“You have a good social project, but it is not an investable company”, I heard fellow judge and technology activist Mariéme Jamme say to a South African entrepreneur who had just given his best business pitch. He was taking part in the Dragons’ Den at the 5th Global Forum on Innovation and Technology Entrepreneurship, a fantastic 3-day learning and networking event organized by the World Bank’s infoDev and the South African Department of Science and Technology. You could see the entrepreneur (let’s call him ‘B.’) gasping for air, and one could hear a pin drop in the completely filled auditorium of the Global Forum. Over 800 people, mostly entrepreneurs, financiers, policy makers and technology ‘evangelists’ from all over the world had gathered here.
How are emerging market entrepreneurs leveraging technology and changing development paradigms? Why are the rewards of funding innovative new ventures in emerging economies worth the risks, and what makes these investments succeed? How can investors, policy makers, and the private sector in general help find and groom transformative high-growth enterprises?
Join Thrishantha and other experts on the World Bank Sri Lanka Facebook page on April 2nd at at 4PM Colombo Time for a live chat on innovation!
One day, I was driving in a remote town in Sri Lanka, when I saw this encouraging scene. A few school kids were playing cricket on a rainy day, and they had made a wicket out of three umbrellas. It might look simple, but a very powerful message about innovation is hidden right there. An innovator in my view is somebody who practices to ask two simple questions: 1) is there a better way to do this, or simply, is there a way to do this? 2) why did it happen that way? The second question is driven by the curiosity to learn the rules of nature, while the first question is driven by a very healthy attitude to get things done by exploiting the rules of nature. The kids who used the three umbrellas for a wicket simply asked if they could find something in their environment to serve the purpose of a wicket. Quite subconsciously, these kids, by embedding in nature, by walking barefooted on mud, grass, and sand, have mirrored natural laws of nature in their brains, that provided them with the basis to change the utility of an umbrella to a stump of a wicket. Therefore, in my view, best innovators are those who are active outside the classroom as well as in the classroom and laboratories.
Join an online discussion with Ismail on Tuesday, April 2nd at 8-11AM on the World Bank's South Asia Facebook page to ask questions and learn more about his experiences.
The Dalai Lama once said - that if you ever feel you are too small to make a difference then try sleeping in a room with a mosquito. And the same goes for business. Every big business starts as a small business. General Electric was at one time the world's biggest company and it started with a simple but revolutionary idea - the invention of the incandescent light bulb in 1878 and the vision of just one person Thomas Edison.
Walmart started with a single store in 1945 and is now the largest private employer in the world. Starting with one store and the idea of making lots of cheap goods available all over the US, Walmart has created more than 2 million jobs. And of course more recently we have lots of examples in the technology and innovation space Apple, Microsoft, Google, Amazon, Ebay, Dell and Facebook. All are multi-billion dollar companies that started out in a single room, a basement or garage with a simple idea shared at first by a one or two people.
“If you think the most important thing you need at a startup is capital, you will be wrong. It’s the wealth of mentoring and handholding you will have getting your business up and running.”
I have been asked to write a few paragraphs on the use of ICT for creating jobs and solutions in Sri Lanka. Even though I am an entrepreneur of an upstart, the question really stumped me. Why? As an entrepreneur my main objective is to establish a profitable business venture guided by some core values; this question has made me rethink where ICT stands in the context of job creation and solutions.
Well, the short answer to the first question is YES. It creates jobs; in the short time we have been in operation we have seen rapid growth and have hired several people to join our team. In the future we will continue to need additional staff as we expand our operations. One can argue that through job creation, our site is playing a role in alleviating unemployment and thus a part of the solution. But, ICT can offer Sri Lanka so much more.
In 2011, the Philippines launched the Specialista Technopreneurship Program to stimulate economic growth and help provide employment to graduates of Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET), especially in the rural areas. We learned more about the program works from Maria Susan Dela Rama, Executive Director for Planning of the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA)—the government agency that regulates TVET.
Governments and policy makers often look to small and medium-sized enterprises to drive growth in developing economies. These SMEs are held up as incubators of creativity and entrepreneurship, pushing the market to change, expand, and better meet consumer needs. But perhaps SMEs aren’t the only category to applaud. Research has shown that certain firms, regardless of their size, create jobs, export goods, and generally grow faster than others. We think these are the firms to watch.
To explain, we use an animal analogy developed by David Birch. Birch classified firms into “mice,” small firms that tend to stay small; “elephants,” large firms that do not grow rapidly; and “gazelles,” firms that both grow rapidly and account for a large share of employment or revenue growth. These gazelling firms are key to nascent, growing economies. As Caroline Freund and Martha Denisse Peirola show in Export Superstars, a World Bank Research Policy Paper, it is often a few big firms that account for the lion’s share of national exports. Not only are these few good firms responsible for the largest growth in exports, they also contribute most of the export diversification. In fact, countries’ relative comparative advantage is defined by these large, well-performing firms.
A quiet revolution has been sweeping the Indian political landscape. Last year, the reservation (quota) for women in panchayats — rural local self-government — was increased to at least 50 percent, bringing women into the political fold in vast numbers.
However, economic empowerment may not have kept pace with political empowerment. When it comes to female labor force participation, gender disparities remain deeply entrenched. The 2012 World Economic Forum's Gender Gap Index ranked India 123rd out of 135 countries on economic participation and opportunity.
I recently attended the American Economic Association annual conference in San Diego—the world’s largest gathering for economists. There were more than 50 parallel sessions on a wide array of topics and several previews and presentations of papers –so there was a surplus of interesting ideas and insights. As an Economist who works in innovation, technology and entrepreneurship, I was particularly focused on papers that were relevant to my areas of interest. Highlights are under the cut.
As policy makers in developed and developing countries alike search for ways to boost productivity, create more and better jobs, increase wages, and lower poverty, they are increasingly focusing on stimulating innovation and entrepreneurship. How can this be done? We asked an expert on this topic – John Van Reenen, Director of the Centre for Economic Performance and Professor of Economics, London School of Economics. In Part II of this two-part series, he emphasizes the need for countries to not only find their comparative advantage but ensure that it is in an area where demand is likely to grow.