It All Starts With a Spark

Tochukwu Egesi is CEO at The Innovation Corner a social innovation centre with a focus on using technology to solve social problems based in Lagos Nigeria.

Growing up, I wanted to be a bank MD and at 15 years old I did some research on all the directors of United Bank of Africa, Diamond Bank and Access Bank. I discovered a trend. To be a bank CEO you must have any or a combination of the following: Graduate degree in Economics, be a Chartered Banker, a Chartered Accountant and an MBA holder.

So I switched from my choice to study law to Economics and began my journey to be a chartered banker and accountant from my first year at University.

Fast forward to Graduation, I joined First City Monument Bank but discovered that I'm a problem solver and preferred to spend more time at the customer contact centre to learn more about customer problems and then work on repetitive issues which we then had to push through to management. I found that to be very painstaking and political. So I resigned.

I had so many sparks along the journey until Innovation Corner was born. The idea behind Innovation corner is to build digital products for social development and extend the network we develop with the products to other social startups that we choose to back. We started with Rem Health (an immunisation tracker) and Blueform (an African focused data collection and analytics service). We also have Gage ( a citizen engagement tool) and Outbox (A B2B solution) in the pipeline.

Working on Mission 1 (build digital products for social developments) has come with several challenges and so many opportunities. As an early stage organisation you are competing for technical and non-technical talent. So I have to pitch my vision to new team members as much as I pitch to governments, investors and users. This becomes more difficult in a continent with limited credit facility for businesses. However, I find that there are a lot of support for African entrepreneurs at the moment and these we have leveraged to build credibility and gain traction across all stakeholders. Some of these opportunities have come from the World Bank, the Nigerian Government, The United Kingdom, LEAP Africa, YALI/US Consulate Abuja which have led to very strategic partnerships and business development.

We are now launching Mission 2 (support socially driven startups ) in May 2019 with Beyond Nigeria, a program targeted at idea stage and early stage startups. Watch this space.


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