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Papa Olabode: 4 Lessons From Building a Nigerian Tech Community in London



Ade Olabode_2Over the last 15 months, I’ve helped out as a co-organiser (with 5 other excellent folks) of Building Things For Nigeria (BTNG). BTNG is the Nigerian tech community in London that brings people, ideas and products together.

Sure, I’ve only done this for only a little while, so I’m not exactly Mr.Expert but as you will agree – it’s better to share experiences as I go along. Especially as it’s not like there’s a ‘grand judo master belt’ to achieve (or is there ??), before I’m qualified to share what I’ve learnt. So, here are four interesting things I’ve discovered:

People prefer relationships
My big theory is that nobody wakes up in the morning and says ‘I feel a need to network today’. It simply doesn’t work that way. Instead, what most people want is a ‘connection’ and to be a part of ‘something’ (or ‘someone’ – but that’s outside our scope).This means a community will thrive if it provides an avenue for people to have meaningful conversations, thoughtful feedback, rewarding interactions, and ultimately build relationships.

And that’s what every community should optimise for – relationships. For a tech community, the advantage is that it enables collaboration across a spectrum of people with different skills set and background who probably started out as perfect strangers.

On the other hand, fostering relationships in a community is one of those things that’s easier said than done.

Big doesn’t mean better
At first, it might appear counterintuitive, but would you prefer to attend a stadium concert by your favourite artist – let’s say Beyoncé – or watch her perform in a room of just 30 people? Now, that’s a tricky question with an ‘it depends on’ answer. Because who knows? You might be one of those people who love to scream like a banshee in a big crowd! But my point is, a small-sized gathering doesn’t translate to low value. For instance, in this example, it will be easier for Beyoncé to make eye contact with you if she sat just across you in a room. And if you’re lucky (and a dreamer) invite you on stage to join her to duet on ‘Single Ladies’.

The lesson here is that big occasions don’t mean better experience or outcomes.

That’s the same reason why research findings from England show that in schools, smaller classes mean, “individual pupils are the focus of teacher’s attention for more time; there is more active interaction between pupils and teachers; and more pupil engagement.” For a tech community like BTNG, which regularly holds events, you can swap ‘teachers’ for ‘speakers,’ and ‘pupils’ for ‘attendees’ to grasp the positive impact of small groups on the overall health of the community.

Of course for community organisers, the urge is always there to seek growth. And there’s no growth as lovely as an increase in numbers of attendees. You have to resist the temptation to flip to the dark side.

Speakers want to give more
Talking of speakers, these are people who genuinely want to help. And one thing they all have in common is that it’s easier for them to speak to an attentive audience. Speakers always wish for an engaged crowd.

They want to talk to attendees before their presentation, get questions while presenting, and to connect to people after their time on the stage. For speakers, feedback is essential as they desire to learn as well.

All of the above is harder to do in a big crowd but becomes possible (and enjoyable) in a smaller sized group.

You get to meet awesome people
Trust me on this; you get to meet really cool people. And I’ve got the receipts. I’m having so much fun talking to folks like Lola Ekugo of Transthat, Sani Yusuf of Haibrid and UI School, etc. Even more importantly, I’ve worked closely with my co-organisers Kanke, Abiola, Uche, Ozo & Tolu (thanks guys, for being great!) to bring BTNG to the broader community.

The truth is, none of this ‘meeting cool people’ thing is surprising. The best communities function as curators of exciting people. For a tech community, finding gems before they become mainstream can be a competitive advantage.

And that sums all I’ve learnt so far folks. If you’re intrigued or even doubt any of above, and you happen to be in London on Friday, October 13th, please feel free to pop down to Work.Life Camden Town and see things for yourself. BTNG will be glad to have you at our 7th flagship event. See you there.

Papa Olabode is an adviser to small business owners. He's the co-founder & CEO of PrognoStore (, the Point-of-Sale Software for small businesses. PrognoStore is a 3-in-1 solution as it combines point-of-Sale, Inventory and Analytics to be all you need to run your store. He's a chartered accountant and has previously worked at Deloitte, Credit Suisse and co-founded HGE Capital. Follow on Twitter @papaolabode