To deal with issues affecting the social wellbeing of communities, especially in the rural areas, Internovent, a technology startup company, has designed and distributed solutions in various fields, such as agriculture, household services, and community development. Ugo Aliogo reports

Entrepreneurs are defined by their abilities to identify social problems and invent solutions to address them. Shalom Dickson is one of such. As a social entrepreneur driven by a passion to create solutions to social problems through technology, Dickson grew up watching his father develop communities, formulate chemical products in his laboratory, and build machines. This inspired Dickson to carve out a path for himself. Although, he was not sure of the path he wanted to follow initially, he knew early he was passionate about Invention, innovation and intervention (the 3Is).

Start-up

In late 2015, Dickson partnered Precious Udegbue, and they kicked off their technology startup company known as Internovent. The name was coined from intervene, innovate and invent. Today, the company works in designing and distributing solutions in various fields, such as agriculture, household services, and community development, refining ideas from software technology to business plans.

As a social enterprise, they are equipped with a novel mechanism for developing solutions to socio-economic problems, from software to hardware solutions.

Design, Develop, Distribute

At the baseline of Internovent’s works are three key stages – Design, Develop and distribute (the 3Ds). According to them, the design stage involves inception of the idea. As Chief Idea Developer, Dickson leads the team that refines the idea from conception to creating Minimum Viable Product (MVP). He notes that there are very flexible design models in their laboratory, which they deploy to carry out such design solutions for clients.

Taking THISDAY through their work, they said at the development stage, they worked with a setup team for the chosen project. Through online research, market surveys and experts consultation, they ensure that the project is well developed and workable to address real life solutions. In the case of a project, for instance, a software project, they build it with software developers.

In the distribution stage, they partner with necessary channels to inject these solutions into the market. Due to the rate at which they come up with solutions, and because they are new in the market, most of what they have created is still in the design and development phase.

New Projects

But the company is faced with vulnerability in Intellectual Property (IP). Despite this challenge, they have launched a project known as the Neighbourhood Stalker (www.neighbourhoodstalker.com). The platform provides access to daily services needed for enclosed neighbourhoods. Presently, it has been implemented in Agbara Estate, in Ogun State.

They have also launched a Community Development Project (CDP) known as CommuniFactory (www.communifactory.org), which is focuses on providing facilities in rural and urban areas to alleviate poverty through community projects, such as farming. They are using the CommuniFactory concept to develop their farm at Igbesa, Ogun State.

In the area of software, they have developed a number of good solutions. One of such is the Automated Answering System (AAS). The device helps to bring simplicity and facilitate self-assessment. The answering machine is for answering questions and also a handy self-assessment tool. They have also secured venture capital to develop a stipend solution for minors.

In the Works

Dickson and Udegbue duo said they still had more in the pipeline, among which are the HandyFarm.org. According to Dickson, “Among our coming big ideas are: HandyFarm.org (yet to be launched). It is a device we hope to boost agriculture at an unspeakable rate.

“We also have ClassOfSomething.org; this is currently being developed and tested with Federal Government College, Lagos (FGCL), alumni. It’s a platform that connects alumni in new ways and helps to answer any type of multiple choice questions. The next version will be able to take on even more tasks.”

Vision

On their vision Dickson said, “Internovent is the future of African innovation. Everyone deserves to know we are here. Venture capitalists need to invest in the movement. On a large scale, our vision is to equip and connect a network of 10,000 social innovators in Africa over the next five years.

“The most obvious one is employment. With the creation and expansion of each new projects comes creation of job opportunities. Also, the direct impact of our solutions is aimed at promoting socio-economic change.

“Millions of Nigerians will live better and more comfortable. Internovent as a concept is here to refine the orientation of the African youths. It will also place before them the task of tackling problems, and provide them the tools to think about solutions.

“To the ordinary man, we work with the passion of eliminating the elitist view of genius. We will bring to him, the education he truly deserves, so that he may have the confidence he needs to be superman.

“Internovent will stay, not just because the chief executive officer is a remarkable visionary, or because the people behind it are fuelled with limitless passion, but because the idea is divine. This movement is bigger than any of us. We started developing all our software from 2016. Right now, internovent as a group is made up of over 50 people in three countries including, Canada and the US.”

Funding

Regarding the issue of startup capital for the business, Dickson noted that an entrepreneur should strive to develop creative approaches to tackle the issue of funding. He said family support was important, as it could be an effective backup for emergency spending. As an individual who believes in creating value in service delivery, he developed a principle known as value-for-value. This principle has helped the organisation to cut cost, he said.

“We have been able to find some private investors who are interested in providing venture capital for individual projects. We are still open for investment, though we have not had any major funding for Internovent,” Dickson noted.

He added, “Putting value, people and purpose first is at the heart of everything we do. Sourcing loans from banks are sometimes steps that can distract you from important moves. Maybe this is the right time for that or maybe months from now. No huge sum of money can come in once. From strategic partnerships to improvising with what you have, all partners put in what they can.

“I am of a firm opinion that money (startup capital) is not the most important necessity in starting a company. You ought to get your value base right. Adopt a system that runs on little money. Do the dirty work.”

Hope for Future

With the recent influx of young talented Nigerians into the technology ecosystem, Dickson and Udegbue believe there is great hope in the years ahead for the country. They say these youngsters are building mind blowing software applications to address societal needs, stressing that despite low government support, youths are tapping into the opportunities in the sector. Dickson is excited about the attention youths are putting into technology innovation. What is noteworthy for him is the advent of technology hub centres, such as Dev’s District and Planet NEST, which they are in partnership with.

Dickson stated, “It’s because of movements such as these that I can assure you that in the coming years, Nigeria will be at the forefront of world technology innovation and smart entrepreneurship. Let me state here that we recently had our first flagship Entrepreneurship Intervention Training- Startup like a Pro (SLAP). This version was in partnership with media house and life transformers academy.

“The idea is to build a global mindset in startup entrepreneurs as they begin their version of this exciting and purposeful journey. Anyone who wants to develop such a model for their startup can come to Internovent. We will work something out. As the initiator of this concept, I started out with my founding partner, Udegbue and we harmonised the human resources available to us.”