Many new ideas are coming in every week via the VC4Africa website. On a regular basis the VC4Africa team places a new venture in the spotlights. Let’s meet Nigerian entrepreneur Silas Okwoche, founder of Ideacentric.
We always hear about Lagos as the place to be in Nigeria. What is the tech start-up scene like in Abuja?
“Lagos indeed currently remains the center of gravity for start-ups, largely due to the presence of skilled talent and proximal markets. But Abuja is catching up in many areas. Honestly speaking, Abuja may never rival Lagos in some areas, like entertainment, because of an effort by the city management to keep the city ‘orderly’. However, it is quite sure that Abuja will be a great place for tech in the near future – that is why Ideacentric is here!
Abuja is a nice city with a well-planned metropolis and first-rate infrastructure. It was built from the ground up to house Nigeria’s federal government. Currently construction continues at a breathtaking pace to enable the city to contain the influx of people seeking new opportunities.
At present, Abuja’s business environment is more favorable for people seeking careers in the civil service or in the construction industry than for setting up start-ups. This is partly due to the high costs of living and the relatively low population density. But Abuja has potential to be the future destination for start-ups because of government backed ‘incubation’ zones, like the Abuja Technology Village, which is still under construction. Yet, even at present, Abuja provides a serene environment for the thriving of any start-ups with products that can leverage the internet to source for business from all over Nigeria.”
Please explain about your idea to make the Nigerian school curriculum available on mobile devices?
“It’s the teacher, stupid!” Bill Gates is said to have made this profound statement after spending $2bn to improve high school education in the US without much positive result. And Nigeria is in a more precarious position with a population that currently stands at over 150 million with a staggering number being under 25 years. These kids are having poor or no access to quality education at the primary, secondary and tertiary level.
Thus, there seems to be little hope for turning such vast human resources into a lasting economic miracle like in India or China. Unless there is some way to get supplementary high quality course-ware and instruction into the hands of as many people as possible both at the high school and university levels. And this is what Ideacentric is bent on doing. We are manufacturing our line of mobile internet tablets, called SPAKC. They currently run on the Google Android operating system. And we are building apps, in partnership with educators and publishers, that provide intuitive user-interfaces to access high quality school curriculum content. This content is stored in the tablet’s internal memory or in our e-library.”
How much does this tablet cost?
“We are optimistic that the Nigerian government, along with international development organizations, will be able to pay for this less-than US$100 tablet. This price is inclusive the e-education content. This will enable every secondary school student to have a tablet for free.
Our optimism with regards to government buy-in is based on the dire need that exist as well as the recent government policy formation on e-education for which our tablets and course-ware provide a good implementation path. We have gotten some positive feedback from the necessary government quarters thus far. Furthermore, we believe our internet ready tablets and apps will fly in the open market even without government buy-in. They meet dire needs at a moderate price, not only in education but also in the healthcare, personal-productivity and lifestyle areas.”
Can you tell us more about Ideacentric?
“Ideacentric started as a web design firm in 2007 in Kaduna, Nigeria. At that time we did web- designs for scores of small and medium scale organizations. Soon after our skill-set increased and because of word-of-mouth referrals we started handling whole brand design and IT-projects for SME’s and some large organizations.
In 2010, we moved to Abuja and consolidated our service offering under the areas of strategy, media and information technology. Practically speaking, we provide services such as online research and proposal writing, brand marketing, material design and productions, as well as web and mobile application design and development.
A few of our clients include the Zaria local government, Kebbi State government, Centre for Petroleum Studies, The Nigeria@50 anniversary celebration LOC, The Commodity Brokers Association of Nigeria and the Nigerian Legal Aid Council. Again, Ideacentric is in evolution. Some existing client services will be discontinued, but we will take the collective experienced gathered and apply to digital publishing, commercial electronics and software. We have only just begun!”
Please tell us about your background and about your team?
“While in university, somewhere between attending lectures, re-selling wrist watches, freelance website designing and trying to synthesize the next big peanut snack product, I realized that serial social entrepreneurship and problem solving are my true passions. After graduating with a chemical engineering degree in 2005, I worked for a year with SOI consulting and YWAP international as lead web developer and head of business development respectively, before founding Ideacentric in 2007.
I currently serve as the MD/COO of Ideacentric. As part of the team we have a CTO that coordinates client IT projects, a head of visual communications that coordinates media design projects and a head of business development that handles marketing & strategy projects. We maintain a team of consultants and freelancers that we call-up on a project-by-project basis as the need arises. We also have partnerships with elite equipment manufacturers and data-centers that enable our upcoming products and services. Our core in-house team is bound to increase and change roles with our new venture.”
What are you looking for at VC4Africa?
“On VC4Africa we are looking for knowledge as a little new information could lead to great cost savings for us. We are thus open to any constructive form of mentorship from industry experts. We are also open to further interviews, articles and press mentions on the novel work we are undertaking. We are looking to build key funding, technology, distribution and digital-content partnerships to bring our flagship tablet devices, software and web services to the market in Nigeria and other African countries. We are also interested in collaborating with governments and NGOs to use our services to solve problems particularly in the education and healthcare sectors.”
How can members reach you?