Garage48 is a “hacking” event that aims at bringing programmers together to pitch innovative ideas and then go from idea to working service in 48 hours. At the end of 48 hours, teams are expected to have come up with a working service based on their initial ideas. For the first time ever, the Garage48 event came to Africa, specifically Lagos, Nigeria.
I am typically not one to take part in these vents, especially because I do not live in Lagos. However, I was opportuned to take part in the Garage48 Lagos event and I have to say I had a great time.
Considering how difficult it is to organize such an event in Nigeria and in a city such as Lagos, it is necessary to say that the Garage48 team really did quite a good job in making sure the event became a reality. I particularly liked the food at the event
Garage48 Lagos gave me the opportunity to meet and work with great people including Ahmad Mukoshy, Ernest “Namzo” Ojeh, Jesse Oguntimehin, Damilare Akinlaja, Ayo Olaniyi and Akinwande Adegbola. We were all part of the Flippii team at the event. This team was an awesome one made up of people with undeniable individual capabilities.
I had met Ernest once before Garage48 Lagos. Ernest “namzo” Ojeh is a superb UI/UX designer and co-founder of devedgelabs. He created the beautiful Flippii interface showcased at Garage48 Lagos. I do not think I have ever worked with a faster UI/UX designer, and the interesting thing about the way he works is that you hardly ever see him doing it and being serious about it. I do not know how to explain his work style any better than this.
Jesse Oguntimehin is one of the most energetic and enthusiastic individuals I have ever met. He always had a way of infusing a great deal of energy into the team. I would love to have a person like him as a marketing partner any day, any time.
At Garage48 Lagos, Ayo Olaniyi pitched an idea very similar to a startup I co-founded (adloopz.com). After he pitched his idea, I went over to him to tell him about adloopz and we somehow ended up on the same team working on Flippii. Working with him, I could see that he was a soft spoken, smart and business savvy fellow.
Damilare Akinlaja is someone I had met and spoken to at length before Garage48 Lagos. He has a strong passion for mobile technology and mobile software. I have met only a few other people with the kind of willingness to learn and experiment with new technology that Damilare has.
Akinwande Adegbola was the Android guru at the Flippii team. One thing I noticed about him was that he was not one to talk very much. However, his willingness to get things done was absolutely evident from the way he got things done.
Have you ever had a mentor younger than you are? For me, Ahmad Mukoshy is one (He might be 21 just like me, but I am slightly older than he is, by a few months). Before Garage48 Lagos, I had never met him. But without ever meeting him, I had learnt one important lesson from the things he had achieved: IT IS NOT HOW MUCH YOU KNOW THAT REALLY MATTERS, BUT WHAT YOU DO WITH THE “LITTLE” YOU KNOW. That said, I was glad to finally meet and work with him.
After the Flippii team was formed, it was interesting to see tweets on Twitter about how it was unfair to have all of us in the same team.
@harkinlarjar: RT @mambenanje: @harkinlarjar who are your team mates ? namzo mukoshy wande davidadamojr and two product managers
@mambenanje: @harkinlarjar waooh you guys are cheating… why take the best and put in one team ?
@mukoshy @mayorbrain hahahaaa not really, other teams also got geeks
A few people were of the opinion that the team was a little bit too high powered and indeed a good amount of red bull and coffee went down human drains on this team.
There was no denying the fact that this was a team full of technical power. However, I think this resulted in a team that could not focus on effective presentation and communication of the Flippii idea instead of focusing on technical details. It later became apparent that technical ability was really not what was going to make a team come out tops at Garage48 Lagos. The final results of the Garage48 event made it pretty obvious that the metrics for judging the demos definitely did not center around technical skill and use of innovative technologies but rather on strength of idea and the “wow factor” resulting from sound presentation of a strong idea.
The fact that the teams at Garage48 Lagos were not provided with accommodation for the 48 hour duration of the event made it seem more like a Garage30, since we really did not have a 48 hour coding marathon. Teams could not be together during the entire 48 hour period and I believe this affected the quality of demos shown on the Garage48 Lagos live demo day.
