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ISPACE @ 10

Updated: Apr 6, 2023

To commemorate the 10th anniversary of iSpace one of the hubs under the Ghana Hubs Network we sat down with Josiah Eyison the CEO and founder to ask him some questions and this is how it went.



Question

What did you want to be when you were younger?


Answer

This is a good question. So, I've always said I want to be president of Ghana. I think that’s the only thing I've always said I wanted to be. Um, I've never had any other thing that I wanted to be. Um, but then obviously, when I moved to the UK and started doing music, I wanted to own my record label and all of those other things, which I did. Um, but all in all, I've always wanted to be the president of Ghana. That's it.


Question

How did iSpace Foundation come about?


Answer

Good question. I think, to be honest, it's still in the same line because, if you think about it, it's about supporting people. It's about, changing an environment. It's about being innovative, driving policy and change, right? So with iSpace and what we do supporting entrepreneurs, providing an environment for them to be able to grow and make Ghana, number one, should be the job of a president. So doing that with iSpace is in my head, my little presidency.


Question

So are you going to, really take that step to become the President of Ghana any time in the future?


Answer

If the opportunity presents itself? It is something that I will not shy away from. Um, but I am not driven in the sense that I want to go and join this party. So that I can, yeah. But if the opportunity ever presents itself where I'm at a stage where people feel like, you know what? You've done this, done that, and you'd be a nice kind of candidate to do this, then yeah, why not? I mean, I think every Ghanaian should aspire to be at the top office, which is to change the nation as you want it to be, so yeah, given the opportunity, I'll do it.


Question

So I'm curious, how did you come up with, the name “iSpace”?


Answer

Um, so iSpace pretty much came about with, looking at an individual, so as an individual space, right? And then at the same time, innovation space. So it's a space where an individual can be innovative and, the concept between, or the concept for how we write our eye, right, is that you see that there's no, dot on top of it, right? Mainly because we believe as an entrepreneur, you have to lose your head. You have to be “crazy” to do entrepreneurship, right? Like you have to live outside of your head to be an entrepreneur. So that's why we took the head off the eye. So then when you become an entrepreneur, it's no longer about you. It's literally about the environment and the problems that you solve. So that reduces the eye from becoming an individual thing as supposed to be a collective thing. So that's where that whole concept, um, actually comes from.


Question

Is there any meaning behind the colors used in the logo design?


Answer

The colors were chosen, because of what we believe in, for me it was just the vibrant colors, colour by its nature being that vibrant tells you that, you know, you stand out, you can be seen, and all of that. It wasn't feminine, it was never like, because we support women, that's the reason why we went in that direction. I just felt like, um, those moving from color purple down to pinkish, it was loud colors.


So whatever we do, we have to be seen. And that's what, um, you know, is behind the colors in the first place.


Question

What are some of the challenges you face?


Answer

Yeah, I mean the challenges have always been, um, the environment, the lack of support that you get in the environment. Um, not being able to get the human resource that you need. Um, because again, the nature of what we do is very hard to have somebody that is already trained in that space for them to come and work for you, right? Because community manager, what does that mean to anybody, right? A hub manager, what does that mean to anybody? But in reality, those were the challenges. So not getting the right, human resources and funding, are the major challenges.


Question

What is your greatest achievement, one that you are so proud of, it brings you so much joy.


Answer

I think for us, would be making a great dent in the whole, women and tech, you know, a situation that we have in Ghana, we started from Accra, then we moved it down to five different regions and supported other hubs for them to be able to then execute that mandate on our behalf. And I think we were the first hub to give money to other hubs for them to execute programs on our behalf. So yeah, I mean, for me, if there has to be any milestone, it would be our role in supporting women, in technology and business.



Questions

So what are some of the projects you're working on?


Answer

So right now we are working on one amazing project that is called, um, RIC, which is, Research Innovation and Commercialisation, looking into how we can build the capacity of researchers in academia, but at the same time also build the capacity of innovation hubs for them to understand what the innovation process is, and then combine the two, which is academia and innovation hubs, for them to then be able to put products on the market, right? Because ultimately that's why we are in business really to commercialize things.


But people need to learn the process of doing that. And that's one major project. And then another one that we're doing is the GAP project, which is a gender awareness program. Because again, we live in a society that, still talking about gender becomes a phony issue for people. And we don't want innovation spaces to be a space where women feel uncomfortable. People from disadvantaged backgrounds feel uncomfortable, to kind of go to. So the whole idea of the GAP program is to equip, innovation hubs with the skills that they need for them to be able to, create a gender-friendly, environment for their community. The other one we are also working on, is policy stuff and Ghana Startup Act, because it's a natural progression for us working on policy, trying to see how we can support the ecosystem at large. yeah, so Ghana Startup Act, GAP, and then RIC (Research Innovation and Commercialization Project) are the, three for me.


Question

So far with the RIC, any difficulties?


Answer

The difficulties, with RIC, right now are, the logistics, so infrastructure, being able to travel around all these different zones, and facilitating programs require a lot of, movement. So we find ourselves taking planes then coming back and then going back. So I think that's the only difficulty. But aside from that all the hubs are into it, we've got researchers, academia that are into it and then, you know, the funding organization themselves supporting what it is that we're doing. So that triangle of progress, which is the stakeholder, the funder, and then, you know, you get government, everybody else is in it, so that makes it work for us. But apart from that, it's infrastructure.


