The global nonprofit initiative for developing startup ecosystem technology, Startup Commons, describes how a startup ecosystem is formed; ‘’by people, startups in their various stages and various types of organizations in a location (physical and/or virtual), interacting as a system to create new startup companies.’’ The organizations commonly engage in startup activities such as networking events, startup competitions and also serve as incubators for startups. One of such organizations is a university. Universities play a vital role in connecting startup team members with different skills and ideas to form a startup company.
For the second article in the ecosystembase series, I’ll do a profile on a university whose active participation in startup activities has resulted in the founding of several startups, and the formation of the Port Harcourt startup ecosystem.
Rivers State University (formerly Rivers State University of Science and Technology), established in 1972, is the first technological university in Nigeria and the first university to be situated in the Niger Delta. It is located in the Port Harcourt city center and is in close proximity to major markets, banks, and businesses.
RSU has contributed immensely to the Port Harcourt startup ecosystem by playing host to several startup events such as the Campus 24 hackathon challenge, the annual Startup Port Harcourt Week, and other developer conferences. The University’s Amphiteatre is a popular meeting place amongst students in the city where free tech events are organized frequently.
Port Harcourt’s startup ecosystem also enjoys support from the university’s administration. Last year, founders from the 2016 ‘50 Startups to Watch in Port Harcourt’ paid a visit to the University’s Director of Advancement and Linkages Center, also a former Head of Environmental Education and Training of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), Professor Akpesi Ogbuigwe in a bid to build synergy between the Port Harcourt startup ecosystem and the academia. The university’s support was instrumental to the success of the 2017 edition of the Startup Port Harcourt Week.
Just as Covenant University has a reputation for supplying the Lagos startup ecosystem with the most skill than any other Nigerian university, RSU has a reputation for providing the Port Harcourt startup ecosystem with the most skill than any other university in the city. You can almost always find a student of Rivers State University at every tech meetup. Last year at the 36th edition of Startup Sunday – a monthly meetup of techies in Port Harcourt – I was privileged to witness two students of Rivers State University pitch and demonstrate their novel products to the audience.
Daniel Oyeh demonstrated Tank Track – a prototype of a water detection system that prevents overflow from household water tanks, and a prototype of a Wireless Power Transfer System that enables power supply to electrical devices through an air gap, without the need for physical connections. The second student, Samuel Adiela pitched Tabanatech, a Church Management System. The demonstrations from both pitchers received rave reviews from all present, and Samuel Adiela has gone on to launch a startup, Tabanatech.
The university is no doubt an important player in forming an ecosystem and it is laudable to see that Rivers State University is an active player in the Port Harcourt startup ecosystem.