At the heart of Africa’s tech industry is Lagos, Nigeria’s most populous state but the smallest by landmass. Lagos shares its borders with only one other Nigerian state – Ogun, a state with five times fewer people than Lagos but five times more landmass.
While Lagos enjoys a buzzing tech scene, Ogun experiences far less in comparison. In 2019, the state government launched the Ogun tech hub with a plan to remodel colleges in 20 local government into tech hubs.
The initiative runs with the mission to drive digitisation in the state, but with only one tech hub created so far there’s more that needs to be done to boost the tech scene in Ogun.
In a conversation with Victor Adeleye, the CEO of Grazac, a tech hub, he talks about the steps he is making to change the tech scene in Ogun state.
Adeleye started his career as a software engineer at Global Accelerex before leaving to run an agency that built tech products for people. While running his agency, he attended GITEX Technology Week in Dubai last year. At the event, he realised that creating a support system for the tech ecosystem in Ogun state was a more sustainable path to fostering innovation in the state.
So he transformed Grazac, which was formerly an agency, into an innovation hub. Grazac also began the Ogun Digital Summit in collaboration with the Ogun state government last year.
Keynote speakers at this year’s edition of the event included, Farm Crowdy Founder and CEO Onyeka Akuma, Mohammed Jega, Founder Startup Arewa, Dayo Abiodun, Special Adviser to the Ogun State Governor on ICT and Abel Abejo, CEO of PettySave.
The event was attended by over a thousand young people who came to learn about how they can use technology to solve challenges in their communities.
Adeleye is keen on making this event different from others, he says, “If we come back next year and there are no proof/products that this is what came out of the event then we’re not doing anything”
He believes because Ogun state has the highest amount of tertiary institutions in Nigeria with over 16 universities, it is a perfect breeding ground for many innovative ideas and talents.
He points out that YCombinator backed fintech company Kudi came out of Abeokuta, Ogun state’s capital, before heading to Lagos. Kudi launched in 2017 as a chatbot that helped people send money and pay bills. It has gone on to launch other financial services.
Inspired by the success of Kudi, Adeleye says the vision of Grazac is to build products as well as support other innovations.
The goal for Grazac is to have at least 10 notable startups by the end of the year come out of Ogun state.
Grazac is led by two other directors, Samson Adedamola and Sola Otesile. Samson is currently the mobile development lead at Flutterwave and also a consultant at Stripe while Sola is a political and economic expert with over 10 years experience in the telecommunications industry.
Adeleye is aware that the transformation of the tech scene in Ogun would also require some capital investment. And while the state government is doing its bit, the bulk of investment would have to come from the private sector.
He believes that by giving startups opportunities to thrive a lot of investors would start looking at Ogun state. Before these investors come knocking, Adeleye and his team are willing to put their money where their mouth is by providing some funding to a few startups.
Beyond the technical support, they’ll give startups $30,000 in exchange for a 7% equity. Selected companies will also have free access to Grazac’s co-working space.
The initial funding for this would come from their pockets but they’re opening it up for others to come in.
He says, “There are people with the money, they don’t want to start a Hub, but they’re interested in investing in these startups. If there’s a hub, then these investors can come in.”
Already, he says he’s had conversations with persons who want to invest in startups in the state. Persons like Femi Williams, the former Group Managing director of CHAMS Plc, a leading provider of integrated identity management in Nigeria.
Talking about challenges he faces, Adeleye is quick to say that one of the drawbacks of working in a market like Ogun is that market research data is often incomplete or unavailable. It’s a known fact the state is mostly filled with government workers but they’re still studying the market to gather accurate data.
Despite this challenge, he says, “You can build from Abeokuta and solve a problem in Africa or the World.” “There are people in Abeokuta that have the drive and skills but they don’t have the opportunity. That opportunity is what we’re working on.”
Adeleye is an ardent believer of the phrase, ‘Brilliance is evenly distributed; the opportunity is not’ and Grazac is out to prove that’s the case in Ogun state.