I’ve been struggling for a few weeks now to come up with an appropriate way to write this, not because I’m at the loss for words, but I’m just not sure what the right way is to break this. I didn’t know whether to write a press release-type post and just face-forward, or whether to write a more personal message and break the norm. At this point, you can already tell which path I chose.
I think I should start first by apologising for being scarce here, not writing as often as I should, and keeping you guys up to date with stuff, for the past few months, I’m sorry. I can assure you that we are not quitting the blog, as a matter of fact, we’ll be back with a bang in a few weeks and I’m really excited about the new team of people I’ll be working with in the next few weeks and the direction we are going with it.
I’ve been “scarce” for two reasons, first I got married to the most amazing person, so I needed to take some time off to adjust to the awesomeness of sharing your life with someone else.
Second, and mostly the point of this post, I have been working on bringing the idea of CoLab came to reality.
For a long time, I’d been thinking about how to make a difference as an individual, like we all talk so much game, but really do nothing about the situation around us every day, and I challenged myself to come up with that one-thing, that I could look back on and say this was my contribution to the development of lives and the country generally.
The end result of that train of thought is CoLab.
CoLab is Kaduna’s (and Northern Nigeria’s) first Innovation Hub and Co-Working space.
Three things inspired me to set it up:
- The fact that over time, some of the best IT people (from programmers to network engineers to big data scientists to Internet of Things (IoT) hobbyists) I have come across have been from around here, yet very few of them understand the value of the skill(s) they have or ever apply it to solving actual problems.
- Technology is the single biggest vehicle for taking people out of poverty and poverty around here is at epic levels.
- Kaduna is ideal for a startup/technology hub – On the average, there is better power here than anywhere else I’ve been to in this country, the cost of living is low, basic infrastructure is on ground. There’s fast enough Internet, a lot of talent, and a number of tertiary institutions (which are an important factor in creating a pipeline for talent). It is also in close proximity to two key markets (Kano and Abuja) and can access a third, Lagos via air and train (for people and goods respectively).
The long-term goal is to make Kaduna as a whole an IT hub; the go-to place in Nigeria, when there’s any IT related need. With time, who knows? Maybe it’ll be the next India. There’s no telling how far it can go, my goal is just to push as far as I can.
With CoLab, I intend to make this push by trying to achieve 5 things:
- Provide an environment that allows natural curiosity, fosters learning, and inspires creativity and innovation. I’ve gone all out to make the space as aesthetically motivating as possible within budget constraints and everyone that has come to there so far has been wowed. I believe that given the right environment, smart people interacting with each other naturally tend to create stuff.
You’ll find some pictures here.
- Offer high level mentorship from both national and international mentors who have made impact globally or have experience working in some of the top startups and tech companies both in Nigeria and globally…Programmers, Business Developers, Investment Bankers, Lawyers e.t.c. We believe a well rounded education is key to building or fitting into billion dollar companies, so we want to double down on not just ICT knowledge, but also everything else that is required to succeed. We currently have some really interesting mentors signed up – the kind you won’t find around here. They will be mentoring people on everything, from writing clean, well structured code, to equity, investments and funding.
- Train anyone interested in the ICT skills that are necessary to compete at an international level. We’re talking Code, UI & UX Design, Blogging, Content Creation, Digital Marketing, IoT e.t.c. We will cover today’s languages and global best practices. We want to give people skills at levels where they can compete anywhere in the world. We see that there is a high demand for these specific skills across the world, yet we have many who could easily fit into such positions, with some training. Most of these roles can be filled remotely, so we can have a situation where people can work from CoLab for companies across the world. However, we are not pushy about them remaining domiciled here.
- Beyond training, we’ll also go a step further and try to link members of our community with jobs and opportunities, both remote and physical from across the country and globally. From personally experience, I believe that the best way to break the mentality that the only way to earn a living is via a structured, salaried job (civil service, banks, etc.) which is prevalent in these parts is to actually link people up with an alternate means to earn a living.
- Lastly, we also intend to build an in-house team of the best brains, which we can use to tackle national and global problems.
It’s a crazy idea, but it’s one that I feel must be done because the potential payoff is huge. The chain reaction that this can set in motion may take thousands over the poverty line and alter the dynamics of a whole region in such an unprecedented manner. There’s also the chance that it fails, in which case, we’ll pack up and go home…and hopefully, someone else can learn from our mistakes and pick up the pieces. Failure really has never killed anyone, but even if it did, I’m certainly not afraid of it.
That’s why I’ve taken such a huge step, and invested a lot into bringing CoLab to life. It’s been done 100% of savings and at this point, there’s not a single kobo from anywhere invested. We pay for everything, from internet to utility bills, this might change in the future, but that’s where we are right now.
So, if you’re in Kaduna at any point, drop-in let’s make either make or break a few things…together at CoLab…who knows, in a few years, all the important headlines on this blog and in this space generally may originate from there. 🙂