Launching a sustainable business goes well beyond learning how to draft a business plan or fill out a financing application.
It involves a range of skills, both “hard” and “soft”, such as managing a start-up enterprise, motivating employees, assembling a cohesive team, tailoring a product to a well-defined market, adapting rapidly to fast-changing circumstances and consumer sentiment, and understanding how to convert an interesting technology into a viable business. These skills are not acquired, and nor can businesses succeed, in a vacuum. They need a business “ecosystem”, where potential entrepreneurs can learn the right skills and innovation is both encouraged and nurtured. For the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), this will require a change in the cultural attitude toward entrepreneurship.
Nascent ecosystem emerging in MENA
A nascent ecosystem has been emerging in MENA over the past five years. The few businesses that have achieved success in this evolving environment were private sector led, usually by members of the diaspora or those who had either studied or started a business abroad. These individuals come equipped with access to international networks and markets and they have clear incentives to see their ventures succeed. They invest their time as well as their money; key ingredients for a successful business ecosystem that need to be further encouraged. Governments need to know that strengthening innovation-led growth entails understanding and promoting investments in research and development (R&D), cultivating the necessary skills, putting in place a functional and effective business environment and the mechanisms to foster private and public collaboration.
Two initiatives from World Bank
The World Bank has launched two initiatives to support the fledgling ecosystem and help foster innovation and entrepreneurship in MENA. “Supporting the Ecosystem for Fostering a Dynamic Entrepreneurship” is funded by a Bank Development Grant Facility that supports regional partnerships for development. The program leverages a partnership between two leading regional incubators Oasis500 and Wamda to boost the support they already provide to pre and early start-ups across the region. In addition to expanding mentorship, skills development and access to investors, the incubators will also engage stakeholders (governments, universities, investors, other incubators) in each country as a means of expanding the partnership and broadening the transfer and exchange of critical knowledge and skills. Outreach is an important component and will include dissemination of success stories and “lessons learned.” To ensure they reach a diverse audience, a variety of media and platforms will be used, such as popular web sites, an Arabic Entrepreneurship Newsletter, comics, info graphics, cartoons and videos. Particular attention will be paid to rural areas and to groups who tend not to see themselves as entrepreneurs, such as women and youth. The Bank continues to seek funding and partnerships with other entities that have a track record of supporting entrepreneurship and building this capacity in the region.
The second initiative works at the policy level. The World Bank, the private sector, academia, think tanks, civil society experts and governments formed a community of practitioners to cultivate change through innovation and technology. “The How-to of Innovation, Technology and Entrepreneurship” (ITE) was launched last year in Prague. It is a practitioners’ exchange, networking and learning activity. Its goal is to help countries in the region advance policies that promote the various elements required for a thriving, innovative economy. It provides an opportunity for the exchange of operational lessons from other countries on the “how” of public support in this area.
- Jamaica: hub of innovation in Caribbean? (worldofinnovations.net)
- Hello High Potential Global Women Entrepreneurs! (womenentrepreneursgrowglobal.org)
- Whodini Expands Offerings With Grappple Acquisition (prweb.com)
- Cultivating an Entrepreneurial Community as a Student Leader (studentambassadorsusa.com)
- Govt’s role sought in promoting women entrepreneurship (dawn.com)
- “Pi Slice and the Heavy Weights” Our First Visit at the WEF (pi-slice.com)
4-day visit to Santiago on Innovation
A 12-person delegation, headed by Julian Robinson, minister of state in the Ministry of Science, Technology, Energy and Mining, has just returned from a four-day visit to Santiago, Chile, to see first-hand how that country is developing a robust ecosystem for entrepreneurship and innovation.
The primary purpose of the mission was to visit Start-up Chile (SUP), a government-financed programme launched in August 2010 to attract early-stage, high-potential entrepreneurs to bootstrap their ventures in Chile, without taking equity in the firms.
Its goal was to convert Chile into the innovation and entrepreneurial hub of Latin America, akin to other centres of innovation in the world, particularly the Silicon Valley.
The Jamaican group was particularly thrilled to meet the founder of SUP, Nicolas Shea, a Stanford-educated entrepreneur who was recruited by the then minister of economy, Juan Andrés Fontaine, to join his staff as his entrepreneurship adviser. Only days after Shea relocated to Chile, a massive earthquake struck in February 2010, causing more than $15 billion in damages.
Today, after two and a half years, SUP is a highly successful programme that supports both foreigners and Chileans to create innovative ventures using much the same model as it did in 2010 with some minor changes to enhance its effectiveness.
