The number of local startups finding their feet is growing, thanks to a growing interest by both local and foreign investors and the burgeoning innovation spaces setting up shop. The debate continues on what happens next after money and time has been injected into these ventures. Is there a way to fastrack their growth? Or are we comfortable with a “jua kali” model where there are hundreds of small time ventures as opposed to a handful of heavy hitters? Which model is best to pursue?
In the past I have talked about the concept of co-government investing that would essentially ensure the intellectual property created in the process of solution provision for the multi-million and sometimes multi-billion projects would be retained by local companies who could then export the technology. With the obvious effect of creating a multinational tech outfits as they would be addressing problems that are replicated in different african and emerging markets.
Another idea that could be pursued is to make the costs associated with deployment of local technology solutions tax deductable. This may bring up a debate on what would be considered a local technology company. Is it by registration or by team constitution? Would resellers solutions qualify, or will the focus be on net producers of technology? That debate aside, the gist of this would be to encourage more companies, organizations and institutions to deploy local solutions perhaps with a cap on the tax deductible figure as a percentage or other calculation. This will see more local technology firms grow their portfolio and revenues, not forgetting the contribution to the taxman. Development of a decent portfolio is key to any business development initiative, and this doesn’t just apply to startups or technology ventures.
The final thought is around the amalgamation of resources to build local capacity to meet the demand that the large “tipping point” type of opportunities present. Not to kill any techpreneurs dream, but there is value in co-opetition. Recently, the government made a call for submission of interest to young entrepreneurs keen to benefit from ten percent in government tenders, that goes up to the billions in value. As we still suffer from a confidence problem when it comes to local developers, a problem that may be the industry’s own making; it may be worth the time for techpreneurs to organize themselves into outfits that can deliver on the larger projects with each focusing on their key strengths. It may not be possible to have all resources needed for mega projects under one roof and it takes some humility and sense to accept this and seek out solid symbiotic partnerships that will deliver on the promise to the client.
You will notice that the ideas presented above are really a different take on organic growth as they do not rely on the injection of outside capital to realize them. Are they workable? I think they are; with abit of will to experiment and try them out we could iron out the kinks and perhaps arrive at a framework that will inform a policy decision to support the growth of local technology solutions.