Question

Cool. Moving on, I believe you are one of the masterminds behind, GHN. At what point in the journey did you realize all hubs need an umbrella body?


Answer

Good question. Um, so the backstory was, I attended an event at, British Council, and the facilitator, or the hub manager at that time commented how, you know, British Council works with hubs and blah, blah, blah, and if anybody knows me, they know I'm a straight shooter, right? See, so I said, no, you don't. You are just basically competing with hubs and it's a dangerous thing to be in, right? And for lack of a better thing, I have to commend them because he then said, okay, let's have a meeting to see how we can then support other hubs.


So that was the moment. Cause you saw that a lot of, resources and programs and everything was coming to Accra, but nobody was looking at other hubs external. So to us, it didn't make sense because there were other hubs outside of Accra. Why didn't I get the support right? So that's where Ghana Hubs Network ( G H N ) came about. We needed a union that will support the smaller hubs for them to grow. But now what we are seeing, we are seeing that a lot more resources are going outside of Accra, but it is what it is.


So G H N came about really because we wanted to provide a conducive environment that supports hubs outside of Accra.


Question

I have seen that you're active with social media. Do you think the media contributes to hub growth?


Answer

Yes. it does. And I think a lot of the hub managers are not doing enough. They all need to contribute because you hear conversations like, oh, what are hubs doing? what are they contributing? And it stems from a lack of information, right? So if we utilize these platforms and let the public see our impact programs that we embarking on, things that we are doing would help because the hub narrative should not only be spoken by let's say Josiah or whoever, we need more of my peers to be on social media because the media is a huge platform. it allows you to be able to communicate with your audience directly. So I wish that we can do more.


Question

So would you say iSpace is iSpace because of social media?


Answer

It's both, because of the brand substance, we are good at what we do, right? And then we are also able to let people see what we do. And I think when those two matches, that's when you know you got a brand. So your substance and visibility, when they come together, that's when you know you got a brand. So I think that's what it is. And I think G H N is eventually getting there because right now the people that are handling the media for G H N are doing an amazing job. Cause they're putting a lot of content out there both on, on social media, you know, from Twitter down to, Instagram, Facebook, and all of that. And so now people then see Ghana Hub's Network. So the brand now is visible. We will get to the point where the brand visibility matches the substance.


Question

Any advice for new hubs that are coming up?


Answer

I would say pick a niche, right? Pick a niche. Know why you're doing what it is that you're doing. Focus on developing your team. Focus on building a community, focus on designing programs that respond to community or com, um, communal needs, right? Um, and don't think that you become successful overnight because in reality, what is success anyway? Right? And then don't do every single program just because you want to get money from it. Be strategic. So if women are who you're dealing with, then deal with women.


But even that, what kind of women are you dealing with? What sector of women are you dealing with? So the space is open, yes, but find a niche. Because right now we have over 65 hubs across Ghana. So you must have a unique selling point for somebody to then invest in you or choose your hub over another person.



Question

you are not the only hub around this community, but people choose to come to iSpace. What makes you different from other, hubs

Answer

I think what makes us different is our approach. Our approach has always been whether you have an idea, whatever stage you are in your entrepreneurial journey, you can always come to us and then we can help you map it out. And we've been very successful in helping individuals raise money. So based on that, then it gives you that visibility, right? Um, and we are passionate about what we do. We don't see it as work, well, at least for me, I don't see it as work. And so through that passion, it resonates with the staff.


When people come here, the way we've created a friendly, um, environment for individuals to just come in. And we are a place where people with ideas can just walk into other hubs that don't exist in that space. They order all, and all of them are focused on incubator, incubator, incubator. But sometimes you need to look at ideation first. Let somebody come to you with an idea and then figure out to incubate them. So I think that's what sets us apart from the rest. Yeah. In that sense.


Question

You spoke about raising funds, is there any other funding stream apart from organizing programs and renting out the space?


Answer

Yeah, so we have the investor network where we speak to investors and introduce startups to them, and then they fund. So that's another way. And then I've always been an advocate of revenue, revenue, revenue. See, so if you're in business, the best way to raise funds is through your customers, right? So you get customers, they pay you, that's your own money. You can do what you want to do with it because they pay you directly. So for us, is this trying to build an investment network that would then allow a lot of the funding and all of those things to come not just for the entrepreneurs, but then to the hubs as well?

So fortunately we are working with NEIP, to push hubs support, through World Bank to then give, grants to hubs for them to be able to function.


Question

In the next 10 years, what is the one thing you want to see in Ghana’s innovation hub ecosystem?


Answer

Tech being one of the major pillars of the GDP, Tech creates products that can be exported or used locally. The Ghanaian ecosystem should be recognized not just the individuals.


Question

What is the one thing Ghana can do to shoot up innovation and industrialization like Korea and Japan?


Answer

One thing we can do as a nation is to look at our education system, we need to encourage entrepreneurship.


Question

One or two quotes you live by?


Answer

“Say what you mean, mean what you say, and die by it”


Question

Any books you are reading now?


Answer

Bible, more self-development book ( Purpose and Being ) Robert Green books


Question

Is there anyone you look up to in life?


Answer

My Mother, Stepfather, Father, surrogate mother, and my team



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