Now, 40 per cent of the applications received are from Chile, but it is clear that the original objective of importing talent with a view to changing the entrepreneurial culture is still very much at the forefront of the programme.
To understand SUP innovative program
With a current budget of US$12 million per year, funded by Chile’s economic development agency CORFO, which is itself funded by a tax on mining companies operating in Chile, SUP can boast some impressive results.
Today, it has received 5,600 applications from 70 countries, admitted more than 1,000 entrepreneurs from 53 countries, and a host of social impacts – almost 600 “meet-ups” organised by SUP and participants or “suppers”, and 3,790 hours of mentorship provided by suppers. Additionally, there are all kinds of spin-off programmes supporting entrepreneurship and innovation and a global rush to emulate the programme’s design elements and impacts.
SUP has also created strong links to local and international companies and entrepreneurs, the global investor community, local and international universities and other programmes in Chile.
We visited one facility, Wayra, a tech incubator operated by Telefónica that incubates 10 companies for 10 months. The incubator manager, Claudio Barahona Jacobs said that Wayra wants to support international start-ups to capture the “winds of talent blowing” in its midst.
Wayra makes a direct investment of US$50,000 in each company in three parts: an initial sum and the other two tranches when agreed milestones are achieved. The investment is in the form of convertible notes. The incubator provides space and services, coaching in how to make a pitch to investors, how to run a company, to hire people and be a boss.
The entrepreneurs we spoke to said that the coaching was one of the most important elements of the programme, and they also participate in management courses run in collaboration with a local university.
Critical is making business links with Telefónica itself, using the company as a distribution channel or as a first customer, testing the applications developed by the entrepreneurs.
Telefónica has 11 million customers in Chile who have smartphones and 300 million business and consumer customers in 30 countries worldwide, so the company is a vital link to this huge market for mobile apps and business applications for its incubator clients.
Optimistic about Jamaica
SUP’s founder, Nicolas Shea, is optimistic about Jamaica and encouraged the group to adopt and adapt the best elements of the SUP programme. The World Bank and Minister Robinson plan to invite Shea and a number of the Chileans whom we met to Jamaica, later in the year, to continue discussions with a wider group of stakeholders.
Everyone on the mission agreed that Jamaica has the opportunity to replicate some of the successful elements of the Start-up Chile programme. Jamaica has talented and technologically savvy young people who are eager to tap into the global demand for creative applications that solve real-world business and social problems.
In so doing, they create their own employment. We have the interest and support of international development partners including the World Bank to finance initiatives that will support the growth of the Jamaican economy. It is an opportunity to forge public-private partnerships to provide early stage and venture capital financing for SMEs, mentorships and access to markets. But will our leaders champion such efforts to move us beyond mere talk? And will we collectively have the courage to act now to secure the future of our nation?
- Start-Up Chile: See Why Many Americans are Itching to Enter This Early-Stage Accelerator (youngentrepreneur.com)
- Wayra seeks 10 digital start-ups for Dublin incubator (siliconrepublic.com)
- Vanessa Van Edwards: Start-Up Chile: Growing Pains of the Chilecon Valley (huffingtonpost.com)
- Jamaica – the hub of innovation and entrepreneurship in the Caribbean? (emergingfrontiersblog.com)
- New Irish venture Reverbeo selected for Start-up Chile programme (siliconrepublic.com)
- Twin Cities-based Exotic Wood Chips LLC becomes Sole US Importer of Jamaican Pimento Wood, Leaves and Charcoal (prweb.com)
- The lure of Chilecon Valley (oguz.me)
- Wayra Dublin start-up accelerator makes last call for new entries (siliconrepublic.com)
HB-SIA, Solar Impulse prototype A
With its huge wingspan equal to that of an Airbus A340, and its proportionally tiny weight – that of an average car – the HB-SIA prototype presents physical and aerodynamic features never seen before. These place it in a yet unexplored flight envelope.
Carbon fiber structure, propulsion chain, flight instrumentation, everything has been designed to save energy, to resist the hostile conditions facing airplane and pilot at high altitudes and to marry weight restraints with the required strength.
Solar Impulse is a Swiss long-range solar powered aircraft project being undertaken at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne. The project eventually hopes to achieve the first circumnavigation of the Earth by a piloted fixed-wing aircraft using only solar power. The project is led by Swiss psychiatrist and aeronaut Bertrand Piccard, who co-piloted the first balloon to circle the world non-stop, and Swiss businessman André Borschberg.
