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Entrepreneurs Take Lead in Building Vibrant Startup Communities

In his book, Startup Communities: Building an Entrepreneurial Ecosystem in Your City, author Brad Feld details what it takes to build a community of entrepreneurs in any city.

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In this edited excerpt, Feld focuses on entrepreneurs’ role in fostering and growing a thriving, long-lived community.

The most critical principle of a start-up community is that entrepreneurs must lead it. Lots of different people are involved in the start-up community and many non-entrepreneurs play key roles. Unless the entrepreneurs lead, the start-up community won’t be sustainable.

In virtually every major city, there are long lists of different types of people and organisations who are involved in the start-up community including government, universities, investors, mentors, and service providers. Historically, many try to play a leadership role in the development of their local start-up community. Although their involvement is important, they can’t be the leaders. The entrepreneurs have to be leaders.

I define an entrepreneur as someone who has co-founded a company. I differentiate between “high-growth entrepreneurial companies” and “small businesses.” Both are important, but they are different.

Entrepreneurial companies have the potential to be or are high-growth businesses, whereas small businesses tend to be local, profitable, but slow-growth organisations. Small-business people are often “pillars of their community” as their businesses have a tight co-dependency with their community.

By contrast, founders of high-growth entrepreneurial companies generally are involved in the local community as employers and indirect contributors to small businesses and the local economy, but they rarely are involved in the broad business community because they are extraordinarily focused on their companies.

Because of this intense focus, it’s unrealistic to think that all entrepreneurs in a community will be leaders. All that is needed is a critical mass of entrepreneurs, often less than a dozen, who will provide leadership.

These leaders have to make a long-term commitment to their start-up community. I like to say this has to be at least 20 years from today to reinforce the sense that this has to be meaningful in length.

It’s well understood that economies run in cycles. Some of these cycles are modest. Some are severe. The lengths vary dramatically.

Start-up communities have to take a very long-term view. A great start-up community such as Silicon Valley (1950 to today) has a long trajectory. Although they have their booms and busts, they continued to grow, develop and expand throughout this period.

Most cities and their leaders get excited about entrepreneurship after a major economic decline. They focus on it for a few years through a peak.

When the subsequent decline ultimately happens, they focus on other things. When things bottom out, most of the progress gained during the upswing is lost. I’ve seen this several times – first in the early 1990s and again around the Internet bubble.

This is why the leaders have to first be entrepreneurs and then have a long-term view. These leaders must be committed to the continuous development of their start-up community, regardless of the economic cycle of their city, state or country.

Great entrepreneurial companies, such as Apple, Genentech, Microsoft and Intel, were started during down economic cycles. It takes such a long time to create something powerful that you’ll go through several economic cycles on the path to glory.

If you aspire to be a leader of your start-up community, but you aren’t willing to live where you are and work hard at leading the start-up community for the next 20 years, ask yourself what your real motivation for being a leader is. Although you can have impact for a shorter period of time, it’ll take at least this level of commitment from some leaders to sustain a vibrant start-up community.

A start-up community must be extremely inclusive. Anyone who wants to engage should be able to, whether they are changing careers, moving to your city, graduating from college, or just want to do something different. This applies to entrepreneurs, people who want to work for start-ups, people who want to work with start-ups, or people who are simply intellectually interested in start-ups.

This philosophy applies at all levels of the start-up community. The leaders have to be open to having more leaders involved, recognising that leaders need to be entrepreneurs who have a long-term view of building their start-up community.

Entrepreneurs in the community need to welcome other entrepreneurs, viewing the growth of the start-up community as a positive force for all. Building a start-up community is not a zero-sum game in which there are winners and losers; if everyone engages, they and the entire community can all be winners.

Start-up communities must have regular activities that engage the entire entrepreneurial stack. This includes first-time entrepreneurs, experienced entrepreneurs, aspiring entrepreneurs, investors, mentors, employees of start-ups, service providers to start-ups, and anyone else who wants to be involved.

