I didn’t fully understand how to apply my skills in software development to be a successful entrepreneur as I used to think entrepreneurship and innovation were just about creating businesses from ideas. Now I know it is about creating solutions that solve problems and this cuts across different fields. This mindset would not have occurred sooner in my career without Innovate for Africa (IFA).
Innovate for Africa is a platform with a mission to create the next generation of innovators to strengthen the overall innovation ecosystem in Nigeria. It consists of a team of experienced educators, entrepreneurs, and consultants passionate about building powerful learning experiences and preparing students to make a difference in their communities. Our facilitators were a team of individuals with such diversity from The Harvard School of Education and MIT Sloan School of Management.
My experience in the fellowship began with the Innovation Readiness Training on the 4th of January, 2021 after going through 4 stages of application. It was a four (4) week intensive program that put me through four (4) different curricula: Personal Branding, Design Thinking, Strategic Analysis and Hard Skills Lab. Believe me, it was worth the time and engagement as I learnt to imbibe the five (5) values that IFA believes are vital to making progress in startup life. Some other key things I learnt about during this 1-month program include;
The importance of a strong online presence is underemphasized in our society today. The world is much more digital than you think and you must make judicious use of it. We were guided on how to create our brand with an appropriate resume and portfolio. I had to reflect and redefine my personal mission statement, redesign my website which eventually gave meaning to the brand and personality I have always wanted to build around myself.
This part of the training was actually my favourite as I got to work with amazing individuals in my first hackathon. This involved thinking critically and communicating effectively to pass your ideas across. It was fun conducting market research and analyzing it to find major issues, creating ideas, developing the idea to a solution and building a prototype. It is of no use if no one can hear about an idea you worked hard to develop so we had to pitch our idea; TRANSIX, to our facilitators and awesome judges from MIT and Harvard.
This session required us to learn how to conduct extensive detailed research into an organization, outlining their strengths and weaknesses as well as critically analyzing their system processes using a systems flowchart. I also learnt how to develop strategies, understand how major stakeholders interact through an organisation’s history, the group composition, and the structure.
Hard Skills Lab
With a background in software development, I've always wanted to add data skills to my arsenal and this was a very good opportunity for me to embark on it. The era we are in is so much dependent on data and companies can't scale without it. One of the greatest decision I believe IFA made was providing me with an industry expert in the field of Data Analysis as a mentor, Amit Kooner. He made the whole learning curve very easy for me. We were made to work on a real-life project working with a startup; Splitspot, to help them solve one of their problems using data. This gave me industry experience working with data.
One peculiar key takeaway for me was the overall program. The exposure to startups, building a personal brand for yourself, the design thinking, the hard-skills lab and the mentor meetup. At every session, we had a guest speaker talk to us about several topics ranging from entrepreneurship to branding to working in a startup. It was quite amazing having to acquire that mass of knowledge across several fields and profession. I wish to appreciate the entire IFA team. From Cynthia Obiora to Margaret Wang, Maria Jaramillo, Quadri Oguntade, Mary Nigel, Viviana Rivera and Omozusi Guobadia, you are all wonderful. To my IFA colleagues (The Ingenious Trailblazers), Congratulations! Greater things lie ahead of us. I love you all.
I intend to keep developing and building on what I have learnt so far to develop myself further as an entrepreneur. Emerging markets need innovation and entrepreneurs to tackle challenging problems for their development, this is how valuable startups are to the economy of the country and so after this training, I have come to have an in-depth understanding of what it entails to be part of a startup and play my role.
Partnering with a startup like yours will be an incredible learning experience for fellows like Francis, IN ADDITION to helping your startup accelerate with passionate African innovators.
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