Piccard initiated the Solar Impulse project in 2003. By 2009, he had assembled a multi-disciplinary team of 50 specialists from six countries, assisted by about 100 outside advisers. The project is financed by a number of private companies. The four main partners are Deutsche Bank, Omega SA, Solvay, and Schindler. Other partners include Bayer MaterialScience, Altran, Swisscom and Swiss Re. Other supporters include Clarins, Semper, Toyota, BKW and STG. The EPFL, the European Space Agency and Dassault have provided additional technical expertise, while Bay Area based SunPower provided the aircraft’s photovoltaic cells.
HB-SIB, the new plane will flight in 2015
It was not built to fly round the world. Its purpose was rather to demonstrate the feasibility of the program by making the first ever whole day-and-night flight without fuel, a task that it accomplished brilliantly in July 2010. The lessons learned by the team are now being applied to the construction of Solar Impulse HB-SIB, which is due to circumnavigate the Earth in 2015.
Question of energy defines the project
At midday, each square meter of land surface receives, in the form of light energy, the equivalent of 1000 watts, or 1.3 horsepower of light power. Over 24 hours, this sun energy averages out at just 250W/m². With 200m² of photovoltaic cells and a 12 % total efficiency of the propulsion chain, the plane’s motors achieve an average power of 8 HP or 6kW.
That’s roughly the amount of power the Wright brothers had available to them in 1903 when they made their first powered flight. And it is with that energy, optimized from the solar panel to the propeller, that Solar Impulse managed to fly day and night without fuel!
FIVE world records established by HB-SIA
Absolute height: 9235 m (30300 ft)
Height gain: 8744 m (28690 ft)
Duration: 26 hours, 10 minutes, 19 seconds
Free Distance along a course: 1116 km (693.5 miles)
Straight distance, pre-declared waypoints: 1099.3 km (683 miles)
Across America 2013: Golden Gate end of April
- Solar Impulse site (solarimpulse.com)
- Solar plane sets off again across US (bbc.co.uk)
- Solar Impulse takes fuel-free flight to Dallas (nbcnews.com)
- Solar Impulse flight across America … (beartales.me)
- Solar Impulse Departs Phoenix, Headed To Dallas (earthtechling.com)
- Solar Impulse airplane is setting solar-powered flight record in Texas (nbcnews.com)
- Solar Impulse: interviewing a man on an 18-hour solar-powered flight (slashgear.com)
- Solar Impulse: Flying from San Francisco to New York City in a solar plane (treehugger.com)
IT was becoming more and more important to the financial security and operational efficiency of banking services, State Bank of Viet Nam (SBV) Governor Nguyen Van Binh said at a banking technology conference in Hanoi, mid May 2013.
Many areas including payments, lending, e-banking and risk management had been equipped with new and more diversified technology, he said, adding that some services were now completely automated.
Speeding up IT application and upgrading banks’ IT infrastructure were necessary to catch up with the trend, he stressed.
According to the SBV, many weaknesses in risk and banking management were exposed last year. The banking system is currently grappling with one of the region’s highest bad debt ratios, at 8.82 per cent of total loans.
Deputy Minister of Information and Communications Nguyen Minh Hoang singled out cloud computing, mobile computing and social media as major trends that had completely transformed the way banks operate and interact with customers.
“A focus on improving bank governance and risk management practices and pushing the restructuring of under-performing banks will be the main theme for 2013,” he said.
In order to develop banking technology, the country should boost international co-operation and enhancing human resources and management, said SBV’s Banking Strategy Institute director Nguyen Thi Kim Thanh.
World Bank economist Noritaka Akamatsu said that improving insolvency and restructuring State-owned enterprises should be the main goals for the banking sector’s development.
The International Data Group, the co-organiser of the event together with the SBV, said that e-banking and mobile banking were showing great potential.
- Banking sector needs to embrace IT innovation (bizhub.vn)
- SBV stalls asset regulations as companies feel the pinch (vietnamnews.vn)
- Russians attempt to topple Google in Vietnam (sfgate.com)
- Social bank helps 21m poor (vietnamnews.vn)
- Lending over 4 months up 2.1% (vietnamnews.vn)
- Vietnam Premier Approves Debt Asset Company, Central Bank Says – Bloomberg (bloomberg.com)
A company in expansion
The story of American instant messaging is one of fragmentation: AOL lost its grip, Gmail and Facebook gained ground, that was that. But in China, IM portal Tencent dominates. It has expanded to games, social networking, apps, and an open platform to encourage a Western-style app ecosystem. It’s now pushing West, entering Apple’s App Store and buying California-based Riot Games. It makes $1 billion a quarter, much of it through virtual-goods sales, and is now the world’s third-largest publicly traded Internet company. Jealous yet, AOL?
