In June 2016, Ventures Platform launched as an innovation hub where tech enthusiasts, freelancers, startup founders, and professionals in Nigeria could meet, network, and co-create. The 1,200-square-meter hub in Abuja also served as a residential base for technology entrepreneurs on the continent selected to go through the VP accelerator programme.
Over the past five years, Ventures Platform has changed its investment strategy from the accelerator model to become one of the leading early-stage funds in Africa while it spun off the innovation hub business, now managed by its subsidiary Ventures Park.
With the recent surge in startup fundraising and tech activity as well as an uptick in remote and freelance jobs in Nigeria, Ventures Park saw its community of active users nearly doubled from just over 100 in early 2021 to almost 200 at present. In response to the increase, the company has launched a bigger campus, in Abuja, to provide greater support to its community.
Nigeria has the highest number of startups in Africa, according to findings by fDi Intelligence of Financial Times, in collaboration with Briter Bridges. As of August, a report by Disrupt Africa showed that Nigerian startups accounted for the biggest share of the $1.1 billion funding the continent’s tech ecosystem had attracted this year.
Furthermore, it’s been almost two years since the Covid-19 pandemic began, yet remote work shows no signs of going away. The social distancing rules, public gathering restrictions, and other lockdown measures that were imposed to curb the spread of the virus forced companies across the world to adopt remote work options to keep their businesses running.
That reality has also played out in Nigeria. While most people in the country still work from physical offices amid the health crisis, a few companies, such as Andela, Paystack, and Buycoins, have fully embraced the work-from-home idea.
But there are significant barriers to the success or long-term adoption of remote work; such as Nigeria’s inefficient power grid and irregular electricity supply as well as poor network connectivity and high internet costs. Nigeria ranks among countries with the most expensive data in the world.
Innovation hubs and co-working spaces like the new Ventures Platform campus in Abuja are equipped with power and internet amenities that help freelancers work and entrepreneurs build better.
The new 2,000-sq-meter hub is located in Wuse II, Abuja, and has the capacity to accommodate over 200 people. It has facilities such as private and shared offices, dedicated desks, restaurants, and spaces designed to host events, conferences, fun activities, and more.
On the walls of the new campus are displays of several contemporary Nigerian art, which help create a stimulating and stress-free work environment. “At Ventures Park, we believe fundamentally that the space people work in influences the kind of work they produce,” Kola Aina, founder of Ventures Platform told TechCabal in an interview.
In addition to technology enthusiasts and stakeholders, the campus is open to non-governmental organisations, international agencies such as the United Nations, as well as researchers and professors working in northern Nigeria.
“The majority of our users are in the startup ecosystem but we have a good mix of people that come, work, and interact with one another,” Ventures Park CEO, Nkechi Oguchi said. According to Aina, the ‘multidisciplinary’ nature of the community is “really important to creating a vibrant ecosystem.”
But why Abuja, and not Lagos, which is the epicentre of tech activity in Nigeria and where Ventures Platform has a “very active” community? Oguchi explains that the company believes that talent is everywhere, but opportunity isn’t evenly distributed.
“If everyone continued to focus on Lagos, we’d miss out on talents in other parts of Nigeria,” she said. “We chose Abuja to cater to the community and build the ecosystem here and since we launched, we’ve seen real progress in tech activity.”
According to Aina, Ventures Platform, since its launch, has been deliberate about wanting to provide opportunities in Abuja and the broader northern region of the country. “Many years later, the ecosystem in Abuja and northern Nigeria has grown significantly and we’re proud to have been part of that process.”
Ventures Park offers different free and paid membership plans for people looking to make use of the campus, including low-cost options from as low as ₦1,500 ($2.7).
“We understand how important it is for people to work with budgets,” Oguchi said. “Companies can book a space for a two or three-hour meeting and we also have several membership plans for individuals and startups.”
After launching its second innovation hub, Ventures Platform is considering partnerships that could see it expand across Africa, according to Oguchi.
“The work we do at Ventures Platform is pan-African, and the work that Ventures Park does as a part of that vision is really important,” she said. “We want to continue to support entrepreneurs with the physical spaces and programmes Ventures Park offers.”
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