Business incubator hatches big eggs
The Global Business Labs (GBL) is an international organisation which designed and ran a business incubator model at the renowned Stockholm School of Economics for ten years and has nurtured companies that are now valued above N$1 billion. The organisation is looking at setting up similar labs in Namibia, Botswana and Uganda and will officially launch its new business labs at the Namibia Business Innovation Centre (NBIC) in Windhoek on 10 April 2013.
According to Johan Sjöstrand, an intern at Global Business Labs Namibia, the organisation is targeting young, gifted entrepreneurs who will get free office space, a world-class network and free support from top managements consultants and law firms. “We want the entrepreneurs to team up in order to complement each other and we want at least one in each team to be a present or former business student,” said Sjöstrand.
He explained how the model works. “Young motivated entrepreneurs come to us with their business plans. We give them feedback and the best ones get to pitch their idea to our selection committee consisting of successful Namibian businessmen. If they go through the selection process, they become a part of the global business labs network and we provide them with a free office space and internet amongst other things. We also provide them with free advice from our partner companies,” he said.
Referring to a successful company in the Swedish lab which employs over 700 people, Sjöstrand believes the labs in Namibia will generate just as many jobs in the country. “We think entrepreneurship is crucial for a country´s development and that’s the reason why we are now setting up offices in southern Africa.” Global Business Labs is funded by the Swedish aid organisation SIDA. Sjöstrand explained that the entrepreneurs get to stay in the laboratory for eight months during which they normally grow quickly.
Sjöstrand told the Economist that he is adamant the model will work in Namibia because of the similarities in business studies taught in both Sweden and Namibia. “Business students in Sweden and Namibia are taught more or less exactly the same things so we can’t see any reason why a model that works so well for Swedish business students wouldn’t work in Namibia as well,” Sjöstrand emphasised.
According to Sjöstrand, the Global Business Labs are not incubators in the sense that they are artificially kept alive. Hence, the onus lies with the entrepreneurs to really make things happen for themselves. “We don’t want everyone to be an entrepreneur and we don’t tell people how to run their business. We want to facilitate the real talents to succeed with their ideas and we want to help them grow their business quickly by giving them the right tools, networks and infrastructure. However, we will not run their business for them. If the lab companies can’t manage on their own they will never survive once they leave the lab,” said Sjöstrand.