Last Friday during the Developers Festival in Aba, I sighted the Program Manager, Sub Saharan Africa for google – Aniedi Udobong, Prosper Otmuyiwa, Ized Uanikhehi and Bruce Lucas discussing somewhere infront of the hall. I have not seen Ized since September when she came to Uyo to train us on Digital Marketing and to establish DigiClan Africa, Uyo branch. On one or two occasions, Aniedi has been to Start Innovation hub and I missed seeing him, so in the spirit of networking, the discussion presented an occasion for us to exchange pleasantries once again. Down the staircase I jogged to join the discussion.
After a few handshakes and brief introductions, the discussion resumed again. “Do you know someone actually asked me what we mean by ecosystem when we talk about tech,” Udobong asked thoughtfully. “Yea you will be surprised that most of the things you thought is common is not actually common until someone will ask for an explanation on certain issues” Prosper answered narratively. Aniedi then went ahead to explain that his inquisitor was actually thinking a tech ecosystem is something similar or is referred to the ecosystem taught in their biology classes. Everyone smiled except me who knew in real 90% of my site visitors has been asking the same question and I feel my next article should expatiate on what a tech ecosystem is all about.
Now for you who think of a tech ecosystem in terms of the ecosystem you learnt in your biology class, I will say you are partially in order. In biology, an ecosystem includes all living organisms (biotic factors) in an area as well as its physical environment (abiotic factors) functioning together as a unit. Supplement. An ecosystem is made up of plants, animals, microorganisms, soil, rocks, minerals, water sources and the local atmosphere interacting with one another.
Now why I said you are partly in order as regards your biology definition is that all the factors – living and non-living in an ecosystem interact with one another. Now let’s consider the tech ecosystem.
A tech ecosystem is an interconnected, interdependent network of various actors that combine to create innovative products and services in tech. These actors primarily include tech startups, more established tech companies, tech company founders, investors and investment groups, mentors and organisations that provide business support.
A successful tech ecosystem allows for many smaller companies to bring innovation to market. Operating alone would be difficult, and in many instances, impossible, without the on-going help of a tech ecosystem in a market typically dominated by a select few large cap companies. In our market, any tech startup will find it very hard to grow but as the market matures the network of support will no doubt make things easier.
There are supporting factors that play a crucial role in creating a tech ecosystem. These include the media, the government, a strong human resources talent pool, the education system, a predominant entrepreneurial culture, and a robust local infrastructure to support founders and investors in communicating, solving problems together, and coming up with innovative ideas.
Startups and Founders
Starting a company is incredibly challenging. Innovating is not easy, and it can quickly become more difficult if other areas of business demand a startup’s attention.
A tech ecosystem brings startups and founders together in a network, to overcome problems and share each other’s experiences. Furthermore, it raises spirits to challenge in a sector knowing you have a network of startup founders doing the same thing. And it gives individual companies the power to join forces on certain areas, giving them a stronger voice. We at techforest.ng will be the voice of the Nigeria South South and South East startup ecosystem.
Investors and Investment Groups
Many startups choose to raise funds with external investors. Investors also often provide business advice and direction. Venture capitalists experienced in tech investment typically offer a startup capital in exchange for equity and they take an important consultative role in guiding the startup’s growth. Investors provide many startups with the lifeblood of business success – capital and knowhow.
One of the most important investment groups globally is Andreessen Horowitz. Over the coming months we hope to identify investors interested in startups coming out of Nigeria South. However, the Akwa Ibom State government seems interested in startups from the Uyo ecosystem.
Accelerators and Incubators
Accelerators work to help a company or “accelerate” their growth through providing mentoring, training and promotion, among many other types of support. A tech incubator is a company that helps new tech startups and early stage companies with office space, equipment, funding, networking and legal advice, among many other roles. They are specifically dedicated to startups and early stage tech sector companies. Well known accelerators and incubators include Tech City in London and Y Combinator in California.
Serial Entrepreneurs, Angel Investors and Mentors
Tech ecosystems typically contain individuals who are involved in numerous tech entrepreneurial ventures (serial entrepreneurs), individuals who invest their own money in various tech startups (angel investors) and individuals who provide startup founders with much needed guidance and advice (mentors). It is also common for one individual to provide all three roles.
Any thriving tech ecosystem is littered with such individuals. A tech ecosystem is largely considered to need them to succeed, and vice-versa.