The launch of Zone Tech Park, a $6.5 million-backed start-up venture builder

August 1, Zone Tech Park was officially launched. Here is a look at the D-Day and why it has quickly risen to become the preferred tech-focused event location in Lagos, Nigeria.

The launch of Zone Tech Park, a $6.5 million-backed start-up venture builder

Lagos, Nigeria – On Wednesday, August 1,  Zone Tech Park (“Zone Tech”) officially launched. It is a startup on a mission to build other startups. With the 6.5 million dollars funding they have received till date, they seek to provide co-working spaces, advisory and hands-on technical support to their start-ups.

Innovation hub at Zone Tech Park

Situated on a 10,000 square-metre facility, Zone Tech’s compound comfortably accommodates 150 cars while their building houses 5 meeting rooms, a studio and a 650-seater conference hall (the size of 40 Lagos Danfos combined).

Guest outside the main Zone Tech Park building. Photo credit: Rotimi Okungbaye

True to the "park" bit of its name, it spots a rather beautiful green scenery.

Favourably located on Lagos Mainland; along the Gbagada expressway, the company stays very visible with an unmissable “Zone Tech Park" signboard in front of its gate.

Zone Tech Park Signboard situated along the Gbagada Expressway in Lagos.

Their main gate gives passers-by a sneak peek of what might be going on in their compound.

Zone Tech's gate affords passers-by a peek into the compound 

Zone Tech was founded by Bolaji Olagunju, a serial entrepreneur who also founded The Workforce Group (“WorkForce”) which is a leading human resources company in Nigeria.

Perhaps, because of his need for focus, he (wisely?) decided to appoint a CEO for his new company, Zone Tech Park, while he continues to lead WorkForce as their CEO.

Toro Orero was the chosen man.

Toro comes from a Venture Capital background with experience working with African founders and their startups. He is the managing partner of a Silicon Valley VC Fund investing in African startups – DDF (Draper Dark Flow). Also, he is the founder of SpeedUPAfrica, a founder bootcamp that later became The African Startup Institute (ASI), an academy.

Zone Tech Park launch event day – August 1

The event which started around 10:50 AM was witnessed by guests from reputable media organisations like AIT. It was anchored by their Head of Operations, Gatumi Aliyu.

Gatumi Aliyu – Head of Operations, Zone Tech

Gatumi welcomed everyone to the event and introduced Toro who talked about the company and why they were in business.

The Zone Tech CEO's speech

Toro Orero – CEO, Zone Tech Park
"We are not another co-working space, we build companies. With the wealth of corporate clientele at our disposal, we have hit the ground running and are already building world-class products and hosting great startups.", he said [emphasis mine].

He was right though. About corporate clientele: Zone Tech's startups are promised access to the over 400 domestic and international corporations who are clients of WorkForce.

On building world-class products and startups: prior to their official launch, they ran a pilot program and have built two prominent products. One is Peerless, a learning management system (LMS) and Outwork, a staff on-demand solution. Both products have gained traction (greater than 7,000 users) with Peerless already turning over 100,000 US dollars in revenue. Another of their products, Cluster helps banked customers find and get information on the dispensing status of nearby ATMs.

Exhibition booths of Outwork, Peerless and Cluster

Other products they are building include NativeSmart, EverydayHR and Retiro.

You can find props of these products dangling from a Tree in their compound. The tree has been cunningly called "Tree of Life" taken after the biblical model, where the tree of life represents knowledge. So, the idea is that, if you eat look at their tree, you should get the knowledge of what they are working on.

Zone Tech's tree of life

Former Lead Software Engineer at Andela now leads Technology at WorkForce

The talk on the products they have built was handled by their technical leads spearheaded by Work Force's CTO, Matt Adesanya.

Matt "Tosin" Adesanya – Work Force's Chief Technology Officer

Also known as Tosin, Matt was the Lead Software Engineer at Andela, a global company that trains technical talent out of Africa, where he worked for two years and six months. As you would expect, he knows a thing or two about trainings, so, it was unsuprising that he gave the talk on their LMS, Peerless.

Their Outwork product was introduced by Vincent Mayaki, a Product Manager at Zone Tech. While their Cluster product was introduced by Kenvin Emiewo, a Software Engineer at Zone Tech.

The Founder's speech

Bolaji Olagunju – Founder, Zone Tech Park

After the talk on products, the founder, Bolaji Olagunju gave a talk on the new direction Zone Tech Park was taking.

"African startups are faced with significant challenges that hinder their growth. Zone Tech will change the status quo and help individuals and their businesses to realise their full potential through education, venture building and strategic enterprise support.", he said.

He had an interactive session with people asking questions like what makes them different from other tech hubs in the continent.

A participant asking a question at the launch

Toro, the CEO joined him on stage for the Q&A session.

Toro and Bolaji on stage answering questions

Some of the ways they believe they are unique include the presence of an in-house engineering team that could help with technical guidance for their startups. Traditionally, a lot of hubs just provide consulting and "mentoring" opportunities referring their startups to what can be done but not showing them how.

Zone Tech Park has over 20+ software developers and designers, a fully-fleshed operations and admin team handling marketing, sales, finance and legal matters for themselves and their startups.

Some of Zone Tech Park's staff

The Exhibition

The day wound down with a guided tour of the well-lit, tastefully furnished facility led by their Head of Events, Feyisayo Oladipo and Gatumi.

Guests on a tour round the facility

Also, participants visited their sound-proof studio which can be used for production activities tailored at a TV audience.

Gatumi talking about the use of the in-house studio

The day ended with refreshments and networking held at the transformed innovation hub with ladies-in-black serving as ushers.

Online Tech writers: Dadaben, Folarin and Solomon unite at the event

In conclusion, Zone Tech park has already hosted tech-focused events like Google Developer Conference Lagos, TEDx Gbagada, React Summit Lagos, Lagos Startup Week, Forloop Africa and this is only the beginning.

The sheer size of their hall, proximity and available facilities made them the preferred location for the first international developer conference in Nigeria, Concatenate.

Thanks Qasim Owokunle for helping me edit.

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