedstars Lagos pitch, MyQ, is based in Abuja. Then, there are the Code Girls from the South, Team Charis, that won the global Technovation Challenge back in July. And there are more success stories still.
While Lagos is an ecosystem that gets most of the attention now, it’s not the only cluster out there. Who says you need a cluster to innovate anyway?