As we explored the startup scene of Nigeria in Lagos, we could not miss the prominent role of the Co-Creation Hub, also known as CC Hub Nigeria. Most people we had met the days before at the Mobile West Africa conference referred to it as the central piece of this nascent ecosystem.
So after the conference, we went there and enjoyed a guided tour by Tolu, the “bar owner” of CC Hub. Let me be clear: there’s not really a bar in CC Hub, and Tolu’s role is not to serve drinks.
But in all the countries we have visited, as well as in France and Singapore where we are based, each of these startup buildings have their “bar owners” who know everything, everyone, and are the most useful persons you can find around.
In downtown Lagos, a tech ecosystem strong of (at least) 4000 members
As in so many emerging markets, it all began with small tech gatherings, whose participants decided at some point that a place would better fit their needs. From Hong-Kong to Tehran, it’s almost always the story of passionate geeks who “push the walls”, events after events.
The CC Hub is now a 4-storey building with a rooftop terrace, and a great central location in Lagos. Different membership levels allow the would be entrepreneurs up to the hardcore startupers to find their place in the same building, and of course, the mix and variety of profiles create this feeling of an ecosystem.
Part of the membership is free for people willing to attend training sessions and come during the week-end. A second tier helps freelancers and early stage startups to use all the services from 9am to 9pm. A third and last tier adds more mentorship and pre-incubation services for startups.
The community is made of 70% of local Nigerians, and 30% of returnees, a big part of these people from the diaspora have been studying and working overseas, such as in Great Britain. This is the case of Femi Longe, one of the co-founder of the CC Hub.
About 4000 people are registered in the community, with about 250 of them paying the second tier of membership, and 50-60 startupers paying for the third their. As with Kenya’s iHub, the space if funded partly from the local operations, and with the support of international supports such as the Omidyar Network.
A guided tour of CC Hub Nigeria
In a similar arrangement like NUMA, the big startup building in the center of Paris, CC Hub Nigeria has one floor for each level of the local ecosystem, although the reception and more open space is located on the top, probably to enjoy their amazing terrace : )
On the 4th and top floor, the space is designed to pool skills and people. The co-founders and mentors of the CC Hub are also running free training sessions to help the local wantrepreneurs to get a business education. It’s overall a very open space where people discuss, work, train themselves, and have access to the amazing rooftop from which it is possible to have a great overview of downtown Lagos.
Go down a floor, and you find a space more focused on coworking, with freelancers or teams visibly working in a more focused way. Just as in any startup ecosystem, different spaces are needed to help teams to first explore, discuss, exchange, and then exploit, focus and release a prototype, a MVP or any version working for a feedback.
Further down, we enter the incubation space itself, with 12 teams selected by CC Hub to enjoy a full year of mentoring and support. The teams here pay partly the rent, and give a small share of their equity, a model you can find pretty much in every accelerator or incubator around the world.
The ground floor, that Tolu kept mysterious until the end, is simply amazing. Both an open-space for anyone in Lagos to come and test about 40 different phones and tech devices setup on wide tables, it’s also a space for brands to get feedback from the early adopters a space like CC Hub Nigeria is attracting.
This Mobile Experience Center connects all the parts of the ecosystems together. For instance, GT Bank launched a new mobile platform back in February 2014 and did it here, to crash test the solution and get the precious feedback of Lagos most connected people.
CC Hub Nigeria’s philosophy: solving social issues with a commercial purpose
After this guided tour, we’ve discussed with Femi Longe, one of the co-founders of this space. In the discussion, we both agreed rapidly that the next Facebook or Amazon would not come from CC-Hub Nigeria, or from any other place in the country anyway.
Rather than talking of groundbreaking technologies, Femi speaks of groundbreaking usage to address local problems. African innovators must solve issues while turning this social mission into a viable business to escape the trap of charity an grants. We’ve seen in another post of Wecyclers was a good example, as this startup helps to sort trash, a key issue in Lagos, while rewarding city-dwellers and selling back the collection to recycling plants.
Another similar success story from CC Hub Nigeria is BudgIT. As in many broken states, financial transparency is non-existant, and the country’s budget is not understood, reinforcing the lack of trust from citizens in their government. Moreover, with about 40% people age 15 and over illiterate, data must be showcased differently.
The innovation of BudgIT is precisely to create data visualisations of the government budget. It helps to breakdown large sums into categories and timeframes.
Not only BudgIT is solving a local issue and helps increase the financial transparency of institutions. They also sell part of the most valuable data-viz to law firms and financial institutions who have no more readability of Nigeria’s figures than the population.
You can now see CC Hub Nigeria’s mindset and effort to solve social issues with a commercial purpose. CC Hub has opened in 2011 to “mine Nigeria’s problems for opportunities” as Femi Longe says. Do pay them a visit if you are in Lagos.
6th Floor, 294 Herbert Macaulay Way