Note to fellow start-up founders; Having your young company represented at a major industry expo or event could make all the difference in your traction and eventual success. Sadly, this isn’t on the radar of a lot of tech founders in Africa for several legit reasons, however, I hope that sharing my experience at GITEX 2014 will stir up the will which will make the way..
From the moment I got on the plane I knew it was going to be an amazing adventure; the beaming smiles of the immaculate air hostesses confirmed this feeling. I was leaving the delectable MM-Lagos airport on an Emirates flight to Dubai for the Global Information Technology Expo (GITEX) 2014 and I was pumped. I landed in the legendary Dubai international airport on the 12th of october 2014. The outdoor temperature was just as hot as Lagos but the Emirate spared no expense in making sure that I became unaware of the heat as everywhere was air-conditioned from the airport shuttle to the terminal to the cab (believe the hype!). On leaving the airport, I met Dubai at sunrise when the golden light rays danced seductively on the tops of the skyscrapers along Sheikh Zayed Road. I had heard about the vision and audacity of Dubai’s Sheikh Maktoum but actually seeing it still left me spellbound.
I was visiting Dubai on this occasion courtesy of the Nigerian Information technology development Agency (NITDA). This agency had championed Nigeria’s move to be the official country partner for the 2014 GITEX event. This sponsorship provided for Nigeria to have strategic exhibition pavilion space, extended mention in all GITEX communications and a dedicated event to woo & educate foreign investors on ICT opportunities in Nigeria. Nerve got a stand at the Nigerian pavilion to exhibit the awesomeness of our devices .
GITEX was amazing, it is probably the largest tech expo after GSMA’s MWC in Barcelona or CES in the US, many of the companies that can’t or won’t go to Europe or the US come to GITEX. Tech companies with cutting edge products in new and exciting fields had their stuff on display this year, everything from wearables to big data products were on display. The heavyweights like Oracle, Mediatek, Microsoft, Etisalat, Nerve (but off course!) were present.
I particularly enjoyed showing off the uniqueness of the Nerve devices to people that came by our booth. Indeed it was our 1st showing at a global expo. Even though our team was inexperienced, we however made the most of it and had fun.
Here are my key take away lessons from GITEX that can be applied towards maximizing your start-ups investment in attending an expo:
- The world is a global village and it’s not far away, so plan to be global from day one. There are amazing people/companies just a few hours away that are looking for a partner/supplier just like you and an expo can help you get in touch with them. There were probably more companies from Taiwan at GITEX than there were companies from the entire Africa… this must change!
- Make sure you attend essential keynotes and technical sessions that take place at expos because the give insights into the minds of foremost thinkers in your industry and beyond.
- There is a science and an art to carrying out a good showing at an expo; it is making the right banners/decals/fliers/brochures (possibly in multiple languages), having a huge supply of business cards, showing up with really cool but inexpensive merchandise you can give away to your booth visitors (you never know which part of the world they will take it), having your elevator pitch mastered by every member of your team, having a physical cool game-like or multimedia product attraction at your booth to draw in passersby etc….. Learn the science, perfect the art, grow your venture!
- As CEO or lead team member you need to take time out and explore other stands. In fact, you should have a wish list and prior appointments with companies you want to see. Take the time to find them out and meet with them…. Believe it or not, multi-million dollar deals start at booth near you! You will never find a more dense gathering of global companies in one place. Its the easiest & cheapest way to connect.
- Never never leave the exhibition booth unmanned, there must always be someone there that is knowledgeable enough to meet and talk with people visiting your stand.
- Most of these types of expos happen in exotic cities, so take time to have MAD FUN with your team. Be sure to see the sights and catch the trips. In Dubai, I went for the desert Safari and explored the mega mall and street gold markets.. It was also about fun.
Checkout some pictures from Nerve Adventure Dubai….. Next stop MWC Barcelona!