In developed economies, we certainly take the venture capital/start-up mindset as a given. You come up with a novel idea, infuse it perhaps with some intellectual property, even develop a prototype – and then it’s off to pitch in Silicon Valley, Boston, London, Stockholm, or any number of places around the world. If someone likes your idea, you get your money and away you go, perhaps to create the next Foursquare, Tweetdeck, or Square payment system.
This afternoon, I listened to the stories being told in the Global Entrepreneurs and the Emerging Markets panel discussion at the Aspen Ideas Festival and came away with a clear takeaway. Funding for startups in emerging markets continues to be a significant challenge.
In fact, the quote that stuck with me from the session was this: “VC money is usually family money.” A lecturer from Stanford University told a story of how he left on a sabbatical to create a startup in sub-Saharan Africa in the field of renewable energy. Amazingly, he was unable to get anyone in Silicon Valley to take part in the effort. Instead, he got all of the money for the startup from families in the
It really does speak to the importance of groups like the Acumen Fund – an organization that is dedicated to social impact investing. I was glad that someone from Acumen was in the room to speak up about their work and others like them.
While I can understand that the challenges emerging markets start-ups face are quite different from those in developed markets, I can’t help but wonder if we’ve allowed ourselves to become so focused on finding the next billion dollar valuation that we are missing an opportunity to make a bigger corporate and social impact in these regions through managed risk taking and social investment.
Bob Schukai is global head of mobile technology at Thomson Reuters, where he is responsible for overseeing the development and execution of mobile growth strategy across the organization. Prior to joining Thomson Reuters, Schukai was vice president of wireless/broadband technologies for Turner Broadcasting System, Inc. from 2005 to 2010. During that time, he was responsible for global research and development activities in the areas of mobile/wireless, broadband, Internet protocol television, and games. Schukai also spent more than 18 years working for Motorola in the US and United Kingdom. In his last role at Motorola, he served as director of global 3G strategy and business development. He is a 24-year member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), a technical and professional association of more than 365,000 individual members in approximately 150 countries.