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Techies at Digital Dreams Meet-up Proffer Solutions to 9 Challenges Faced By Coal City Startups

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Digital Dreams Developers Meet-up group, a community of tech enthusiasts, recently organized a discussion on ICT lounge with emphasis on Building a Tech Ecosystem, using Enugu as a case study.

The two-day event was a sort of the ‘moment of truth’ for developers and the techcommunity who are bent on finding lasting solutions to issues confronting startups in the region.

Top on the agenda was how to promote the development of the tech ecosystem in Nigeria, especially in Enugu (coal city), to have a robust tech startup segment where innovation can thrive.

Nigeria indeed needs to prioritize research and development and support the growth of local tech startups, said the Guest Speaker Mr. Chukwudi Edoga.

He went ahead to describe a Tech Ecosystem an interconnected and interdependent community of people that come together to collaborate in order to create innovative and sustainable products and services in technology.

“For an Ecosystem to be successful, there must be established companies, startups and founders that compete and collaborate, and also use, review and fine tune each other’s products and strategy.A Tech Ecosystem need ‘Actors’ to be successful.

“Actors are individuals, group of individuals or firms that foster the growth of ICT in a particular region. They are the ‘key players’ in an ecosystem. These actors can be entrepreneurs/startups, mentors, investors, incubators, universities, corporations, associations/events, government or service providers. If you are lacking actors or have inefficient actors in your Ecosystem, you will have a very poor Ecosystem. And that is the case in Enugu”, said Edoga, the CEO of Digital Dreams Limited.

Problems of inefficient or poor number of actors in Enugu was deliberated on by discussants, who further suggested how to tackle the nine identified challenges faced by start-ups in Enugu, as report by TechEconomy.ng:

1. Problem of Founders with good ideas

There are very few good ideas amongst founders. There are also people with good ideas but lack the knowledge/tools of presenting it or bringing it to reality.

Fear of ideas getting stolen or copied keep people getting the idea out and executed and finally the idea ends up getting buried.

Solutions

  • We should also push for everyone to open up about ideas. If people are informed, they will get the help they need in packaging the idea to attract investors.
  • We need a mentorship programme in our community.
  • It is of great importance that we encourage people to be observant of their environment and think on how to solve their problems using technology.

2. The problem of insufficient skills and talent to deliver a product–

For developers to gain skills needed to deliver products, they have to be willing and ready to bend down and learn. The problem is that many individuals immediately start looking out for making money with the little skills they have and no experience.

Solutions

  • Developers have to take on more projects to complete their learning process and develop their skills. Just learning isn’t enough, they have to involve themselves in a real project.
  • Developers should put more emphasis on personal development and collaboration to help sharpen their skills and productivity.
  • We need to encourage people to attend more technical events.
  • Developers should attach themselves to tech firms to aide faster learning.
  • The importance of experience over money should be emphasized and made known to the people.
  • We need to organize summer coding classes for the young coders in secondary school and also for 100 level students
  • We should also organize a challenge for groups of programmers with specific interest where they build something maybe a web or mobile app and present. This can greatly sharpen skills and motivation to innovate.
  • There is a need to create a synergy with coding clubs in university or secondary school.
  • We need to create coding clubs in secondary schools and universities and also find companies they can attach to during breaks.
  • It’s important we encourage developers to not be content with what they know but always make effort to improve on their skills.

 3. Lack of community resources like hubs, etc.–

ICT Hubs will be an important means for the Government to grow an inclusive, innovative economy for the benefit of the country. Number of hubs in Enugu is very poor. Before a hub is built, there need to be available developers and other techies on ground. And we don’t have the statistics of this.

Solutions

  • We need to have a database of all developers in Enugu, there skill and what they are building. This will be of great use when convincing investors to invest in hubs in Enugu.
  • Government partnership will also be needed for this.

4. Universities/Institutions with outdated curriculum or Inexperienced lecturers–

Many of our universities still stick with very old or outdated curriculums that is pretty much not in use anymore and most of the lecturers not specialized in these modern courses and have little or no skill in impacting them to the students effectively. There is no evaluation of students on completion of a given software task. This can sometimes be as a result of the tasks having no particular aim of achieving something.

Solutions

  • We have to engage and train the lecturers on modern languages and evaluate them (Authority from government or VCs and well developed instructional material needed for this).
  • We can also enforce a curriculum review and bring it in line with modern reality.
  • Introduce young professionals to teach new tech courses.
  • We can push for universities to offer an extra certificate on computer programming, so many other non-computer students will be willing to join.
  • We can use the power of social media to promote the use of modern languages and technologies.

5. Problem of Investors–

Whether these are individual angels, organized angel networks, venture capital firms, private equity firms, family offices, corporations or other funding sources doesn’t matter. What matters is the money is flowing from whoever can cut the checks for that stage of a business’s growth.Convincing investors to invest outside buying and selling can be a very difficult task especially here in the South East. Investors prefer something they can see and feel.

Solution

  • Engage in competitions. Competitions can help you meet investors, train you on pitching and expose you to the winning idea and also gain you free press. Also this way investors can see and feel what they are actually investing in.

6. Poor media and publicity –

There is not enough attentionon startups in Enugu. Media and publicity is very curial in building a successful tech ecosystem. But we need to have something substantial enough to be publicized.

Solutions

  • It is of paramount importance that we reach out more to the media this year.
  • A challenge has been remade to the community to build a tech blog which will be sponsored and promoted by Digital Dreams.
  • Also we need to need to know what the members of the community has built and we can promote it using earned media.
  • The community business can be improved with technological approach.

7. Poor Government Policy –

Whether it is at the city, county or state level, your local government can play a very important role. That could include providing tax incentives for startups to launch in their city, tax-free profits on any capital gains in a startup (to help stimulate investment), passing ecosystem friendly laws (like free access to the internet), or establishing venture capital funds with a portion of their treasury.

Solutions

  • We need to engage more with the government. A good local content policy is necessary to favor the indigenous ICT firms.
  • There’s also need to read and enforce other laws passed by government.
  • We will get info on the number of students, how many teachers, failure rate, etc. in schools,the data can get the government’s attention.
  • We can approach some of the law makers and talk to them to help in achieving that.

8. Inadequate Infrastructure–

The government very little to tech infrastructure and this leaves Nigeria’s tech advancement in a terrible state.

Solution

  • Engaging the government more.

9. No feedback loop that’ll help us iterate the mechanism of the ecosystem.

Solution

  • We need a feedback mechanism to show our growth.

Speaking on the meet-up, Digital Dreams Ltd, Community Lead, Oraegbunsm Victor, said that a lot of progress is being made to address some of the identified challenges faced by tech startups in the State and South East Region in general.

He disclosed that Digital Dreams Ltd is also working towards empowering 1000 developers before the end of this year.

In his words: “A lot of progress was made and a lot of problems tackled from the deliberations from all the members of D3M group.

“An Agreement was reached to build a developers and startup database web app, which will also have features like tech news feed, discussion forum, etc. as well as train 1000 developers as our target for this year.

“This will be set up as a competition. It will also help encourage the community and with this help us keep tabs on our growth”, he said.