5 Hacks to Boost Any Entrepreneurship Ecosystem: Part 2

January 21, 2016

In my last post, I laid out three hacks to help any entrepreneurship ecosystem thrive: leveraging data, identifying champions and shifting mindsets. Here are two more, based on my experience in Egypt as USAID’s first Entrepreneur-in-Residence.

Reach Out to the Government

When I began in Egypt, I was wary of government programming for entrepreneurs: Too often it competes against the existing ecosystem rather than supporting it. But my experience in Egypt proved to me that this doesn’t need to be the case. When the government works with ecosystem actors, great things can happen.

In Egypt, we were building the capacity of an accelerator and NGO to implement a startup bootcamp and one government agency saw how powerful the program could be. Instead of creating its own program from the bottom up, the agency partnered with these organizations in implementation, providing facilities and even food. 

So, as you implement an entrepreneurship program, keep the door open to the public sector (SME agencies, public universities and local government) and let them participate so they can “feel the magic.” They often can help with critical costs like facilities, and of course, coffee. 

Government leaders may not understand how to build companies, but they may be willing to help. Provide them with the vision of how you can help with economic growth and show them the results of your program. Moreover, government officials rarely know which policies are best for early-stage entrepreneurs, and instead tend to have the strongest connections with entrenched business interests that are often resistant to innovation and opening their markets. These businesses often work through the traditional Chamber of Commerce, business associations, and trade associations to accomplish their goals. By organizing groups of early-stage entrepreneurs, you can help give them a voice too, helping them articulate the needs of young companies to the government.

Women Rock!

Too often, entrepreneurship support programs fail to recognize the needs and potential of women entrepreneurs. Instead they pigeonhole women-led enterprises as home businesses that have limited ability to scale or expand beyond smaller markets.

Women-led startups in Egypt like Eventtus and SuperMama demonstrate that this mindset needs to change. Creating an ecosystem that helps women create great companies will boost any economy.  This requires a concerted effort to understand the needs of women entrepreneurs and how they can best be supported. For example, ecosystem actors can expand outreach and communication to target professional women’s networks, create programs that fight gender biases, and better accommodate the needs of very busy entrepreneurial mothers (who might not want to attend an all-night coding session at a co-working space).