Entrepreneurs.ng was live at the coworking conference 2018 created by Venia Business Hub and proudly sponsored by Access Bank on Thursday, 26th July 2018. This year’s coworking conference was tagged “Coworking – Catalyst for Innovation” and hosted at IMAX Theatre Lekki, Lagos State.
The coworking conference aimed at bringing to light the role of coworking for entrepreneurs. Coworking encourages co-creation and collaboration which results in spurring innovation, wealth, and job creation. The coworking conference was for pre-qualified entrepreneurs, freelancers, service providers, and investors.
Keynote speakers were His Excellency, Yemi Osinbajo (Vice President, Federal Republic of Nigeria), former Minister of ICT and Managing Partner of TLCom Capital – Dr. Omobola Johnson, Iyin Aboyeji of Flutterwave, Ola Brown of Flying Doctors and Greentree Investments, Victor Etuokwu of Access Bank, Kola Aina of Ventures Park, Tony Bacigalupo of New Work Cities, Maria Rotilu of Branch Int’l and many more. These thought leaders, entrepreneurs, and speakers have shaped the future of the coworking industry and helped attendees sharpen their ideas, businesses and unleash the true essence of coworking; leveraging collaboration and community.
Kola Oyeneyin in his opening remark sensitized the participants and investors on the need to take part in the opening of more co-working spaces as it evolves in Nigeria. Kola Oyeneyin is the founder of the Venia group and the creator of The Coworking Conference. He added that co-working spaces have increased from 75 to 107 in Nigeria from the last coworking conference in 2017. Innovators.ng – an online pitch platform to be launched soon was also introduced.
Dr. Omobola Johnson when she mounted the podium recounted an article she read on forbes which states that over one million people work in coworking spaces across the world and the growth has accelerated in Africa. Even though investing in coworking is not an investment thesis for TLcom, seeing the impact that coworking creates, there is a huge ‘however’ for TLcom.
This is beyond the entrepreneurs that go to the spaces (because they can choose to go to any coworking of their choice), what matters to investors in coworking is that these spaces facilitate, support and strengthen the ideation and commercialisation process for entrepreneurs. This helps in the creation of an enabling environment for tech companies to thrive and to grow. And coworking does this in two ways, they give flexibility and viability to a very heavy fixed cost for most companies (rent, light, and Wifi.) The second thing is that they offer communities of people working in close proximity to each other fostering interaction, networking, collaboration, and idea exchange. This will lead to innovation and disruption that we need to see in Nigeria.
She highlighted what investors may be looking out for when they want to invest in coworking spaces. First on her list was location. Location is very important. Where you situate a coworking space is very important especially for a country like Nigeria where infrastructure (broadband, transportation, electricity) is lacking. Coworking spaces should be accessible whether by car, public transport or foot. There should also be basic amenities around the coworking space or the coworking should provide the amenities themselves. Secondly, there must be evidence of a good demonstrable business model that can generate and sustain revenue. Revenue model that is not only dependent on rent. Finally, coworking spaces must also provide other services that contribute to the development of coworkers.
Tosin Faniro Dada sensitized the audience on Lagos State projects for tech entrepreneurs and co-working spaces through Lagos Innovates. She mentioned in her speech that Lagos Innovate is willing to part way with a loan up to 50 million naira to existing co-working Space looking to expand.
A panel made up of Adebowale Banjo (Moderator), Kanyinsade Ademusan (CEO, Seventh Space), Tayo Ashiru (Main One), Tayo Ogidan (CEO, Alternatio Navitas) and Chinaza Onuzo (Vice President, African Capital Alliance) were up on stage to discuss “Innovative Infrastructure Solutions for the Coworking Industry”. They discussed the need for alternative and cheaper sources of energy for coworking spaces. Kanyinsade said that workspaces should employ smart buildings and take design seriously. Chinaza emphasised the need for workspaces to take free financial opportunities like the one offered by Lagos innovates and expand as quickly as they can. They all harped on the need for workspaces to have an outstanding relationship with their immediate environment.
Tony Bacigapulo who gave a live speech from New York shared how his company New Work Cities was birthed. New Work Cities was created in 2008 when he could not find a suitable environment where he could co-work with other people. He encouraged coworking operators to register for the Coworking Visa Program which will give their members access to other coworking spaces across the world.
Another interesting discussion was “Acts That Stimulates Innovation In A Coworking Environment”. The topic was done justice to by six players in the industry. They concluded that the following acts will breed innovation in a coworking space:
- Relationship and communication with the clients complemented with a deep understanding of their business
- Devising a way to enhance the client’s business growth either by referral or collaboration.
- Integrating hourly, daily and quarterly packages into coworking spaces
- Organizing events at intervals as this will help space owners spend time understanding the client’s personality, finding out what they do, and how to help or collaborate with them.
- Designing spaces with community interaction in mind.
Venture Capitalists can partner with coworking spaces to find and fund innovative ideas and businesses to invest in. Four investors: Ola Brown (CEO, Flying Doctors Nigeria), Bunmi Akinyemiju (CEO, Venture Garden), Kola Aina (Venture Platform), Olutosin Oni (Echo VC), and Yvonne Johnson (Moderator) who has investment companies they are attached to tell us what they are looking out for when they think investment. This is important because it will help businesses who are looking for funding to be better prepared to secure the fund. Investors want to invest in people. They are interested in a storyteller who has ample knowledge of the business, a salesperson, a communicator, and a leader. Investors also want to have a say in the company and get a good return on their investment.
Coworking is a movement and like every good movement is attracting the right attention. It is beyond real estate and more than a building. Coworking is about collaboration and nation-building, it is ripe and is ready to be plucked.
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Photo Credit: Lagoscowork