The emergence of hack-a-thons, new tech meet-ups, open coffee clubs, start-up weekends, and accelerators like TechStars provide a tangible, focused, set of activities for the members of the start-up community to engage in. By being inclusive of the start-up community, these activities consistently engage the entire entrepreneurial stack.

Brad Feld is a managing director at the Foundry Group who lives in Boulder, Colorado. I invest in software and Internet companies around the US, run marathons and read a lot.

Entrepreneur Today

Improve Your Cash Flow: Manage Your VAT

Viresh Harduth, Vice President: New Customer Acquisition (Small & Medium Businesses) for Sage Africa & Middle East on the increase in VAT in South Africa and how it affects your business.

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If you went shopping on 1 April, you likely encountered aisles and aisles of products with no price tags as retailers updated their shelf pricing to reflect the new VAT rate. As a consumer, this was probably a slight inconvenience because you didn’t know how much something cost until you had to pay.

Yet, as a small business owner, the VAT increase was more than a slight inconvenience. Not only did you have to update your systems and train your teams but you likely had to spend money printing new price tags and ensuring you were compliant – this was, after all, the biggest tax change in 25 years.

The VAT increase will also impact your cash flow because you will need to pay more money to SARS. But now that the dust has settled, Small & Medium Businesses have an opportunity to review their operations and uncover ways to improve their cash flow and offset the higher VAT payments.

Related: 5 Marketing Missteps That Make Cash Flow And Business Growth Stumble

Here are five ideas to free up cash that are easy to implement and don’t require major changes to your business:

  1. Negotiate extended payment terms with suppliers. When you receive an invoice, you generally have 30 days to pay. Try to negotiate longer payment terms with your suppliers – like 60 days – so that you have cash in the bank for longer.
  2. Enforce your own payment terms for customers. The time between issuing invoices and waiting to get paid is a danger zone for small businesses, especially when you need to pay VAT to SARS. Reduce your payment terms for customers from one month to 14 days, for example, and stick to it. Send regular reminders on overdue accounts and follow up on the phone.
  3. Incentivise customers to pay earlier. Offer various payment methods that make it easier for customers to settle their accounts sooner. Issue invoices promptly and offer discounts for early – and full – payment. This will also increase loyalty.
  4. Reduce stock on hand. If you have surplus stock, it means you haven’t aligned your stock with your sales, which ties up available cash. Stock management is as important as financial management. Knowing what’s in your stock room – and bank account – at all times, is crucial to maximise cash flow.
  5. Work with an accountant. While cloud-based accounting solutions like Sage can help you keep track of your cash flow and stay compliant, an accountant can identify areas to save money and cut costs, freeing up working and investment capital.

Related: Strategies To Help You Stay Out Of The Red With Cash Flow

When you improve your cash flow, you reduce the need to rely on bank overdrafts and loans. The key to the success of any business is to free up as much cash as possible. And, with the VAT increase, you need more cash than you did yesterday.

*Remember, you have until 31 May to reflect the VAT increase in your product and service prices. Until then, you can apply the additional 1% at the till point, as long as you put up signs informing customers that you will be doing this.

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R350 000 Worth Prizes To Help Boost Entrepreneurs’ Businesses

Find out more here.

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Even more prizes to help entrepreneurs grow their businesses have boosted the entrepreneur competition being run by The Workspace and MiWay. These include communications strategy, responsive design website, a share portfolio worth R10 000 and estate planning.

The competition, launched in March to celebrate the collaboration between co-working and serviced office solutions company, The Workspace, and MiWay business insurance, is open to entrepreneurs based in South Africa, who have valid identification documents, who run a business with four or less employees and are making an impact in their industry.

The Workspace and MiWay have joined forces to launch an entrepreneurial hub and business development programme at the newly developed Village Road premises in Selby in Johannesburg’s central business district. MiWay’s presence at Village Road will afford The Workspace members the convenience of having business insurance and a host of other requirements fulfilled at their place of work whenever it suits them.

