Positive leadership paying off for Nigerian ClimateLaunchpad team
This is Tosin Ajide’s second year running ClimateLaunchpad in Nigeria, and, despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the competition is still growing stronger. “It keeps getting better every year. This year we had over 300 applications!” says Ajide.
Just like the rest of the world, climate change has had a tremendous impact on Nigeria and awareness is on the rise. From rising temperatures to flooding, drought and changing weather patterns, there has been a direct impact on Nigerian communities who are now experiencing increased levels of poverty, hunger, illness and encountering problems like overcrowding, and electricity and water shortages.
Supporting start-ups in the ideation phase
Over the last couple of years, the start-up ideas and solutions participating in the Nigerian competition range from ideas that tackle the global waste problem, including one start-up that turned waste into shoes, to businesses that try to get to grips with issues like electricity shortages, energy wastage, food wastage and so on. One of the most successful start-ups is Powerstove, a 100% smokeless biomass cookstove that cooks foods 5x faster and produces 65% less CO2. As a bonus, it generates micro off-grid electricity that charges phones or power LED bulbs using a built-in USB and DC port.
For Ajide, the biggest reward is interacting and helping start-ups during the ideation stage, as finding funding partners for ideation can be a challenge in the Nigerian ecosystem. “Many investors and organisations do not have an interest in supporting businesses at the ideation stage. There is a huge gap in this sector; exposing startups to investors, stakeholders, and the community at large, so ClimateLaunchpad is a really big platform,” he says.
ClimateLaunchpad during the pandemic
As 2020 is dominated by social distancing, organisers have embraced the pivot to digital, including overcoming and learning from some challenges that emerged from the first virtual Boot Camp. “Some of the participants were late to class because they were on different time zones with the trainer which caused some confusion,” Ajide says. “We also had some issues with logging in and some other technical problems.”
But the main takeaway from the experience was how tiring it is to spend five or six hours on a digital platform. Organisers noticed that the energy was high for the first half but then dropped off over the last few hours. The team had to be more flexible with the sessions and more engaging to keep the momentum. “In one way, digitally you have the comfort of your own home, it is quiet and there is no stress from travelling and so on, but I also believe in a physical classroom and interaction as a way to stay focused.”
For countries still planning their digital Boot Camps, Ajide recommends keeping in close contact with your trainer, communicating well with them and considering playing with the timeframe. “As there are so many subjects to cover, more but shorter sessions might be better for the class mentality. The number of sessions we ran wasn’t quite enough for everything we wanted to do, so we ran follow-ups afterwards.”
The plus side of a virtual platform
With such a high number of applicants this year, Ajide is also keen to try and find ways to follow up with those that didn’t make it to the digital Boot Camp. “We want to find ways to keep people involved, even if they weren’t selected. We run workshops, keep them updated monthly, try to get them involved in other programmes and keep them informed of other green business opportunities around the country. ClimateLaunchpad is by far the best platform in the country to network, explore green ideas and understand the opportunities in the ecosystem.”
Clearly, he’s not the only one that feels this way. This year Nigeria received the third-largest number of applications for 2020 globally, and Ajide is feeling good about the outcomes of the new format: “It’s quite easy and stress-free. You can easily do what needs to be done and cut back some travelling time.”
Last but definitely not least, maybe the most positive outcome of turning digital is the ease of access for potential funders and investors. “Because of the transition from physical to virtual pitching, investors from all over the world will be able to attend. That creates massive opportunity.”