Originally published on the MEST Africa Blog.
This month, we are welcoming the newest member to the MEST family, Neku Atawodi, who is our first hire in Nigeria and will serve as General Manager for MEST’s Lagos Incubator. In this position, Neku will oversee incubator operations and strategy, startup support, stakeholder engagement, business development and fundraising efforts for MEST. She’ll also work closely with our existing partners in Nigeria, including Interswitch.
She’ll serve as the local ambassador of MEST in Nigeria and will work cross-functionally with our management team in Ghana and Silicon Valley. Neku will also spearhead major events in Lagos, including the Africa Technology Summit 2016 (more exciting details to come soon).
I’m extremely glad that Neku is joining our team, and I’m confident that under her leadership, MEST will gain an even further foothold in the West African ecosystem.
As an organization, we’ve been strategizing our expansion plans for some time now, and to see this come full circle with our first hire in Nigeria is very exciting.
I interviewed Neku to ask a few quick questions and hope you all enjoy getting to know more about her as well.
Neku Atawodi has extensive experience as a self-starter entrepreneur, having spear-headed the launch-to-market of companies in various sectors under her watch. She is also the founder of Malaik, an impact-focused approach to equity crowdfunding in Africa, which gives investors access to the continent’s opportunities, and mediates its risks through a very thorough due diligence process.
Previously, Neku worked as a Technical Advisor to the Ministry of Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Abuja, where she developed the FCT’s revolutionary File Tracking System. Neku is passionate about empowering African entrepreneurs through tech, and was a member of founding team for Africa’s pioneer Impact Investment Tracking Platform.
Neku is a World Economic Forum Global Shaper, an Associate Fellow of the Royal Commonwealth Society, and a Clinton Global Initiative Lead Mentor. She holds a Masters Degree in International Business from the European Business School, London, and is an avid equestrian in her spare time. She was recently named as one of Forbes Africa’s 30 under 30.
Q: Tell us a bit about yourself and your interest/experience in the African tech space
A: My name is Neku, and I am a believer in all things that spur innovative disruption across sectors. Technology is proving to challenge the status quo globally, and is now offering a solid route to empowering Africa’s youth.
I played polo professionally for many years around the world, and upon returning to Nigeria, was saddened by the huge unemployment gap amongst our youth, yet we have an able and rather talented work force. This is true across much of Sub-Saharan Africa.
My interest stems from having first hand experience of how tech has been able to truly mobilize our work force and create thousands of jobs.
I believe that through technology, Africa can fast track its achievement of the outlined sustainable development goals, and the opportunity to be a part of this revolutionary time, is humbling. Being a part of MEST feels like being opportune to be a player in the stories that will be written about Africa’s tech revolution in years to come.
Q: What attracted you to MEST in the first place?
MEST’s core mission, ‘to create wealth and jobs locally in Africa.’ Being part of an organisation that is not just speaking or donating to Africa, but actually actively doing and investing in our people, is such a great pride.
I look forward to spreading this ethos across Nigeria, and to play a role in creating a measurable impact in our tech ecosystem.
Q: What will be your first key initiatives as Lagos GM?
A: We are super stoked to be hosting the Africa Technology Summit in Lagos this year. Lagos is being referred to as “Africa’s Silicon Valley,” and so it feels apt that it is the host venue of the next ATS. It’s four months away, and it will be a great opportunity to officially introduce MEST to Nigeria.
In addition to building closer relationships with our existing Nigerian partners including Interswitch, I will also be building meaningful partnerships with partners that can join hands to push our vision across Africa, while pushing hard to see the success of our first Nigerian portfolio companies.
Q: What challenges are you most excited about?
A: The futures of our portfolio companies. Speaking with the young entrepreneurs behind them has been so inspiring, the energy and passion that they have for their companies is infectious.
Like a mother, I am most excited about being a part of their growth, and to play a supporting and guiding role in these companies achieving their maximum potential.