When I started NaijaHacks, I did not know what I was getting myself into. The original idea was to have a small 50–100 person self-funded hackathon. And we went big! We became Nigeria’s biggest tech competition in year one and Africa’s Biggest Hackathon in year two. To date, no other similar event can boast of the numbers, funding, and impact of NaijaHacks, and we are just getting started. This came with a lot of challenges like lack of finance, logistics, timing, and many more. We did not know where to start. We did not realize that we needed to provide food for participants, so we did not plan for that. Participants went home hungry in year one. Oops!

Learn. Unlearn. Adapt

To solve some of the challenges before our first event, we reached out to sponsors. The regular email proposals did not work. We got a 0% response. Then we switched things up and went with a data-backed approach. We researched companies that sponsor Hackathons, reached out to them and asked for something they provided at previous Hackathons instead of just cash. For example, the venue and venue management, which would have cost us more than $5,000, was provided by one of our sponsors. And we had to put in some of our cash. It wasn’t easy, but it worked out well.

The first edition, 2018, was successful, and we just concluded NaijaHacks 2019. Through our two year journey, we failed in many ways and learned many new lessons. These are some of the most profound ones that we learned that we think will help founders:

A Driving force. Your belief

All the lessons above will be useless if you, as a founder, do not have something that keeps you going. You need to have that one thing you hold on to and strongly believe in. For me, it is the potential to build an ecosystem that will set participants up for a great career as startup founders or top talent for great companies. The vision and mission are still the same today. The vision remains to be the platform that accelerates Africa’s technology adoption so that any young African can use technology to make their lives, that of their family or the world better.

How to start

For those that are looking to start a company or an initiative like NaijaHacks in Africa or somewhere else, I have two pieces of advice for you.

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