TechU’s budding entrepreneurs win awards for innovative project ideas

When Faruq Busari and Precious Oyatowo received the notification of their admission into the First Technical University, Ibadan, they certainly did not expect to be just N100,000 short of becoming a millionaire in less than a year for innovative project ideas.

Like every other student privileged to join the band of Tech-U pioneers, their expectation were simply to come in, study and be equipped with the right skills for societal impact. What is more, being scholarship beneficiaries, it certainly didn’t cross their minds that their fortunes could change so soon.

But then, fate had a different plan.

The duo, like their contemporaries, had participated in a week-long boot camp on social entrepreneurship hosted by the university. The programme was facilitated by the Abuja-based Ventures Platform in partnership with Campus Lab, an Ibadan-based social enterprise firm devoted to raising entrepreneurs on university campuses in Nigeria.

Designed as a platform to equip undergraduates with the necessary tool/competencies to build a scalable company, the programme had as its theme, ‘How to Start a Start Up’.

For five days, the students were exposed to sessions facilitated by accomplished social entrepreneurs in such key areas as digital competencies, fundamentals of design thinking, basic enterprise knowledge/prototype and ‘go to market basics’.

Each session, with its accompanying practical sessions, did not only task the creative abilities of the students; it also stimulated their critical thinking skills, enhanced team-building spirit and provoked unique solutions to diverse societal problems and challenges.

To draw the curtain on the intensive drilling sessions, the students conscientiously applied their newly acquired skills. They were challenged to transform their ideas from mere fanciful thoughts into actual start-ups, with the possibility of receiving funding.

As budding entrepreneurs, they reflected on the opportunities around them, conceived disruptive ideas, formed a start-up, and then pitched their ideas to a team of experts that consisted of veteran assessors like Emeka Ossai of Campus Lab, Kayode Oyewole of Ventures Platform and Dr Gbenga Fayomi, director of the Centre for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, Tech-U.

Out of all the ideas pre-pitched for the grand finale, only 11 teams had the good fortune of receiving the nod of the facilitators for the final competition, to demonstrate, with all the tact and persuasive skills of typical entrepreneurs, why they reckoned themselves deserving of the coveted grand prizes of N400,000 N200,000 and N100,000 for the first, second and third positions, respectively.

Other consolation prices included four Samsung Galaxy tablets, power banks, writing tools and an unhindered access to a global network of mentors.

At the end of the highly keenly contested pitching session, it was quite a task for the panel of judges to identify the eventual winners, as each of the participating teams gave a hard fight with streams of highly thought-provoking and innovative ideas.

Ultimately, Skilashi Wears of Busari and Oyatowo, an indigenous clothing line, emerged winner of the innovative project ideas competition. The second-placed team, led by IleriOluwa Ayegbusi, pitched on deploying comic to teach morals; while the third place went to Crescent Production Company, an all-female side whose pitch centred on producing a fine blend of plantain and guinea corn, might turn out an elixir for the ever-swelling diabetic population.

Other teams received honourable mention for their efforts.

Tech-U’s vice chancellor, Professor Ayobami Salami, was on hand to award the prizes to the deserving Tech-U stars.

Commending the organisers for choosing Tech-U as one of the only five universities in Nigeria to benefit from the programme, he noted that the boot camp sufficiently aligns with the university’s vision of raising social engineers imbued with topflight innovation, technical and entrepreneurial skills.

Impressed by the performances of his students, who incidentally are just on the verge of completing their first session, Professor Salami stunned the audience when he announced his decision to double the amount given to the winnings teams. It was indeed a great evening to be a Tech-Uite!

Responding on behalf of the organisers, Ossai, an accomplished social entrepreneur, expressed profound appreciation of both Campus Lab and Ventures Platform for the support received in executing a hitch-free programme.

He said he was happy his team chose Tech-U as the first beneficiary of the programme.

Ossai recalled that he was particular inspired by the orientation and attitude of the university towards private sector partnerships; noting that from a mere e-mail contact, the school management did not only accept to explore the offer, but also embraced it.

He called on other universities in the country to emulate the university.

“In all my years of working on campuses, I have not seen such unrivalled commitment to innovation exhibited by any university management – not even in the so-called first or second generation universities,” Ossai said.

Oyewole, a project lead at Ventures Platforms, an early-stage growth focused fund renowned for supporting leading start-ups such as Printivo, CoBuildIt, Piggybank, Wifi, accounteer, was full of praises for the devotion and commitment exhibited by the participants.

He expressed delight at the crop of students at the university and the quality of training they receive. He pledged his firm’s willingness to not only sustain partnership with Tech-U, but also ensure that the students continually benefit from the global network of mentors and resources.

As part of the distinguished audience at the grand finale were the deputy vice chancellor, Professor Sola Ajayi; and the director of the Vice Chancellor’s Office, Mrs Yinka Balogun.