On Friday, 21 August, we celebrated World Entrepreneurship Day and I had the pleasure of presenting at the SEDA and EDSE Webinar based in South Africa. In summary, the webinar was about opportunities for incubators in South Africa to create value in corporate supply chains. This is quite a timely topic in South Africa and the world at large.
We are living in an age where the entrepreneurship and innovation eco-systems of countries are becoming their recipe to growth. I say this because I am a Schumpeter -ian. Schumpeter believed that innovation was the key driver of economic growth. This requires a reflection on Adam’s Smith who believes that economic growth is driven by labour specialization and productivity.
I bet the moment you read “Schumpeter” you immediately thought of “creative destruction”. Well, that is exactly what I think is important right now. The idea of the new replacing the old and creating a new equilibrium, or “new normal”. It’s interesting that most people are referring to the impact of Covid19 as the “new normal”. It is interesting because that is exactly what “creative destruction” is… Schumpeter describes creative destruction as the “process of industrial mutation that incessantly revolutionizes the economic structure from within, incessantly destroying the old one, incessantly creating a new one.” (Investopedia, 2019).
Earlier on, I made note of SEDA’s Webinar on incubators being timely. This is because I believe that innovation is the new currency of our “new normal”. If I think of the companies and industries that will not only survive, but thrive, in the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR), it is those that embrace innovation as a currency to maintaining Competitive Advantage.
I have long being following innovation theory even as many corporates, incubators, and entrepreneurs insist on using traditional strategy methodologies such as PESTLE, Porter 5, and Ansoff to determine competitive advantage.
The Fourth Industrial Revolution and Covid-19 are certainly challenging many of these traditional models. An increasingly uncertain geo-politics agenda, a movement from global supply chains to localised supply chains, and the knowledge economy are all resulting in trends that lead to the adoption of Schumpeterian- led economics which loosely translate to innovation.
As such, our country, South Africa, and the rest of the world need to pay particular attention to our innovation eco-systems. These include incubators.
As an investor and evangelist of entrepreneurs, I believe our incubators have let us down. For starters, I have never met an entrepreneur who credited his/her incubator in helping them fully prototype their products in our country. I have also never met an entrepreneur who credited his/her entrepreneur in testing, through data, some of the assumptions around the actual problem that potential customers were experiencing or how the particular product/solution in question was appropriate for the target market in question.
Incubators in this country, should play a more important role beyond Enterprise Development and Supplier Development points on the B-BBEE Scorecard as required by legislation.
I look forward to a time when investors, corporate innovation accelerators, and international investors are confused because the quality of pipeline and innovation in South Africa is nothing like they would have seen before.