“I have always wanted to be an innovator, using technology to solve our pressing challenges in Africa” are some of the words Founder and CEO of Start Innovation, Hanson Johnson as he narrates his story of building the first fully tech hub in Akwa Ibom State.
His emergence in the Nigerian ecosystem with other innovators and tech geeks is a result of his involvement in the springing up of tech hubs and accelerator labs in the Niger-Delta and around the country.
Read the full conversation with Hypestation below.
Interest in tech
I have always wanted to be an innovator, using technology to solve our pressing challenges in Africa by collaborating to come up with new ideas, methods and products. This was not easy and I never knew how to achieve this so I had to ask questions and read a lot to discover those hidden routes to the innovation land. I thank God for access to the Internet that made this lifestyle easier for me.
The decision to ‘Start’
My decision to go corporate and start a Limited Liability Company are many starting points from birth.
From the name of the company, you will notice that Start is involved in Start Innovation Hub. Starting has always been scary and fearful. It has prevented many people from bringing their ideas to life because of the courage to start. I decided to use the name start so it will reflect in everything we are doing knowing that we are positioning to start many sustainable ideas, companies and initiatives. Start now is like a mantra to us in the office.
While growing up, skills, exposure, tools and opportunities I wanted were in Lagos and I was not based there. I imagined other young people outside Lagos who are talented but lack the opportunity Lagos provides in their local communities and decided to fill the gap in Uyo where I live.
When we started, I only knew where we wanted to get to, I never knew how we will get there and I was not scared of failure at all. I was ready to fail fast and succeed faster.
Uyo was virgin to ICT and technology. Most businesses were not online, internet was a challenge and the awareness was poor. Our decision to start was to help in filling this gap and provide a platform for our talented young people to find opportunities.
Why Uyo instead of Moving to Other ‘Trending’ Places
We came to solve problems and provide opportunities where there is none. If we leave Uyo, we are running away from problems. Uyo is the land of opportunities for us because we have a lot to offer the talented young people here who needs access to the right information and guidance to discover themselves.
I grew up in Uyo so I know the problems I faced because of lack of opportunities. I do not want any other talented young person to grow up facing same challenges so that is why we are in Uyo. Most importantly, if everyone moves out of Uyo in search of better opportunities, who will develop Akwa Ibom State? We are here to attract great minds and world-class organisations to collaborate and create opportunities for Nigerians in Akwa Ibom State.
Achievements So Far
My number one achievement is sustaining Start Innovation Hub for 4 years without funding from a third party individual or organisation.
I bagged an Excellence Award in Technology Entrepreneurship by reputable organisations Like LEAP Africa. We have 145+ people using the hub, international recognitions and invitation to share our story on global platforms.
Facebook announced us in May 2018 as one of their Hub Partners in Nigeria.
More so, all our startups are conceived, designed, built and founded by locally groomed talents and not forgetting recognition as an international ICT Consultant.
Based on what I have achieved today, I really wish that I had much started earlier (lol)
We have several challenges and they include Internet and power supply. Also, we are in a low income area and those willing to learn cannot afford a laptop.
Becoming a Google Developer Groups Country Mentor & Facebook Developer Circles Lead
Google Developer Groups (GDGs) is a community of developers who are interested in Google’s developer technology. I founded Google Developer Group Uyo (GDG Uyo) and our first event was on 5th November, 2011. Since then I have been indulging in Google technologies and using it to create local solutions and also found pleasure in sharing the knowledge I have acquired over the years with other young people.
This platform gave us access to engineering support from Google, international exposure and invitations to international conferences organised by Google in London, USA, Nigeria and Kenya.
In July 2016 I was made Country Mentor to Google Developers in Nigeria to serve as a liaison between the Developer Relations Team at Google and Developers in Nigeria.
For the Developer Circles from Facebook, it is a great way for developers to connect and collaborate. Each Circle is locally organized by members of the community. In May 2017 Facebook approved a Developer Circle for Uyo which I am the Lead organiser. This has given us access to technical contents and engineering support from Facebook. One year after approving Developer Circles hosted in our hub, Facebook named us one of their hub partners in Nigeria in May 2018.
I am looking forward to an economically viable region powered by local businesses 10 years from now.