8th most innovative company
Tencent, Chinese company from Shenzhen, is the 8th most innovative company, scored by the FastCompany in 2012. Founded in November, 1998, Tencent has grown into one of China’s largest and most used Internet service portal. Since its establishment over the last decade, Tencent has maintained steady growth under its user-oriented operating strategies.
Presently, Tencent is providing value-added Internet, mobile and telecom services and online advertising under the strategic goal of providing users with “one-stop online lifestyle services”. Tencent’s leading Internet platforms in China – QQ (QQ Instant Messenger), QQ.com, QQ Games, Qzone, 3g.QQ.com, SoSo, PaiPai and Tenpay – have brought together China’s largest Internet community, to meet the various needs of Internet users including communication, information, entertainment, e-commerce and others.
Copycat in gaming?
Now, even a die-hard Tencent fan might question why releasing China remakes of years-old franchises really qualifies as innovative, and China’s gaming community has been debating Tencent’s innovative tendencies — or lack thereof — ever since. The debate is the subject of Netease Games’ latest Dispute feature, which means that before we go any further I have to remind you: Netease competes with Tencent in the gaming space, so the Netease games editorial staff isn’t really coming from a position of neutrality here. But many gamers really do see Tencent as a copycat; when I searched for relevant posts on Weibo one of the first ones I found was about Tencent copying animation and sounds from the Japanese anime show Naruto for a QQ game.
In Dispute’s usual dueling essays format, Chinese gaming journalist Chang Kong defended Tencent as being innovative, saying that the company really did deserve the title for having brought together 300 million gamers. Chang’s opponent, an anonymous marketing strategist in the games industry, disagreed, arguing that most of Tencent’s own games were highly derivative, and pointing out that its most successful games were virtually all developed by other companies with Tencent merely serving as the publisher.
Most innovative social media company
China’s Tencent is the world’s most innovative social media company, ahead of Pinterest and Buzzfeed, according to Fast Company. Tencent gets the nod largely because the success of its WeChat suite of communications apps which have attracted 3 million Chinese users. “Tencent’s aggressive international rollout – rare for a Chinese company – has added millions of expats who can now communicate with folks back home, increasing its popularity. In America, WeChat is a top 20 free social networking app in Apple’s App Store,” says Fast Company.
One of the most innovative company
48th most innovative worldwide company scored by FastCompany in 2012, RedBus is an incredible indian company. Several years ago, on a busy holiday weekend, Phanindra Sama actually ran after some Indian bus operators in a failed attempt to catch a bus home. Now, says Sama, “I’m computerizing the bus industry.” His company, RedBus, spent years unifying the system–bus operators, tickets, travel agents–and this year unveiled an integrated platform that serves more than 10,000 bus routes. Customers can view open seats from multiple operators, purchase tickets, and post ratings. Meanwhile, bus operators can track seat availability in real time, and travel agents can prebook passengers. RedBus tripled sales last year, adding 4.25 million riders.
The founders worked in Bangalore
Like all innovations, redBus has a very interesting story. All the founders used to work in Bangalore at the time (in 2005) – all with top IT MNCs – IBM, Texas Instruments and Honeywell. They were friends from BITS Pilani, one of India’s finest engineering colleges.
During Diwali that year, one of them wanted to spend the festival in his home town. Since he didn’t know his schedule till the end, taking a bus was the only choice. He ran around town hunting for a ticket, but they were all sold out minutes before he reached the travel agents. Bangalore traffic is notorious and can grip you at the wrong time. That’s exactly what happened that day.
That’s when he thought of the possibility of providing consumers the convenience of booking a bus ticket over the internet. The objective was two-fold – to ensure that they don’t have to leave the confines of their comfort to book a ticket, and to help them get a ticket when they need it the most.
Book tickets on Internet
The idea was compelling. And why not? The internet was being voted as a medium people couldn’t do without. PC and net penetration was increasing not only in urban areas, but also in rural India with innovative concepts like Shakti and e-Choupal. Also, people were getting used to booking tickets for travel using IRCTC and private airline websites. So, why not buses?
Nobody in India had already done it!
However, the most compelling reason was that no body in India had done this! So, with these thoughts running through his mind, he bounced initial thoughts off his friends from college. They were excited about the concept too. However, they didn’t want to take the plunge without understanding the feasibility of such an undertaking. They met with various people – bus operators, consumers and venture capitalists – to gauge how well the concept could do.
