A few kilometres from CcHub within Yaba, the Lagos city’s “silicon valley”, Olubayo Adekanmbi, Iyin Aboyeji, Ade Bajomo and some other big players in the tech ecosystem and the State government gathered for the launch of an Artificial Intelligence (AI) Startup Incubation and Research hub.
The hub, the first of its kind in Nigeria is a product of Data Science Nigeria (DSN), a non-profit that is run and managed by the Data Scientists Network Foundation.
The organization’s vision is to build a pool of 1 million data science and AI field in the next 10 years. It was founded 4 years ago in 2017 by Olubayo Adekanmbi ( Bayo) and has its headquarter in Lagos.
It boasts of a well-equipped library with books on state-of-the-art principles and advancements in the field of AI as well as multiple workspaces for entrepreneurs, students and top-level associates. With the new hub, students and entrepreneurs can learn how to solve problems using artificial intelligence.
“The hub will be open to students on Tuesdays and Thursdays while entrepreneurs and professionals will be able to use the workspaces from the mornings,” Bayo said at the launch event.
Some of the companies that funded the AI startup hub in cash or kind include Main One, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, UK-Nigeria Tech Hub and Microsoft Nigeria.
However, for it to become sustainable, DSN announced that it is pivoting from being a non-profit to become a social company. With this model, it will develop tech-based solutions for governments and companies and get paid in return.
Bayo explained that this will enable DSN to be able to do more of what it set out to accomplish.
Besides learning, the entrepreneurs who will use the hub will have access to AI experts who will work with them to develop their ideas and turn them into marketable products. Startups that are launched from the hubs will also have access to funding and guidance from investors at a pitch-a-thon event which will be organised regularly.
One of the guests at the event, Iyin Aboyeji, co-founder at Flutterwave, Future Africa and Andela, expressed his hope that startups with winning models, ideas and products that can be funded will emerge from the hub. DSN will obtain an undisclosed amount of stake in each startup that successfully receives funding through the lab.
“Nigeria’s real natural resource is not oil but human resource and the products that come from them… we need startups that we can fund and who will in turn become unicorns”.
The hub is only one of DSN’s many projects. Some of the others are SpotOn and Omnilearn. The former makes it possible for people to use their phone numbers as addresses and account numbers while the former helps people to learn adaptively.
The AI hub’s launch is one step towards training 1 million people in data science and AI fields in 10 years.
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