START-UPS – SOCIAL EXPERIENCE RATHER THAN BUSINESS VENTURE?
1 Stellenbosch University (SOUTH AFRICA)
2 University of Botswana (BOTSWANA)
3 Technische Universitat Berlin (GERMANY)
4 Botswana International University of Science and Technology (BOTSWANA)
About this paper:
Conference name: 8th International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies
Dates: 4-6 July, 2016
Location: Barcelona, Spain
Abstract:Promoting entrepreneurship in youth, and especially in Southern Africa, is crucial for the growth of economies in countries such as Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, South Africa and Swaziland. One of the possible solutions to that problem may be empowering graduates of universities in Southern Africa to become successful entrepreneurs by providing them with the competencies and enabling environment to enhance their innovation and creativity. The Young Southern African Entrepreneurs (YSAE) is an attempt to generate such environment by introducing a specially created Localised Entrepreneurial Academic Programme (LEAP). LEAP is the result of a Design Thinking (DT) mindset and approach used in its creation process. One of the fundamental steps of the design thinking process is to “Observe”, which translates to “observe users, visit them in their (work) environment, and observe physical spaces and places”.
The observation phase of the design thinking took place in Berlin, Germany. Berlin was chosen as the perfect location as it enjoys 12 technology parks and 29 start-up centres. The participants conducting the observation visited a few accelerators and incubators considered to be the most active on the start-up scene in Berlin. There were several discussions with the people managing those centres and, more importantly, with the inhabitants of the start-up incubators, who were basically founders of new business ventures.
The observations presented in the paper do not pretend to be based on a long term, holistic research on start-ups. It shows rather a “flash” view, limited to only several start-ups, housed in a limited number of accelerators or incubators in one city. However, the view is positively fresh and unobstructed by previous experiences with business research. From the interaction with the Berlin entrepreneurs, it became evident that many of them had had multiple start-ups that had failed. However, they were still enthusiastically working on their next venture and actively taking part in the “start-up scene”, where they interact with other entrepreneurs, share advice and experiences as well as build a professional network. The entrepreneurs in Berlin do not seem as threatened by the possible failure of their ventures and are willing to treat the whole process as a social experience. They were also not severely worried about the future of their endeavours and possible failure. It seemed as if the possibility of failure had already crossed their minds. Everybody involved in the start-ups vigorously emphasized that there was nothing wrong with the failure and that start-ups could fail fast, often and hard.
The main purpose of the investigations done on the start-ups was to look at the possible solution for the Southern African students and graduates. The ambition of the recently created LEAP programme is to be realistic in its place of intended location. Under economical realities of the Southern African region it cannot be a programme that is considered to be a social club rather than the way of earning a living. The graduates cannot afford to participate in an activity just for its social attributes. The social security in the region is not strong enough to grant the participants the proverbial “four feet landing”.
Keywords: Entrepreneurship, startup, LEAP, YSAE.