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CEOs, not IT experts, are to drive digitisation transformation in their firms – Davies

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Company executives were brought into one hall in Port Harcourt last weekend to expose them to the reality of digital transformation and the disruption that comes from it.

This feat was performed by StartupSouth executives led by Uche Aniche. The experts in the hall (Casoni Hotel on Stadium Road) made it clear that CEOs must be the drivers of digital transformation in their companies and that in the face of disruption by hitech companies and startups, it is safer for CEOs to initiate the disruption of their firms and gain from it.

Some established companies do this either by commissioning a digital project within or by acquiring a digital startup. Those that did none have crashed out of business.

The conference witnessed a top angel investor, Tomi Davies, known as founder, Angel Network, a Nigerian British investor. He ignited the audience with his incisive renditions on digital transformation.

Tomi Davies:
First, let me tell the story of the little boy beggar who has a digital account. I had to give him N1,000 in appreciation of his ingenuity and creativity even as a beggar. The world has gone digital and is moving fast; first it was computer everywhere in the office; next is phones in every hand; next is digital communication; and finally AI (artificial intelligence) and its world of ChatGBT which is starting.

It is important to note that the CEO is the one to lead digital transformation of his company, not the IT guy. What does digital transformation mean: potential revenue increase (value expansion).
He mentioned the key aspects, saying digital space is ruled by domains which he identified as talent which is gives value; process (operation); objective where you want to find out at every point how digitization will help in whatever you do.

Be the growth target: Become a people-growth target. Somebody will want to work with you. Bring the data, connect to data. The digital world is a data world. If they say Nigeria grows at 2.5 per cent per annum, it means six million births per year. Find out what that means to your business today and/or tomorrow.
Differentiate data: Pay for speed; build for speed. Strategy and adoption are important. The CEO must drive it, and manage it. You create the strategy, you ensure your team members understand it, adopt it and grow with it. Digital transformation is a fast-moving train; you either get in or be pushed away.
Three ways to differentiate startup from SME: Explosive growth rate; Funding: Banks fund SME, Angel Investors fund Startup; Exit concept: You plan exit from the onset in Startup.

Uche Aniche: Convener

Aniche is founder of Havilah & Hills group

Digital disruption is real and established companies that do not peep into the fast-developing phenomenon may regret big time.

The convener, Uche Aniche, who is also founder of Havilah & Hills group, took time to drill the CEOs on the emergence of techs that disrupt existing companies the way Kodak was disrupted and the way Google has continued to evolve and surpass despite new techs.

He explained that StartupSouth is a Startup & creative/digital economy ecosystem development and advocacy organization. “We are inspiring a generation of founders building high scale ventures across Nigeria with special focus on the South-South/South-East regions.
“#StartupSouth collaborates with key stakeholders – including founders, innovation hubs, enterprise support organizations, policy makers, local/international foundations and development organizations – to co-create solutions to blockers hindering the innovation ecosystem growth.”

The conference which was organised in association with BusinessDay saw to awards to different categories of companies and individuals whose works help to extend the boundaries, deepening innovation ecosystem, and creating opportunities.

In his opening remarks, Aniche said: “We are here to show solidarity to the South. There is wealth in the digital economy. Startups are those building on this prospect to create jobs and wealth. Some CEOs think digital transformation is for foreign lands or for the future.”

He warned them of what he called the second colonisation which he feared may be worse than the first. “We are still stock in the old ways the world has moved away from. New investors think differently. So, there is need for Nigerian CEOs to look into this new world and invest in some startups in order not to miss the future. We believe in the power of entrepreneurship for societal development. Try and be part of your disruption so you can be in because startups are going to disrupt the ecosystem and the way companies do business.”

He urged the CEOs to look into what the startupSouth has for them, saying the revolution began with arrays of computers in an office, moved to phones in palms, moved to internet, and has now gone to artificial intelligence (AI) revolution. “The way you make money may soon change. PH SS/SE need to be more networked”.

In his observations, the convener said: “In Lagos, people cluster around private sector VIPs, but in the SS/SE, people cluster around public officials. If FG allocation fails today, Lagos will survive on IGR. Policy input comes from the private sector. If we want to develop, SS/SE private sector must know power is in their hands.”