As I have earlier noted, I was part of the Flippii team. I sincerely think Flippii was the most misunderstood idea at Garage48 and was believed to be a platform for Nigerian software developers to share their ideas and get feedback. At least, this was how it was described on the Garage48 Lagos “projects” page. Flippii is a whole lot more than this.
Flippii is a software platform that puts systems in place to encourage a culture of idea sharing, collaboration and innovation amongst different people around the world, between individuals and companies, or just among employees within a particular company (intranet or “cloud”-based). It just a matter of time before Flippii is launched fully. It is currently in alpha at http://www.flippii.com/alpha.
There were many great ideas pitched at Garage48 Lagos. My team shared a room with the MyCash team. The MyCash idea centered around expense tracking and enables people track how and where they spend their cash. MyCash is a great idea and had a great team even though they once came close to throwing blows at each other. Personally, the MyCash idea is something I had made plans to work on before Garage48 Lagos but somehow never got around to doing so.
The concept of MyCash would make for an excellent mobile application. Little wonder the MyCash team won the best mobile app category at the event. I am hoping against hope that the MyCash team would give me the devices that Nokia promised them.
Another interesting idea was Extramiles which aims to make it easy for volunteers to signup for volunteer service. I think this is a really noble idea. The Extramiles team won as runners up for “best execution”.
Cook ‘n Chop was a beautiful idea that proposed a solution that creates an online database of Nigerian food recipes. These recipes would be available in text, video and audio. I like the angle taken during the cook and chop presentation which made the Cook ‘n Chop project seem like the saviour that had come to save Nigerian food recipes that were dying away. I really would not want my grandmother to die and be buried without passing on those magical food recipes of hers. Cook ‘n Chop is a superb and realistic idea and the team would have no insurmountable challenges getting it to a working service in very little time. The Cook ‘n Chop project was a fantastic one from many perspectives. It was excellent because of its focus on local content and it is good to know that the Google representative at the Garage48 Lagos event readily acknowledged this fact. I see Google supporting this project because it might become mutually beneficial for both parties.
Call Camp came out overall winners at Garage48 Lagos. Call Camp aims at taking away the problem of inadequate and inefficient customer care personnel by enabling individuals serve as customer care agents wherever they are and at anytime. The Call Camp idea sounds excellent and “heavenly” in theory but in practice, the difficulties to be encountered are a little less than exciting. The jury, in my opinion, was a little short sighted (too farsighted??) or rather over-excited, and disconnected from the realities of Nigerian society and the Nigerian business climate in judging Call Camp overall winners of the event. Or maybe they were just being visionary :s
“Visionary” is one way to look at the call camp idea. The problem is Call Camp has so much to do in order to make their service a reality. They have a sh*t load of thinking and implementation to do. After 48 hours, on demo day, call camp was as far from a working service as they could ever be, not due to laziness or anything of the sort, but simply due to the realities of putting up such a system. The demo day presentation of Call Camp is here.
I believe the concept of Garage48 is to achieve a useable service in as little a time frame as possible. I do not see myself becoming an ad hoc customer care agent using Call Camp anytime soon. Not because I do not want to be, but because the service is probably not likely to function anytime soon. Basically, I am quite pessimistic about the ability of Call Camp to become a fully working service in the next 48 weeks.
If the actual idea of Garage48 does not center around getting a full working service in as little time as possible, then definitely Call Camp deserved to be overall winner of the event due to the strength and innovativeness of the idea as well as the undeniable existence of the problem they are trying to solve. Call Camp got the idea part of Garage48, but the working service part??? I’d like to see them make that happen. Frankly, I am not a believer in Call Camp for Nigeria (especially considering the fact that the angle they want to attack from is the telecommunications industry in Nigeria, MTN, Airtel and the like). It might be feasible in a few other countries with more stable infrastructure, but probably not in Nigeria.
For me, the fun part of Garage48 is the part where we get to see which of the applications showcased at the event gets to live up to expectations in the long run. Even though all the teams at the Garage48 Lagos were short-term winners in one way or the other, we just have to wait and see who the long-term winners are. This is something only time can reveal.
A member of the Call Camp team, Wale Awelenje, has posted a beautiful comment in defense of the team. It has spawned another interesting blog post here.
Editor’s Note: This was originally written shortly after the event.