Technology companies have transformed the world over the last two decades, and for good reason. They have overtaken oil and gas and manufacturing hegemons to become the biggest contributors to the global economy via the largest public companies in the world, with billion-dollar unicorn valuations previously never envisaged.
They have been termed disruptors, and have leveraged increased internet adoption to chart new territories, creating new industries and reinventing older ones. No industry is left untouched, as technology has transformed fields as diverse as shopping, education and even mobile wallets.
Its swift, pervasive rise globally has created possibilities hitherto unimagined. Technological progress means that employees can produce more goods and services; inequality is eroded in education with remote learning tools, while new intelligence in personalized healthcare is increasing efficiency and enabling health practitioners to make better decisions.
Technology pervasion has led to what has been called the one-tap economy, where you are only one touch away from booking a flight, making payments, stocking up on groceries, hiring staff, buying food, or even getting someone to sleep with. The rise of these on-demand companies offers a paradigm shift from stability to flexibility and heralds a digital-only world.
Enabling support systems
Technology companies are the biggest players in recreating this new world, and their entrepreneurial founders are revered as the crazy ones, the misfits who deliberately challenge the status quo for greater good.
Quite a lot is said about these founders, their backgrounds and the challenges they battled in building long-term focused and sustainable companies. But little focus is paid to the enabling entrepreneurial ecosystems around them: informal in the case of parents, families and friends that helped them articulate their ideas or lent helping hands or in most cases, purses to entrepreneurs, and formal, when they are supported in slightly more structured start-up ecosystems. The availability of these support ecosystems have contributed to the ability of these companies to scale.
A historical analysis of successful entrepreneurial ecosystems has identified several features that help foster entrepreneurship, technological innovation and resilience. While each ecosystem is unique, the entrepreneurship ecosystem generally consists of six factors:
- A conducive culture
- Enabling policies and leadership
- Availability of appropriate finance
- Quality of human capital
- Venture-friendly markets for products
- A range of institutional and infrastructural supports
For the interwoven ecosystem encompassing Silicon Valley and Stanford University, its top factors are its;
- Risk-taking culture
- Student body of Stanford
- The culture of giving back
- Abundant capital
- Collaboration with industry
- government support
Silicon Cape, South Africa’s most vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystems credits its talent/industry, government, community, access to funding, university research, and broadband infrastructure.
This approach has also been adopted by other entrepreneurial ecosystem programmes including the Regional Entrepreneurship Acceleration Program by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) which lists government, risk capital, academia, entrepreneurs and the industry.
Written by Temitope Osunrinde
Osunrinde is an avid technology stakeholder and has contributed to the narrative of West Africa’s most prominent broadband infrastructure player. He works in Lagos and can be contacted via [email protected]