To capitalise on the changing scenario of entrepreneurship and motivate young entrepreneurs, a robust entrepreneurship ecosystem with a wealth of information is a prerequisite, speakers said in a webinar on Tuesday.
Across the globe, entrepreneurship is a core part of economic development, but from Bangladesh's perspective, the concept is still new and mostly unexplored, they said.
Moreover, Bangladesh used to be called a risk-averse nation, but things are changing, they added.
They were addressing the virtual discussion titled "Entrepreneurship ecosystem mapping: Process, importance and experience." It was organised by EMK Centre. To celebrate the global entrepreneurship week, EMK Centre is running a week-long virtual campaign.
In Tuesday's session, Erik Azulay, executive director at New Delhi-based Nexus Incubator, Bijon Islam, chief executive officer of LightCastle Partners, and Asif U Ahmed, assistant professor in the school of business at ULAB and acting director of EMK Centre, talked about entrepreneurship ecosystem and the importance of mapping the whole process.
Entrepreneurship is hard and there is no easy way to build the ecosystem, said Erik.
The ecosystem is basically the organisations, stakeholders, and policies that will help entrepreneurs grow successfully. For example, incubators, accelerators, co-working spaces, universities and colleges, government grants, and private funders like venture capitalists or angel investors – all are part of the ecosystem.
"The majority of jobs are created not by the large companies but the small and medium ones," Erik continued.
"If you do not have these, that does not mean there will not be entrepreneurs. There will always be bright and talented people who are finding ways to find a new or better solution.
"But on a large scale, you do require a community, and that is the difference between internationally recognised hubs, such as Silicon Valley, Austin Texas, Singapore and other cities," he explained.
The characteristics of a robust ecosystem are the talents and technologies coming out of university research institutes. Steady funding is another pillar, whether it is from the public or private sector. Getting startups to be a bigger part of the national conversation, to Erik, is a prerequisite.
Bijon said business-related data is not available much in Bangladesh in comparison with other developing countries, and as a result, aspiring entrepreneurs cannot make informed decisions.
"Until Bangladesh can build a data centre with research from every business sector, the ecosystem is not going to grow. A wealth of information is a fundamental requirement."
He expressed frustration over the fact that even some of the companies doing research are keeping data to themselves for competitive advantages, ultimately crippling the ecosystem.
"We, as part of LightCastle, are making an ecosystem map where we are putting all the investors together. Then we are tracking how much funding is pouring in from which investor. We are maintaining a live database of these kinds of things," said the CEO of LightCastle Partners, an organisation that focuses on creating data-driven opportunities for growth and impact for development partners, corporates, SMEs and startups.
Asif, an entrepreneur, academician and development practitioner, said, "Fostering entrepreneurship has become a core component of economic development across the world and the predominant metaphor for fostering entrepreneurship as an economic development strategy is an entrepreneurial ecosystem."
"It should not come as a surprise though that as any innovative idea spreads, so does the misconception mythology. If we want to prevent enthusiasm for the entrepreneurial ecosystem from fizzling out like other concepts, we need to get a better grip on the topic."
He also said innovators or startups think they have to be extremely techie to become entrepreneurs. "Otherwise, they think they would just be some enterprises. But the attachment of tech elements should not define the status of your venture."
Asif shed light on the lack of mentorship in Bangladeshi boot camps and emphasised the need for proper mentoring.