This was a very interesting finding for me when attending the Annual Conference near Washington D.C. organized by the Aspen Network of Development Entrepreneurs (ANDE). ANDE is an incredible not-for-profit organization that connects organizations across the globe having one thing in common – how to accelerate the growth of SGBs in emerging markets. LEAP is very proud to be a member of ANDE and closely involved in building the local chapter in this country.
Living and working in South Africa we often feel a bit isolated from what is happening in other parts of the fast moving world like USA, Europe, East Asia or South America. Conferences like these are critical when establishing world best practice but most importantly building international networks. What works in the world of accelerators? How can we measure the impact of our acceleration programmes? What are the key challenges around talent management Small Growing Business’s (SGBs) face? How can we use technology to propel the growth of SGBs? Learning labs and panel discussions were set out around topics like these and research institutions brought to the table to share their insights.
What stood out for me at the Conference is the realization that we not only as LEAP but as part of the South African community of capacity development organizations are very advanced in many ways in designing comprehensive accelerator programmes and measuring impact. What was very refreshing though is debating with top global accelerators and incubators on some of the key findings of the Global Accelerator Learning Initiative (GALI) report Emory University has conducted over the past year and one of them being – Acceleration programmes need to focus more on building entrepreneurial networks, and less on delivering content. Many promising entrepreneurs don’t have access to resources because they don’t have the right networks. They didn’t go to the right schools or don’t speak the same language as investors. The programme time that is most closely related to better programme outcomes was the time focused on overcoming these networking and communication challenges. Because many of our best entrepreneurs don’t come from well-connected backgrounds, networking sessions are literally leveling the playing field. To learn more about GALI go to http://www.andeglobal.org/?page=Accelerators.
At LEAP our key focus is on networking and accessing market opportunities. We believe that this is more important even than having access to funding. If an entrepreneur doesn’t have a healthy pipeline of clients than what’s the point of having a great business plan or another mentoring session for the sake of mentoring? We have also invested a substantial amount of money into technology to further capacitate the entrepreneurs to build their networks and seize the next business opportunity – the Business World has been hugely successful now with over 10 000 SGBs on the platform and trading daily!
Staying relevant, building professional networks, investing in technology, developing talent, continuously measuring results and improving on service delivery is not just something we need to focus on harder as part of LEAP’s acceleration programmes but something every entrepreneur needs to do to propel to the next level!