My Summer Internship at Passion Incubator in Lagos, Nigeria

By Oneile Gorata Baitlotli
2016 Ashinaga Scholar
University of Notre Dame, Business Administration in Accounting/Political Science

Sep 7, 2018 – For my internship in Nigeria, I worked for Passion Incubator (PI) based in Lagos. Passion Incubator is an early stage technology incubator with expertise in innovation program design and tech investments. The main goal of PI is to become the most prolific supporter of impactful innovation development, startup incubation and seed stage investment by increasing the number of partnerships between corporates and startups as well as creating forums for innovators and business owners to connect and exchange value. Passion Incubator is the parent company to Leadspace, a coworking space that is used by most of the startups in PI’s portfolio.

During my time at Passion Incubator, I worked on numerous projects for both Passion Incubator and Leadspace. I spent most of my time working on Passion Incubator-related matters. My main role throughout my internship was assisting in the planning of Africa Business Festival (ABF). ABF is a two-day event that will occur in December. The aim of ABF is to connect Africans in the diaspora who usually go back to Africa during the Christmas period with local entrepreneurs from different industries. As the Event Coordinator my job was to handle the administrative side of things to ensure that everything that had to be done was completed on time as well as reach out to potential sponsors and speakers. I also had the opportunity to attend a training on corporate event planning, this opened my eyes to the close attention to detail one must pay when planning large events; every action has to be well thought out.

Even though ABF was my main priority, I had the opportunity to take on different roles during my internship. This helped expose me to all the various aspects that go into running a successful company. The tasks I performance varied, sometimes I had to attend meetings with the CEO of PI and other times I would be helping out at the front desk of Leadspace. Going to meetings with the CEO gave me a glimpse of how corporate Nigeria works and I was able to tell the difference as well as similarities between Nigeria and Botswana in terms of approaches to business. Working at the front desk taught me that every job within a company is important no matter how small it may seem, and every task is an opportunity to learn. One just has to be open minded.

I also had the pleasure of attending some events geared towards startups in FinTech. It is at these events that I met a lot of young Nigerian entrepreneurs who are finding innovative ways to solve problems. I learned a lot during my time with Passion Incubator. One of my biggest takeaways is the importance of collaborations. When trying to instill change or solve a problem, one shouldn’t always try to go at it alone; it helps to find people who can help you find innovative ways to tackle the problem. I was also able to schedule interviews with the founders of some of the startups in Leadspace. The reason for these interviews was to try and understand what drives them as well as learn about their businesses. It was inspiring to see young Africans working hard to achieve their goals.

The different lessons I learned during my time at Passion Incubator will be very beneficial for my future goals. My hope is to return to Botswana and help encourage young Batswana to start their own businesses as well as equip them with the skills required to run a successful business regardless of its size. This could also help with the diversification of Botswana’s economy which is currently relying heavily on diamonds. I have always known what I hoped to do in order to contribute to the economic and social growth of my country- what I struggled with was how to go about it. My time at Passion Incubator has helped build on to the foundation that I had, and I am now on the way to fully figuring out how to contribute positively to my country.

Living in Lagos was great. I was excited about going to Nigeria because Nigeria had always been a country that I hoped to visit, and the time there exceeded my expectations. The music, the food, the people, the culture is rich and so authentic that it made me feel very proud to be African. I am not claiming that Nigeria is perfect, no country is. However, I consider myself fortunate to have gone to Nigeria. The lessons I learned as well as the relationships I built with some of the people I met will stay with me forever.