No less than 2, 160 entrepreneurs in small and medium scale businesses across the six geo-political zones in the country were empowered at the Accelerate Labs, an initiative of Future Project and Microsoft Nigeria to support and grow their businesses. The event took place in Lagos recently. Launched in June last year, Accelerate Labs is a dynamic one-year incubation programme intended to empower entrepreneurs between the ages of 18 and 35 through required technological resources, trainings, mentorship and seed funding required for them to build their businesses and contribute to the development of the Nigerian economy.
In all, 300 participants with great business ideas were selected from each zone split into two streams of 150 each and trained over a 12-week period using an 11 course curriculum of three divisions provided by promoters of the Future Project. The classes were segmented as top sections/compulsory classes, SME clinic, mentorship period, research and practice, and only those who attained 70 per cent attendance in all the classes were qualified to pitch their business plans to investors for possible investment and certificate collection on the demo days.
At each zonal demo day, three winners from each stream were rewarded with one-year technology support: domain and website development, and laptop computer each, while the winner and the first runners up got seed capital of N100, 000 and N50, 000 respectively, depending on the zone. Speaking at the South-west demo day in Lagos which marked the end of the programme, the Chief Operating Officer, Future Project, Bukola Adebakin, said the programme was aimed at getting young people to start their own businesses while helping those that had already started to scale up their businesses.
Adebakin said: “And so far, the plan for this year was to train 2,160 businesses and which we were able to reach across the geo-political zones in the country. And we hope that in one year, each of those businesses would have employed at least one person in their business and which means they are contributing their quota to solving the unemployment issue in Nigeria and contributing to the growth of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP). ”She noted that demo earlier took place in Abuja, Kaduna, Bauchi, Enugu and Benin before it finally berthed Lagos where the programme ended.
Also speaking, Philanthropies Lead, Microsoft Nigeria, Mr. Olusola Amusan, said his organisation supported the initiative because it aligns with the company’s global mission to empower every individual and organisation on the planet to achieve more. He said: “So in doing that, identifying entrepreneurs who need supports in terms of business skills, we realised that talents and skills are like the most needed resources that the entrepreneurs need around here. “Funding is very important but if they don’t have skill they won’t be able to move ahead. So that’s why for the past one year we’re running this programme across Nigeria.”