Raising funds for scaling a startup operation has always being a major challenge, especially for those without deep pocket Venture Capitalist (VC) or Angel Investor backing. It all makes sense why a lot of startups find the prospects of raising funds at pitch competitions not just very attractive, but a quick way out of their cash problem. But it's not everyday an opportunity as such comes by, so the struggle for startups (even the big ones) is a continuous ordeal that has to be relived each day until one door of opportunity to acquire that much needed fund is opened.
But looking on the bright side, it is rather comforting to learn that things like meeting people to connect and interact with within a supportive community can equally be as value-oriented as acquiring funding. It is on these strengths and struggles, that the Office for ICT Innovation & Entrepreneurship (OIIE) is looking to fill in the gap for young and upcoming startups with its StartUP Friday programme.
StartUP Friday is a component of StartUP CAFÉ Program designed to bridge startup growth gap by enriching the development processes of new tech-driven businesses through meet-ups with successful entrepreneurs, investors, mentors, technology buyers and enthusiasts in major tech clusters across the country. It is a gathering of critical tech development community to facilitate networking and exchange of ideas and information such as business financing, marketing, pitch preparation support, tech products and services etc.
The first edition launched last month in Abuja and attracted 84 participants, and now the second edition is here, all thanks to the tremendous and positive feedback from the first. Only this time, the second edition -- which will hold on March 18, 2016 -- is already showing traits of surpassing previous feats with its promise to reach an even larger community, a more robust and supportive structure for startups and a wide reservoir of knowledge for budding startups to tap from featured industry experts within the tech community.
StartUP Friday's objectives include:
- Enrich the development process of the startups.
- Facilitate the creation of an interactive community for exchange of ideas and information.
- Create a comfortable environment for startup owners and potential investors to interact.
- Bridge the seed funding gap.
- Establish a network of entrepreneurs committed to growing and scaling their businesses.
- Provide essential support to ensure that the startups thrive and cater to the socio-economic climate by creating jobs and problem solving.
Speaking on this development, Bunmi Okunowo, National Coordinator OIIE sheds more light on their vision. In his words, "We will provide essential support to ensure that the startups thrive. This support will include advisory services and early stage funding. It is an avenue for start-ups who are struggling in one way or the other and determine ways in which the OIIE can assist them in their business." "For those that have commercially viable products, we want to bring them in contact with potential customers within and outside government who would listen to them, talk to them, invest in them or buy their products." he adds.
The agenda for the day event includes; Fireside Chat with successful entrepreneurs, a "tell your story" session for a number of upcoming and growth stage start-ups, lightening speeches from four people -- open innovation, among others.
The interesting part of the agenda for me, is the pitch sessions for 10 pre-registered and pre-selected startups. StartUP Friday will be looking to provide funding to the tune of N1.5 million -- depending on their business needs -- for at least three startups. Judges from the hubs and investors will select the best to be considered for this seed funding. There will also be room for feedback from panel of expert to the pitchers, and not leaving out from the entire picture, the opportunities to network and converse with like minds, industry role models and mentors whose expertise and experience will be invaluable as you aim to take your startup to the next level of scale.
Be the smartest in the room
In my encounter with startups, the prospect of meeting funding with other interesting value added incentives usually sits on top of the few things that commands their undivided attention anytime. And how better can it sound acquiring all of those in one single place, only at the cost of a free registration, a trip to Red Sparrow, Maitama at Abuja (where the event would be held), and a simple pitch of course. So hurry up to register and you could just be among the lucky startups that would be taking their business to the next level.