The Nigerian tech ecosystem is getting more interesting by the day, with local and international tech experts, exploring ways of staying relevant in the industry. I recently came across Jessica Hope, Founder, Winbart, who has spent the better part of the last 5 years, working with emerging Startups, such as Iroko TV, Konga and a few others. Our discussion centered on her thoughts on ways to position the African tech Startups on the international scene.
Jessica is of the view that, most tech Startups should have mainly, one narrative. The idea, she stated, is to be basically known for one thing as a Startup, seeking to brand out. “Be known for one thing. Do it really well and then, you can produce narratives that can meet your other products after that”, she advised.
On the things she will ask a Startup coming to pitch to her, Jessica stated that she will ask questions as to what impact the Startup will be making, how much money the Startup has raised or looking to raise, what the size of his Startup is, etc. She is of the opinion that, you have to be able, as a Startup, to explain, and show what makes you stand out from the rest of the crowd, to make any headway, when seeking to raise funds from third parties for your Startup.
Speaking on her experience, working in the Nigerian tech ecosystem, Jessica stated that, working in Lagos has always been busy and interesting for her. She observed that the influence of the Nigerian Startups that she has been working with has increased on the international scene over the past 5 years, as they are now sought after on the international arena, compared to what obtained 5 years ago. She stated that, this is because, these Startups have raised more money, which has increased their prevalence in terms of News worthiness for journalists.
Jessica stated that, one of the things she loves about working with Startups is the energy put in by the Founders and Co-Founders. “I think the energy of the Founders and Co-Founders is amazing and I think it’s the fact that they’re able to overcome challenges”, she observed. She added that , commencing as a Startup in Nigeria is not easy, as the Startups do not have the kind of safety nets that are available in the the western world, in terms of grants and government support, etc. “I think that people who don’t have really great energy and are not really 110% their products, would not only fail in PR because they can’t sell their story, but they will do so when interacting with Venture Capitalists, when trying to raise funds”, she observed.
Jessica is of the opinion that, government support for Startups, in terms of money and policy, are very important for the growth of the Startups in Nigeria. She stated that Startups in Nigeria really struggle to space, with most having to pay 2 years rent upfront to rent a space to work from and money is not easy to come by, especially, where bank loans are quite expensive for Startups.
She stated that, luckily for Nigerian Startups, more and more accelerators and incubators are popping up in Lagos, Abuja and Kaduna, to provide space for some of these Startups, but in her opinion, more still needs to be done in this regards of providing affordable space for the Startups to work from.
On how to encourage more women to embrace the tech industry, Jessica stated that, luckily, the tech industry is one that does not require one to have an Ivy league education, but only interest is key. All that is needed, she stated, is for you to on the internet, learn to, maybe code, etc, so, women have equal opportunities to grow in the tech space like men.
Jessica gave reasons why a Startup will need PR and one of them is PR for sales, as people need to know about your product, so, they can buy it. Another is PR to attract talents to work in Startups. PR, she stated, gives the required validation for people to have confidence in these Startups.
Jessica advised Startups to go by the following trips to position themselves for the market:-
(1) Make sure you understand who your competitors are and figure out the ways in which you are different from them.
(2) Have a really strong narrative, a really strong brand and make sure that you know how to articulate that clearly.
(3) Start speaking to people in the ecosystem that you’re dealing with, who can help you to project your products.