Linda Ochugbua- BusinessDay:

BusinessDay shone brightly like diamond in the sky on the day. Speaking as partners, Linda Ochugbua, head, Digital Sales, who came in from Lagos, dazzled the participants with the place of BusinessDay in the digitisation scheme.
Describing BD as the newspaper that saw tomorrow, she showed how the publishing outfit launched a digital project in 2016/17 because the paper wanted to tell the African stories the Africans way; stories of good efforts and achievements, not only horror and failure.

“We launched Project SME 100. These businesses control the ecosystem, they control 98 per cent of the business space. CEO Apprenticeship is one of BusinessDay’s programmes to tell Nigeria’s business story in the Nigerian perspective because these ones represent the story of the economy.

“Our philosophy behind the project is, if you can catch them young, you would have captured the future economy.
“Small businesses cannot do big adverts so we brought the promotional project to their level. We also created digital subscription to send them digital newsletters full of business information they badly need.”

During her panel appearance, the digital sales guru gave synopsis of the transformation in BusinessDay
processes digital which she said considers profit and sustainability, else, a firm is mere charity.

Ochugbua showed how to think out of the box. “We started building the e-paper five years before COVID-19. If Covid killed your business, then you did not think outside the box earlier.

“On transformation path, she said: “We found people, young people who are fast-fingered. They occupy the digital newsroom, they do streaming, do social media, etc. Old companies are slow, structured, but new ones are agile, fast.
“Change is constant. It’s about how you see the future. Soon, SIM card will be in your skin. Things are moving. Some big boys we know in oil/gas are now in other businesses especially real estate. Soon, energy will be solar powered.”

In his intervention, Aniche said Startup is not for small boys or SMEs but the centre of new opportunities.

Nigerian British Angel investor, Tomi Davies, who unveiled his book in the sector, ‘Investment Worthy Startup’, gave three ways to differentiate startup from SME: Explosive growth rate; Funding (Banks fund SME, Angel Investors fund Startup); and Exit concept (You plan exit from the onset in Startup).

Aniche on the book: “Read to know how to communicate your business ideas and principles and how to sell your ideas to attract funds.

“Note: Many investors want to know if your family members and close friends invested in the business you are asking them to fund. Your families and friends don’t invest in you because they don’t know about your business.”

Note: BusinesDay’s Ignatius Chukwu was awarded the joint best print Startup Journalist for 2022.

Olusola Aina: South-South/South-East Angel Network

This is to copy what is happening in the Silicon Valley and Lagos. We provide mentor-driven funding and this led to 16 startups led to 30 more startups. They got $400,000 support and this led to $12m businesses.

We worked hard on their ideas to create something good. We do a lot of handholding. The South-South/South-East ecosystem is very difficult. The way push it requires: money, experience, time. Startups must learn to navigate the pitfalls to avoid hiccups that are plenty in the eco-space.

Kingsley Eze: CEO, Tenece

Eze, popularly known as Sir K is based in Enugu where he has empowered over 5,000 youths on digital businesses. His words: Play in your area of strength and build on it. Even startups need processes. It’s good to fail, but better fail quickly so you bounce back and rebuild.

South-South and South East group has created over 2000 jobs and $12m capital from $400,000 support in four years. There are now 35 persons in SSSEN. StartupSouth is not only about tech but about impacting the entire ecosystem.

Nnamdi Uba: Co-founder, HouseAfrica

The company built a high-tech system that makes land management foolproof. It is for buyers, sellers and agents. He said; We were scammed in land deal to the value of $18,000 and it led to a court case. Yes, we won and they began refunding but it has not fully been refunded to this day.

We now asked: how can we solve this problem for others. We are aware that 75 percent of Nigerians are having issues with property they bought.

We will give you a digital certificate of allocation powered on blockchain technology. It can be verified. The business has got $400,000 support, and this has helped the business to allocate over 500 plots valued at $2.9m. Goal is, build a backbone infrastructure for Africa, and to help startup.

Emeka Okoye: Rebel Seed Capital, a Venture Capital

Tech Ecosystem South-South/South-East
We try to match investors with Startups. This is because a startup will need funds at a time, and if the fund does not come at that time, its dead.

People are working hard to impact society, we are there to provide support. There are funds siting waiting to invest. We are the first venture capital firm in the SS/SE.

For Nigeria to move forward, investors and startups have to meet at a point and create jobs and wealth. If you have the funds but not the energy to chase startups, then come to us. We do the rest.

Conclusion:
Companies should be the ones disrupting themselves, else, others disrupt them. Google does, but Kodak failed to do so and was killed.