Entrepreneurship key to SA’s future

Mari Schourie, chief executive officer of The Workspace, says President Cyril Ramaphosa’s recent SONA reflected on how important small businesses and entrepreneurship is to South Africa’s future.

“I was thrilled that President Ramaphosa recognised how vitally important it is for everyone – business, government and citizens – to support entrepreneurs and small businesses. It is something that as a company, we’ve made a core part of our business. Being in the co-working and serviced office industry, we work with entrepreneurs and small businesses every day. They are the backbone of our business,” she said.

Schourie emphasised how the company had developed in-house programmes to support them. “When we can utilise their services ourselves, we do. We run workshops and knowledge hubs to encourage ongoing skills development and the joy of learning. We’ve even put some of our entrepreneurs at the centre of our marketing campaigns; we live and breathe the business lives of our entrepreneur members. And we learn from them too.”

Schourie said recognising entrepreneurs and small businesses sometimes means changing our thinking and looking a little bit further than our immediate surroundings. For this reason she believes the entrepreneur competition is so important to help give businesses a leg up.

Related: Register A Company In South Africa

The prizes – worth R350 000

The winning business will not only receive 12 months free office space for up to four people, free Wi-Fi, free phone rental, free business insurance and business advice, as well as all risk equipment insurance, free tea and coffee, free usage of meeting and board rooms, free security and 24-hour access, free parking and a new laptop, but even more valuable business prizes have been added too.

These include a brand new responsive design website and content management system, logo and corporate identity design, SEO and social media set up as well as training in how to keep digital collateral up to date worth R24 500.00 from Webartist.

Opulentus Wealth are offering the winner a bespoke share portfolio for the business worth R10 000, business life stage Risk Assessment, Estate plan for the Directors and shareholders valued at R15 000 per plan, Advice on managing and improving cash flow with the business (R10 000) and Tax advice for the business (R5000) Oxigen Communications will build the company a compelling brand communication strategy as well as offer two strategic sessions worth over R50 000.

 “The entrepreneur competition is a call to action to those vibrant entrepreneurs out there. Start-ups always need a bit of a hand and the winner of this competition will have a serious advantage once the it has gone through its paces,” said Morné Stoltz, Head of Business Insurance at MiWay.

“We are looking for an entrepreneur who has created or is busy creating a special environment where employees can flourish, and in the process, potentially create more jobs. Stoltz adds, “An entrepreneur who makes an impression on the judges due to aspects such as the business’ social impact, attitude, positive entrepreneurial outlook and a good business mind will definitely stand a good chance of walking away with the prize.”.

The prize on offer – worth over R350 000 – will help set-up the winning entrepreneur for a period of 12 months, giving them a boost to help build their business.


Closing date: 15 May 2018

 

For details, click here.

For queries, please email events@theworkspace.co.za

Entries can be uploaded to the website, or delivered to One Chadwick Avenue, Wynberg, Sandton

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Entrepreneur Today

Why Is It Important To Grow Manufacturing?

Manufacturing Indaba will take place at the Sandton Convention Centre in Johannesburg on the 19th and 20th of June, 2018 and will be facilitated with the collaborative backing and strategic partnership of the Department of Trade and Industry (the dti) and the Manufacturing Circle, a corporate association of manufacturers.

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One of the aspects of the conference will be to focus on South Africa’s manufacturing as a fundamental driver of GDP growth and associated with direct employment, as many services sectors are likely to increase their employment capacity on the basis of an increased GDP.

Newly elected President Cyril Ramaphosa delivered his maiden State of the Nation Address (SONA 2018) and alluded to addressing the decline over many years of South Africa’s manufacturing capacity, which has deeply affected employment and exports. As a result, poverty levels have risen, economic growth has weakened, with the President stating that it has become imperative to re-industrialise on a scale and at a pace that draws millions of job seekers into the economy. Unemployment levels have risen due to looming investment downgrades; hence he emphasised the need for a focus on local manufacturing and production.

