On previous blogs, I have described visits to several tech hubs and incubators across the African Continent. I recently visited Accra, Ghana and previously wrote about a recent visit to the Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology (MEST). This blog introduces another tech hub in the booming Accra Entrepreneurial Ecosystem, Hub Accra.
After spending a few days with the staff and entrepreneurs at MEST, I had the opportunity to visit Hub Accra and interview a different group of entrepreneurs. Hub Accra is located on Klannaa Street in the booming and trendy Osu District of Accra. John-Paul Parmigiani, Hub Accra’s Chief Executive Officer, graciously hosted me during my visit.
Hub Accra is a not-for-profit organization; they charge members modest fees for membership and also rent event space. John-Paul describes the hub as a “startup ecosystem.” The hub evolved out of a Certificate in Entrepreneurship Program offered by Open University of West Africa (OUWA). The Entrepreneurship Program attracted students from across Accra to study at OUWA’s Internet café campus, which is also located in Osu. These students met at the campus to access online lectures, and organically-formed teams to work on numerous group projects. Staff members of OUWA identified an opportunity and established Hub Accra.
Hub Accra has grown to host over 20 startups and quickly moved from normal operational hours to become Ghana’s first 24 hours, 7 days a week co-working space. John-Paul explained that many of the local entrepreneurs would come to the hub after school or after work, and this schedule resulted in requests for later operating hours.
Hub Accra is now housed in a separate building adjacent to OUWA, and features collaborative workspaces, internet access, and conference rooms. The second floor hosts space dedicated to the rapidly growing startups.
Over the course of the past year they have hosted numerous events, instituted programs, held workshops, brought in speakers, and established partners within the local community and across the world. During my visit, Hub Accra’s staff hosted a visit of MBA candidates from the University of Texas’ McCombs School of Business.
Educate, Incubate, Invest!
John-Paul explained that Hub Accra has “developed a three-phase impact model to help early stage entrepreneurs harvest their innovation and become investment-ready.” This model is known as, “Educate, Incubate, and Invest!”
Educate: OUWA is the primary partner in the education phase of the model. Located next to the hub, OUWA provides low-cost, online classes for Hub Accra’s members. A goal of the educational component of the model is to spark an interest in lifelong learning for the entrepreneurs, as well an awareness of various opportunities online for continuing education.
Incubate: Hub Accra has initiated an accelerator program for high-impact entrepreneurs with high growth potential – giving entrepreneurs daily structure and instruction on how to move forward with their ideas.
Invest: Once participants have graduated from either the incubator or accelerator programs, Hub Accra’s co-founding partner, SliceBiz, a micro-investment crowdfunding platform that provides seed funding, (I will introduce Slice Biz in more detail in my next blog post.) can gauge the investment readiness of their startups. Startups that show great potential with innovative business models will have the opportunity to raise seed funding through the SliceBiz platform.
As stated in the three-phase model, students who complete the certificate in entrepreneurship have the opportunity to enter Hub Accra’s incubator program, “Startup West Africa.” John-Paul’s plan is to enroll approximately ten startups biannually in the program. He anticipates that the average entrepreneur will progress from the entrepreneurship program through the incubator/accelerator to investment in approximately 18 months.
The incubator program meets several times per week offering workshops, team-building exercises, business plan development assistance, and connections to industry professionals for mentorship. In return for the services provided, entrepreneurs are asked to reserve up to 5% equity in their company for Hub Accra or pay modest fees to contribute to the sustainability of the hub’s business model.
The Way Ahead
John-Paul is dedicated to expanding Hub Accra’s presence and deepening its impact in Ghana. Within the next few years he hopes to shift to a larger facility that is specifically built for their needs, to truly leverage the current momentum, and realize the potential of their model.
This new hub will feature fully developed educational and investment facilities as well as ample space for startups to grow. John-Paul anticipates offering office space to key partners to operate out of their Hub to nurture the community. He would also like to provide living space to house entrepreneurs, entrepreneurs-in-residence, and international guests.
His goal is to accommodate approximately 40 startups concurrently in this co-working space, spawning 100 sustainable businesses over a five-year period. He estimates that these startups will employ approximately 400+ people within the first five years of operation.