Start-ups in different sectors, no longer only in ICT, are facilitated by dedicated entrepreneurs who inspire, gather and sometimes fund businesses in incubators.
Panellists from African business incubators discussed strategies and benchmarks for new business incubators, as well as possibilities for cooperation among incubators in different countries.
The audience asked about how to structure the graduation process for companies. The panel said it was critical to avoid creating dependent companies. Failure is part of entrepreneurship. Not all companies succeed. The panel spoke of ways to promote graduation, such as raising prices for services to the market rate.
The selection process for incubated companies depends on the sector, the objectives and the maturity of the incubator. For instance, a new incubator may be less selective. One model is to make selection competitive.
Local incubators might not be ideal to create international companies. That said, an incubator can be designed to focus on issues directly related to export markets.
Many ideas being incubated do not make any business sense, noted a participant from Uganda.
The audience explored the danger of public models that breed dependency, while private models focus on return on capital. No one model is a perfect fit.
The audience also pointed out some good models in East Africa.
Unreasonable East Africa has incubated 12 businesses in 2014 and they have all succeeded. Jon Sever of The Office in Kigali introduced the model they have used to reach tremendous growth. Their success has been due to promoting real cross-pollination and being very careful to accept financing only when it serves the community.