Microsoft graduates 25 entrepreneurs from 6-month fellowship

From left: Bambo Sofola, Director of Engineering, Microsoft Corporation; Lola Oluwole from the Lagos State Ministry of Wealth Creation and Employment and Shina Oyetosho, Developer Experience Director, Microsoft Nigeria, at the graduation ceremony of the #Insider4Good Nigeria Fellows. Photo: Microsoft Nigeria

Six months after they were inducted, 25 Nigerian entrepreneurs have graduated from Microsoft’s #Insiders4Good Fellowship programme, hoping that their businesses pitched to the tech company’s executives would scale.

In partnership with Co-Creation Hub, Nigeria’s first open living lab and pre-incubation space designed to be a multi-functional, multi-purpose space where work to catalyze creative social tech ventures take place, Microsoft created a tailored technical and strategic mentorship from local and international leaders to help raise the fellows’ unique idea to the next level, Entrepreneurship+ was told.

“At Microsoft, our mission is to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more. Delivering on this mission starts with great technology, but great technology alone is not enough.

“Despite global expansion, increased access, and democratisation of technology, too many of technology’s benefits have yet to reach the people who need them due to poverty, lack of education and accessibility. Microsoft has challenged itself to address the question of how we can truly bring to life the promise of technology for everyone and part of the answer requires a recognition that empowerment begins with inclusion,” Shina Oyetoso, Developer Experience Director, Microsoft Nigeria, said in his welcome address during a graduation ceremony held in Lagos, at the weekend. He reiterated Microsoft’s commitment to supporting entrepreneurs in the country leveraging technology.

“Last year, we were excited to launch the first #Insiders4Good Fellowship in Nigeria, where so many exceptional entrepreneurs are using technology to create positive change in their communities. By supporting the growth of the Nigerian #Insiders4Good Fellows, we’ve learned valuable insights about the challenges they face in their unique contexts and how Microsoft products can grow and evolve to support them best. Today, we are thrilled to showcase their extraordinary ideas and celebrate their achievements,” Bambo Sofola, Microsoft Director of Software Engineering, added in a keynote speech.

Selected last September from a pool of 5,000 applicants, the 25 Nigerian #Insiders4Good Fellows “are advancing extraordinary ideas to create positive change in Nigeria, Africa, and the world,” Yemi Orimolade, Communications Lead, Microsoft Nigeria, said, explaining that “their products and services are tackling entrenched problems like illiteracy, kidnapping, agricultural waste, healthcare access, and much more.”

“The #Insiders4Good Fellowship has been incredibly helpful,” Kido Chukwunweike and Kelechi Odoemena said prior to the event. Their start-up, Dillish Instant Foods, was one of seven businesses invited by the Microsoft team to present at a private pitch session before the ceremony.

“The Fellowship motivated us to prove that there is real demand for our product and pushed us to launch our ‘MVP’ product. We’ve started to see the challenges we face as individual hurdles to overcome, rather than a single huge obstacle. We learned to set smart interim goals. We feel very positive and proud of our progress,” they said at the end of the fellowship.

“My experience with the fellowship program has being greatly rewarding whilst challenging in a positive way,” Paula Aliu, who has launched an online platform for mental health services called Cogno-Aid, said of her experience as a Fellow. “Over the course of the past six months plus,” she continued, “I have had the honour of meeting and interacting with a solid group of individuals comprising both Fellows and mentors from Microsoft and Co-Creation Hub. These wonderful people aided in fleshing out and building Cogno-Aid from an idea to what it is today. For this, I am forever grateful for the guidance given to me courtesy of the #Insiders4Good Fellowship.”

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