Supporting Entrepreneurship in Developing Countries using the Network Centric Approach

For developing countries looking to “move up the food chain”, whether in an attempt to sustain or generate economic growth, the hope and promise lies in and among innovation and entrepreneurship. As these regions look to assert their relevance in the global marketplace beyond their “low cost” offerings of labor, facilities etc., support mechanisms for high growth entrepreneurs are at the forefront of their economic planning agendas. The challenges and opportunities for high growth entrepreneurs, across the world, within the context of today’s new global environment, particularly those that are publicly funded and knowledge-intensive industry based, call for a new paradigm of entrepreneurial assistance: a network-centric approach, that is discussed in detail in my paper titled “Supporting high growth entrepreneurs: The Network-Centric approach to entrepreneurial assistance”. This paper makes the case for the use of a new “network-centric” assistance model, better aligned with the landscape of innovation and the needs of high growth entrepreneurs compared to the conventional approach of nurturing and assisting entrepreneurs in clustered environments, including incubators and science parks. A follow up paper discussing the need for and application of such an approach specifically in developing countries is available here. In this paper I explain how the conventional cluster model that attempts to build, from the top down, a complete regional resource environment for entrepreneurs is particularly challenging for those regions in the developing world that simply do not have the assets in enough critical mass to make them independently competitive as “clusters”; also they do not possess inherent scale to provide a truly competitive environment on their own. Entrepreneurs located in these regions without a complete set of attributes necessary to compete, however, are particularly well positioned to embrace a new approach that is better suited to their own growth needs. They do not have to be wedded to the conventional models advanced in developed countries. Their inherently external focus (given the nascent level of market development in their own countries) enables them to more easily adapt to a global resource base and to respond to observable increase in interest in the products, services and market opportunities offered by developing countries by partners in industry and the global investment community.

A network centric model enables them to develop an offering that “stitches” together such assets with other assets from across borders and boundaries. For developing countries, this would enable cross-cutting research from around the world to be “bundled” and “cross-bred” to create new opportunities for the applications of such research. It would further enable entrepreneurs to focus on “scaling” their nascent or budding enterprises by collaborating “virtually” with other entrepreneurs and by establishing and adopting a continual “feedback” loop with industry. Finally, it would enable governments to uncover new opportunities through international partnerships in applied research leading to new or revitalized enterprises in the sectors and subjects (especially in knowledge-based areas) in which they have individually invested. They will be able to accelerate transnational flow, fluidity and mobility of talent, resources and partnerships by combining and adapting their entrepreneurial assets with those of other countries (developed and emerging) to serve markets that otherwise would be out of their reach.

This approach adopts a methodology of support that is not dependent on a “one size fits all” approach; instead, it includes focused training and assistance on practical, just in time strategies and on identification and development by the entrepreneur of markets and partnerships well beyond his or her region, in a fluid, constantly changing, and somewhat unstructured program. This is nothing short of a reset of the innovation imperative, with the entrepreneur at the center of a new global promise.