Nicholas Kaldor (Zalk, 2014) developed a set of hypotheses to explain the central role of manufacturing in the process of economic development. He contended that manufacturing reveals a unique characteristic: The capacity to generate ‘dynamic increasing returns’, displaying a positive correlation with GDP growth while other primary and tertiary sectors generally do not. That is, indicating that the faster the rate of growth of output in manufacturing, the faster the rate of growth of both manufacturing and economy-wide productivity (Thirlwall, 1983, as cited in Zalk, 2014). Thus, clarifying that manufacturing is the core driver of GDP growth and employment while other sectors, particularly many services sectors are only likely to grow on the basis of the growing demand derived and resulting from an increasing GDP. Therefore, growth and employment in most services sectors follow rather than lead growth in GDP (Zalk, 2014).

Related: Aluminium Door And Window Manufacturing

In accordance with the vital importance of this sector’s encouraged growth, the President undertook to promote greater investment in key manufacturing sectors through the strategic use of incentives and other measures. Accordingly, and further stimulating manufacturing by forging ahead with the localisation programme, through which products like textile, clothing, furniture, rail rolling stock and water meters will be designated for local procurement. Ramaphosa also reiterated that the country had spent more than R57 billion on locally-produced goods that otherwise might have been imported from other countries.

The Industrial Policy Action Plan (IPAP) 2017/18 – 2019/20 report as part of the National Development Plan (NDP) 2030 outlines sector specific goals and a vision for South Africa to be achieved by the year 2030 and referred to inherent structural challenges within the economy that remain difficult to overcome. These challenges include weak growth and domestic demand reflecting and contributing to persistent unemployment, resulting in unsustainable race and gender-based inequality and rural marginalisation. Value-add in manufacturing lagged behind the economy as a whole from 2008, and investment in manufacturing has declined since the global credit crisis. The IPAP report also indicated that investment as a share of GDP is also below the 25% level required for sustained economic expansion.

In light of this aspect, Ramaphosa at SONA referred to the special economic zones that will remain important instruments that SA will use to attract strategic foreign and domestic direct investment and build targeted industrial capabilities in order to establish new industrial hubs. He also emphasised that the process of industrialisation must be underpinned by transformation, and that through measures like preferential procurement and the black industrialists programme, a new generation of black and women producers will be able to build enterprises of significant scale and capability.

The objective industrial financing and incentive support has played a key role in supporting private sector investment and black economic empowerment in critical industrial areas. Another example and a high point of 2016/7 has been the Automotive Investment Scheme with R8.7bn on investment leveraged through 2 new projects with an estimated investment value of R548.9m, projected to create 1 140 jobs. Included in this buoyant mix is the Manufacturing Competitiveness Enhancement Programme (MCEP) which has reopened a R1bn loan component with 270 projects supported, and R8.24m disbursed thereby supporting R3.38b of investments & 62 2353 jobs.

Related: What steps do I need to take to start manufacturing toilet paper?

Bearing these examples in mind, and Ramaphosa’s affirmation at SONA that, “…at the centre of our national agenda in 2018 is the creation of jobs, especially for the youth”, Philippa Rodseth, executive director, Manufacturing Circle (2016, in The importance of Manufacturing for SA’s economic growth), stated that in order to promote a resilient, sustainable manufacturing environment, three goals were identified in order to secure the long-term sustainability of South Africa’s manufacturing industry.

Hence, these following aspects will ultimately contribute to the economic growth of the country-: the achievement of a competitive manufacturing environment, the attainment of a supportive international trade position and the advancement of the reputation of SA manufactured goods.

These issues and other pertinent topics relating to Manufacturing in South Africa and the continent will be considered, evaluated and debated at the upcoming prestigious Manufacturing Indaba conference in June, in this year of “hope and renewal.”

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