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Leading Nigerian corporate Honeywell Group recently announced the launch of its new accelerator and investment vehicle, Itanna.
Itanna will roll out four-month innovation programmes for tech-enabled Nigerian startups from its newly built Enterprise Factory in Lagos; with its pilot cohort of startups receiving USD $25,000 each in investment from Honeywell.
Below, Tomi Otudeko who is Head of Innovation and Sustainability at Honeywell Group and the Director of Itanna, sheds some light on the inspiration behind the new venture.
As I begun to think through what launching Itanna means to the Nigerian tech ecosystem and Honeywell Group, I realised it would be impossible for me to write this without first trying to understand what the launch means to me particularly, writes Tomi Otudeko, Head of Innovation and Sustainability at Honeywell Group and Director of Itanna.
The launch of Itanna is a culmination of a journey that started over a year ago. It is the end of a journey that has allowed me to better understand startups within the Nigerian tech ecosystem and forced me to reconsider and refine my assumptions on how to build businesses.
Over the past year, I have had to climb into the skin of a Nigerian startup and walk around in it – and it hasn’t been easy. Through this experience, my respect for the hustle of promoters of startups has grown; especially for the stress and effort they have to go through to have a chance at survival.
I must admit that I am one of the lucky ones. As I worked towards the launch of my startup (Itanna), I had support from Honeywell Group, which was patient. Mistakes were made, as we learnt and adjusted. While the launch was the end of one journey, it was also the beginning of a whole new adventure for the Itanna team and Honeywell Group.
The Honeywell Group is ready for the adventure and launched Itanna because the managers of the business clearly understood the time was ripe to participate in the tech ecosystem. It was Malcolm X who said, ‘the future belongs to those who prepare for it today’. The same is true for corporates. Honeywell has been actively thinking about its future, and a major outcome of a recently held Group-wide business retreat was that we want the Honeywell Group to be sustainable for the next 100 years and beyond.
In order to do that, it was clear we must start to think differently; embrace business ideas of the future and engage differently with stakeholders. We must seek new kinds of partners and do business in ways we haven’t done before.
Itanna is the first step in Honeywell’s journey of the next 100 years. Itanna offers us the unique opportunity to actively build the future of our Group. It allows us to build a new kind of business that
can be sustainable for generations. A business that partners with others by investing in and helping them develop their businesses; because we know that by helping to build startups we are stronger and better prepared for the future.
I don’t pretend to believe that Honeywell Group’s participation in the tech ecosystem changes everything, but I do believe that it sends a message to investors, both local and foreign, that the Nigerian tech ecosystem is serious and ready for more investment and partnerships.
We have taken notice and are excited to be engaging with other stakeholders whilst becoming a part of that rapidly evolving ecosystem.
Tomi Otudeko is Head of Innovation and Sustainability at Honeywell Group and the Director of Itanna. She is responsible for driving the Group’s innovation strategy, and is a programme delivery expert and business consultant. Tomi is passionate about helping businesses set up and grow, and believes that successful businesses can change lives and impact society.