As part of our series profiling the key partner hubs in Facebook’s NG_Hub, we had a chat with Mr Hanson Johnson, the founder and CEO of Start Innovation Hub Nigeria, based in Uyo the capital of Akwa Ibom state.
Facebook recently selected this Hub as one of its key partners in NG_Hub, and it was this development and a wide range of issues concerning the present and the future of tech entrepreneurship in the Niger Delta and Start Innovation Hub’s role in this that were discussed in this interview.
Below is the transcript of the interview
Hello Mr Hanson,tell us about yourself and your role in Start innovation Hub.
I am a technology entrepreneur with a dream to save the world with a click. I am the founder and CEO of Start Innovation Hub Nigeria. I studied Electrical Electronics Engineering in the Federal University of Technology, Owerri, Imo State. I am passionate about giving passionate young people platforms to discover themselves.
What is Start innovation Hub & what was the vision behind the formation of the hub?
Start Innovation Hub Nigeria is an ICT firm with innovation lab in Uyo, Nigeria. We are committed to helping technology startups with software and hardware ideas start up faster. Start Hub is a lab with business centre facilities and all in one open space for entrepreneurs to leverage on Nigeria’s strength and capitalize on opportunities in the global economy. Start Hub aims at stimulating economic growth in the technology community by providing key ingredients like seed funding, mentorship and access to business expertise. Others are networking opportunities, peer review, pitch development, product testing and introduction to investors.
… the vision behind the formation of the hub
While growing up, everything I wanted was in Lagos and I had no one in Lagos I could stay with to achieve my dreams. I felt there are other young people like me here who are seeking for opportunities that are only in Lagos. To breach this gap, we decided to create our own Lagos, an Opportunity Centre called Start Innovation Hub. Today, we have over 145 people in the hub. Whenever I look at them, I will be like “Just imagine we did not start”.
What programs, projects and initiatives has the Hub executed since inception?
We came to create opportunities for skilled people so we decided to build the people first. We have developed world class web, android and hardware developers who are creating impact globally. We are proud of that feat.
We do not have products in the market. They are currently incubating. These ideas were conceived, validated, designed and built locally by people who were not developers 2 years ago. We are looking forward to launching 3 of the ideas in the incubator by next quarter.
What are the success stories?
Apart from the quality of feedback we get from those that engage our developers, our startup teams have been doing well in competitions.
Some of them are;
Team Gear: 2nd prize in NASA International Space Apps Challenge, Nigeria 2015
Jiggle: 2nd Prize in USPF Changemaker Challenge 2017
Budgetier: 1st Prize in Startup Frida Pitch Competition 2018
Nsikak Thompson, our Lead Android Developer was featured on Codementor as 2nd Best Android Developer in February 2018
How has Start innovation hub impacted the tech eco-system in Uyo and the Niger delta as a whole?
We have been able to build capacity and attract opportunities locally, nationally and internationally to the region. Today, local businesses are confidently powered by local technology solutions and support compared to 10 years ago.
We are a platform for people to discover themselves. Through our programmes and partners, we have reached over 1200 people in the region. In Uyo, 145+ people are currently using our space.
Facebook recently chose your hub as a key partner in the NG_hub programme, What was your reaction to the news?
It was good news and a reason to work harder. The partnership is validating what we have been doing in our small corner for 4 years now. We hope to leverage on this relationship with Facebook to indulge in Deep Tech and come up with sustainable solutions for the future.
Out of all the ICT Hubs in Akwa-Ibom, Facebook chose Start-Innovation hub as its Key partner .What do you think was the reason for this?
I believe it’s a couple of factors which includes focus and consistency.
How has Facebook’s partnership so far impacted Start innovation hub and the tech ecosystem in Uyo and in the Niger Delta?
This relationship has given people the confidence to work with us.
What are your long term expectations for this strategic partnership with Facebook?
We have a vision as an organization and the main reason we are in this with Facebook is because our vision aligns. We see this facilitating the level of impact we create in the Niger Delta because it will help in being able to accommodate more people with ideas.
Where do you see tech entrepreneurship in the Niger Delta in 20 years time?
We will fly without wings. Things will talk to things. People with ideas will reap from it because our collective investments now as a community will be paying off. I believe #ICTnotOil is the future of Niger Delta and we have to deliberately fly into that future now. You can count the number of tech startups now in the region but by then, it will be so much with unicorns.