Africa is now or never… we either win it or lose it forever!
– Sunny Okosun
The US Consulate General to Nigeria took the stage, gave a resounding speech and thereafter began to call out the names of the best teams selected from across Africa. He had called out the brilliant teams from Rwanda, Kenya & Ghana, with two names left to be called. For the 1st time I was starting to starting to break a sweat… this was our moment, it had to be…
…but let’s start this story from somewhere near the beginning…
About 24 years ago, a group of people set out to create the ultimate platform for the best companies in the US to pitch/launch their new products & innovations, they called this platform DEMO. At DEMO, top-shot panel of judges listen to the pitches & nominate the best-of-the-best products launched on this stage and award them the grand title of “DEMO gods”.
The DEMO pitch launch is unlike a regular pitch because you have limited stage time to practically show how your product/innovation works and this is tough.
About 3 years ago, the US state department initiated a partnership with several organizations to create something called the LIONS Africa Initiative. L.I.O.N.S. actually stands for Liberalizing Innovation Opportunity Nations and the partnership was setup to mobilize the knowledge, expertise and resources of leading public and private institutions to encourage and enhance Africa’s innovation ecosystem. A key way this is achieved is by the running of a version on DEMO centered on the African continent called DEMO Africa. DEMO Africa turned 3 in 2014 and was held in Lagos Nigeria for the 1st time.
DEMO Africa 2014 started accepting entries from early in the year via the VC4Africa platform. It involved completing a concise venture profile by filling a form and uploading a video of your product/business. Thereafter, a continental team of judges looked at the over 400 entries and selected the best 40 including Nerve (why always us ? lol).
Our team was super excited to be shortlist among Africa best 40, especially since we had applied last year and didn’t make the cut since we were still deep in product development. Furthermore, the two previous events were held in Nairobi and this year it was going be held for the 1st time in Lagos our hometown..
It turned out that making it into the top 40 was the easy part as all 40 teams were put through a weekly online booth camp drill with Venture Hive. In this virtual camp, coaching on diverse aspects of building and running a company were shared…. Susan Amat and her team were golden!
Next there was the physical booth camp that started two days to the event in the Oriental hotel in Lagos Nigeria. It was great to have extended demo coaching from experts using the actual stage. Our team had a bit of a challenge with getting our Nerve mobile wireless video output to work with the projector, however there was a backup guy with a camera on his shoulder. There were also booths in the Oriental hotel venue for us to exhibit.
D-day1 came and the DEMO Africa event was opened with a speech from the honourable minister of communication technology, Mrs. Omobolaji Johnson. The minister here-in announced a multi-billion naira fund for early stage tech startling. The launch pitches started to roll-out in 6 minute bites, and off they went with all the gusto the presenters could muster. Some peoples demonstrations failed to work on the big stage but most people managed theirs quite well. Day 1 went by with our team occupied largely at our booth where we talked and showed the awesomeness of the Nerve devices to people.
DEMO Africa – Day 2 was our day. I had left Bodunde & Seyi to man our booth while I did some last minute rehearsals, breathing exercises and a prayer… and then went out with guns blazing when the time came. My demo Plan-A didn’t work as there was interference with my wireless video output signal and thus I resorted quickly to Plan-B which was use the guy with the moving camera to show what I was demonstrating. Who knew 6 minutes could go so fast!… and was relieved by the applause that followed when my pitch ended… they loved it![youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rk21ouA_h9E ]
Now back to the future…
It was the moment we all were tensely awaiting for, the US Consulate General was just about to call the next DEMO Africa 2014 winner; “and from Nigeria; NERVE!!!”
… at this precise moment all sound I was hearing stopped for a second and then cheers broke out across the room. Our excited team went on stage to claim our recognition and the prize of a trip to Silicon valley.
This will remain a day to remember!
We are DEMO LIONS!
We are #AfricaRising!