Chika Nwobi is the founder of Level5Lab (L5Lab). L5Lab is a business incubator focused on building outstanding businesses out of Africa. The focus is on the rapidly expanding mobile and internet technology space in Nigeria. L5Lab works with startups and early stage businesses led by teams comprised of individuals with outstanding leadership potential who are aiming to tap into very large identifiable markets.
Before L5Lab, Chika was Group CEO of MTech PLC, which he founded when he was 22 years old. Chika led MTech to become the leading mobile content company in Africa with operations in Ghana, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. At MTech, Chika also consulted for Ford Foundation and IFC (World Bank) on mobile money implementation frameworks for Nigeria.
Chika tells InnovationVillage about his interest in startups in Nigeria…
InnovationVillage: Tell us why you set up L5lab.
Chika Nwobi: After running my first company, MTech in the mobile content and app space for 8 years, I found I was most passionate about the leadership development and new product development aspects of that experience. So I decided to focus primarily on those 2 areas in starting my next initiative. Basically, through L5Lab, I want to be able to help develop teams of outstanding tech entrepreneurs and companies based on impactful products.
InnovationVillage: How many startups have you been involved in and why?
Chika Nwobi: I have been involved in 4 startups in the last 3 years. I set a goal for myself to be involved with 5 companies in the first 3 years. Some of the companies include Jobberman.com – Nigeria’s No. 1 Jobs Website, Cheki.com.ng – Nigeria’s No. 1 Cars website and Kamdora.com – an upmarket shopping portal. I wanted to be able to balance the needs of the startups with the resources I have available to be able to support them (including my own time and attention).
InnovationVillage: What do you look for before you invest in a startup?
Chika Nwobi: I look for 2 broad qualities:-
- A team of individuals that have demonstrated outstanding potential in terms of intellect and work ethic and a willingness to commit to L5 Principles of building corruption-free ethical businesses in Africa.
- A business opportunity that has the potential to get very very big if well executed.
InnovationVillage: Do you think that there are many viable Nigerian startups to invest in?
Chika Nwobi: I think so. I have found more opportunities than I have been able to support. It is still very early days in terms of Technology Entrepreneurship in Africa so there are opportunities in every segment.
InnovationVillage: What is the greatest challenge currently facing L5Lab investments and how do you plan to overcome it?
Chika Nwobi: Many key components of a successful ecosystem for Tech businesses are not yet in place in Nigeria like widespread e-payments, cheap and widespread broadband access, trust infrastructure to verify identity and manage customer reputation, subscription management platforms and the like. There is also a lack of deep talent in some areas so the few funded companies are competing for a small pool of talent. We intend to overcome these challenges by being patient, resilient and flexible. The solution to some of these challenges are purely a matter of time. So it is important to to keep the businesses growing and evolving and even generating revenue through whatever sub-optimal channels are available while basically waiting. We have to balance our entrepreneurial instinct to be quick and aggressive with a degree of conservatism and boot-strapping that we believe is necessary for the stage the eco-system is in. We might also try to figure out ways to solve some of the eco-system problems. There are opportunities in that too.
InnovationVillage: In a recent event “The Platform 10.2“, you talked about “The Lean Startup by Eric Reis“. How has this book affected you? What are the things you wished you knew before you started your first company?
Chika Nwobi: The Lean Startup book and the ideas emanating from the Lean Startup movement in general are among the most impactful set of ideas concerning startups that I have come across. They basically provide a framework to help entrepreneurs find the right business model for their ideas while minimizing waste of time and money. If I had been exposed to these ideas 12 years ago, when I started my first company I would have saved myself, my investors and my staff a lot of time and money.
About the Author…
Francis is an innovation enthusiast and communicates his ideas through his blog www.innovation-village.com