Mark and I recently had a conversation about his article — Startup Incubators in Africa and why they don’t work — where he mentioned that he is 100% certain that incubators won’t create big software companies in Africa.
I agree, the next million- or billion-dollar start-ups won’t owe their origins to a Nigerian incubator — So what are Incubators good for?
Nigerian start-ups cannot — and should not — be precluded from the Nigerian growth curve tech-wise, as incubators will be the major platforms for training the people who will eventually build those million- and billion-dollar software companies in Nigeria I earlier mentioned. They will inadvertently be responsible for setting these future entrepreneurs on the path to becoming these great industry leaders, but they may not play a great part in funding the companies that will eventually succeed and become the high-revenue companies in the tech industry.
I won’t dive much to talk about why they wont produce the next billion dollars companies because Mark already said it the way I would put it — the problem is the kind of people who join incubators, they are not ready yet.
So why am I not in a hurry to dismiss Nigerian incubators and why do I strongly believe they will be instrumental in creating the next entrepreneur(s) who will come to successively lead the Nigerian software industry?
While the current entrepreneurs in incubators may not be ready to steer the tech industry in the direction it should go, they will nonetheless learn the hard way. The up-side is that they will gain more programming and management skills than they signed up for in the process. It will take sweat and strain; and they will part with their hard-earned earnings to attain this level. They will be no strangers to failure — and they will fall, and rise, and fall over again. Trudging through these uphill streets will give them the skills and tricks — at great personal cost — and when they have aged and parted with significant amounts of their personal cash, they will join vibrant start-ups (like Konga, for an example.) Konga, of course, will benefit from their wealth of experience. These older, experienced and more tactical brand of start-up people will always fare, naturally, better than their more brilliant — but inexperienced — counterparts freshly graduated from the Nigerian universities.
So what’s in it for our careworn entrepreneur above? It is literally a win-win situation for everyone because he/she will now be working in a start-up that comes with funding and a revenue-making framework where he/she can put his immense knowledge to growing without losing sleep over cash-flow.
Within two/three years of working in this environment, he/she is more likely to renew his/her zest and interest in his/her initial — and, hopefully, exciting — start-up idea, and his journey from point zero to now will ensure that the odds of his/her succeeding this time around are better than the first time. He/she would have made the relevant connections and built indispensable relationships and the funding he/she will need to match his/her impressive experience will finally be matched, and this will usher in the making of an all-round, refined and better-positioned entrepreneur.
In the end it all depends on focus, perseverance and drive.