BIH sets up First Steps Venture Centre
By John Churu, Gaborone, Botswana
The Botswana Innovation Hub CEO Allan Boshwaen says his organisation fully intends to help transform Botswana into a technology-driven and knowledge-based economy, by promoting a culture of innovation and competitiveness among its associated companies and knowledge-based institutions. Boshwaen said this during the official launch of the First Step Ventures Centre in Gaborone.
The services offered by the FSVC are unique and are targeted towards entities that have not had such support in the past especially technology oriented start-up companies. The Centre has strategic alliances with other entrepreneurship development programmes nationally and internationally. It therefore occupies a special niche in the national SME support structures. “We are confident based on our initial few weeks of engaging with possible clients that many viable tech oriented ideas deserve further support,” said the BIH CEO.
According to Boshwaen, the Company’s mandate is aligned to the Revised National Policy on Science Technology and Innovation of 2012. The policy emphasises the provision of high quality scientific infrastructure, mentoring of start-up companies through technology incubation and appropriate mechanisms to promote the involvement of the private sector in the development of Science and Technology.
“To create an enabling innovation environment, the company has developed a unique technology entrepreneurship development programme, First Steps Venture Centre to support technology transfer and "one-stop shop" for entrepreneurial support. FSVC identifies, develops and nurtures viable technology oriented start-up businesses with a potential to grow locally and into international markets.”
FSVC services are targeted to individuals or start-up companies with workable business ideas that have the potential to create jobs, revitalize their communities, in various parts of Botswana-not only in Gaborone to commercialize new technologies and diversify the economy. FSVC help incubatees successfully navigate the common challenges that every entrepreneur faces such as scarce capital, elusive markets, intense competition and limited resources but with a special focus on the technology sector.
Provision of such support is essential as it has been proven that the average success rate of new start-ups going through business incubation is better than those that are not. Beyond promoting technology entrepreneurship and development of technology and innovation at a micro level, the programme also provides “Soft Landing” - services for foreign technology companies to step into the regional market.
FSVC offers an attractive suite of services and amenities to eligible individuals and companies including; Ready to use offices (plug and play) with readily available internet and telephone services, subsidized rental – low costs due to shared services, Intellectual Property and legal support, media and brand support, access to local and international industry networks, dedicated technology advisory services, Dedicated business advisory- helping combine business plan and strategy, entrepreneurship development training, access to international markets, and lastly access to Innovation Fund subject to meeting qualification criteria.
The programme looks for potential incubates from start-ups and spin-offs from public and private learning institutions including universities. It will also recruit existing young Small Medium Enterprises (SME’s) and other incubation programmes from local and international companies. FSVC considers ventures with proven viable businesses and traceable financial references for the purpose of establishing ability to pay subsidized rent and services.
Selection into the programme is based on submission of a project proposal that is aligned to the Botswana Innovation Hub focus areas of ICT, Biotechnology, Mining Technologies and Clean Technologies.
The Programme Manager for FSVC Tshepo Tsheko said of the project: Since they opened their doors to applicants earlier in the year, they have discovered the appetite held by the market for such an intervention. To date, they have accepted 10 clients. This is comprised of resident and virtual clients.
"Our work with idea-owners is helping entrepreneurs help themselves, by refining their ideas and questioning their assumptions. This process sometimes leads to local ideas being reworked into globally-geared value propositions.”
Tsheko added “It is said it takes a village to raise a child, and similarly successful businesses are not built solely on the plans and execution strategies of their owners, but also with sound advice from experts and professionals who support the business. Ours is to ensure that the technology-orientated enterprise continues moving forward and the support they need is never out of reach.”