As expected, they got a favorable response. They started writing the code for the software that would be required to run the operations. Once this was ready, they put together a business plan and presented it to TiE, Bangalore Chapter.
TiE – The Indus Entrepreneurs – are mentors, to say the very least. They breathe lives and hope in to young entrepreneurs who have a working concept. The idea didn’t need much selling to TiE members either. That was the beginning of a seemingly long journey. All the founders quit their well-paying, secure jobs and started redBus.
Not simple to change the mindset of bus operators
Since those days there have been many ups and downs. It wasn’t simple to change the mindset of bus operators who are used to dealing with their traditional brick-and-mortar travel agents. It wasn’t easy to market the concept. It needed time and money. It took a few months for things to fall in place.
All that was needed were a few people who used the website. Once that would happen, the user interface was bound to generate word-of-mouth. That’s exactly what happened. Those who used it liked it, told others and the dominos started to fall in place.
To cut a long story short, redBus has come a very long way from days of struggle to days of growth. It has the largest number of tie-ups (and growing) with bus operators and a large and satisfied customer base. Being run by a team of young people, the culture is informal and everyone is ambitious and charged to make it larger than imagined. What started as a team of three grew into a team of 50 within 9 months.
76 million websites managed
For being the server to web stars. Between WordPress, Hulu, Netflix, Pinterest and Wikipedia, Nginx hosts about 12% of the world’s more than 630 millon websites and gained about 2 million new hostnames in December 2012. With a total of 76 million websites under its belt, Igor Syosev’s Nginx is one of the premier online servers.
Nginx, first release in 2004
Nginx (pronounced engine-x) is a free, open-source, high-performance HTTP server and reverse proxy, as well as an IMAP/POP3 proxy server. Igor Sysoev started development of Nginx in 2002, with the first public release in 2004. Nginx is known for its high performance, stability, rich feature set, simple configuration, and low resource consumption.
Nginx scales in all directions
Nginx is one of a handful of servers written to address the C10K problem. Unlike traditional servers, Nginx doesn’t rely on threads to handle requests. Instead it uses a much more scalable event-driven (asynchronous) architecture. This architecture uses small, but more importantly, predictable amounts of memory under load.
Even if you don’t expect to handle thousands of simultaneous requests, you can still benefit from Nginx’s high-performance and small memory footprint. Nginx scales in all directions: from the smallest VPS all the way up to clusters of servers.
Who uses it
Who uses it — Netflix, Facebook, Zappos, Groupon, LivingSocial, Hulu, Dropbox, WordPress.com, to name a few. But also millions of domains on the Internet.
Profiling Canadian businesses
In January 2013, the Future of Work campaign was launched, profiling Canadian businesses that are using technology to gain a competitive advantage and transform how they operate. BOYD, Bring Your Own Device, meaning to use personal device for professional usage.
Does your employer have a BYOD policy?
Below, answers given by Cisco campaign in 2013:
1) Yes, it allows devices to be used for business and personal (36%)
2) My work forbids us from using our own devices for work (27%)
3) I’m not sure (36%)
Results of Cisco Report
Below the 2012 results of Cisco Connected World Technology Report:
1) 90% young Canadians check their smartphones starting they wake up
2) 63% of respondents check their devices compulsively throughout the day
3) 90% upload photos
4) 87% check their Facebook
5) 56% use their phone for Twitter
Obviously these devices are becoming an extension of us, and it’s great to see that one-third of Canadians can use the devices they are most comfortable on at work.
Clear direction to employees on BYOD policies
What is also clear however is that confusion exists among employees about whether they have a BYOD policy. The challenge will be for Canadian IT managers and administrators to give clear direction to employees on BYOD policies moving forward.
Why? Because as laptops, smartphones and tablets continue to become more engrained in all aspects of our lives, the workplace of the future must include policies that welcome devices of employees. The pervasiveness of these devices ensures that the issue of BYOD policy adoption is a matter of when, not if.
BYOD is just now becoming a part of popular debate among IT managers and business decision makers so it is not surprising to see a large number of respondents unaware of where their employer stands on this issue, but look for this number to drop drastically in the new few years.
- What-is-your-employers-bring-your-own-device-policy-do-you-know-if-they-have-one (CISCO.com)
- BYOD Lawsuits Loom as Work Gets Personal (computerworld.co.nz)
- BYOD – The Benefits & Risks (minervia.com)
- Personal phone for work email? Your company might take it (redtape.nbcnews.com)
- BYOD Success in Federal Government (getlua.com)