Given the multiplicity of challenges facing us, there is an urgency to recognize the importance of self-sufficiency. A thriving Entrepreneurial Ecosystem, powered by innovators and changemakers is necessary for the development of Antigua and Barbuda. Globally some of the most successful businesses are startups such as Instacart, Uber, Airbnb, and Boxed. These companies have benefited from the Entrepreneurial Ecosystem that exists in the developed world and have modernized some industries and even created new ones. Successful entrepreneurs improve the quality of life with their innovations, provide employment opportunities, create economic growth, and inspire others.
Cities like Silicon Valley, Boston, Tel Aviv, London, Boulder, and Berlin took decades to become robust entrepreneurial ecosystems. However, thanks to technology and innovation, such ecosystems can develop and grow anywhere today. In the modern economy, every community can become a thriving ecosystem.The essence of an entrepreneurial ecosystem is its people and the culture of trust and collaboration that allows them to interact successfully. An ecosystem that allows for the fast flow of talent, information, and resources helps entrepreneurs quickly find what they need at each stage of growth. As a result, the whole is greater than the sum of its separate parts. Diversity is a critical driver of innovation! We need diverse inputs for entrepreneurship to thrive – from the people who start companies and work for them to the resources they access – and we need a culture that supports heterogeneous communities, a range of industries, and a wealth of different ideas.
In Antigua and Barbuda, there is an urgent need for a complete restructuring of our systems to adequately address the needs of our entrepreneurs. Access to resources and finance are on top of the list when it comes to barriers to entry into business. It is critical that we streamline services such as business registration and statutory deductions to leveling the playing field for small and microbusinesses. Further, our public sector must be restructured to become more robust, responsive, efficient and effective to ensure that businesses -especially entrepreneurs – are able to access resources at different stages of their entrepreneurial journey.
These are low hanging fruit which can be accomplished through targeted legislation that integrates entrepreneurship into our national development plan as a key imperative for growth. One such Initiative which the DNA is committed to implementing is the Entrepreneur-in-Residence (EIR) program where entrepreneurs will be placed inside Government ministries, agencies and statutory corporations for specific periods of time. The principal objectives of the EIR program will be to identify inefficient and duplicate government programs that negatively impact entrepreneurs and to recommend solutions.
Further, the role of the entrepreneur will be to identify and resolve obstacles which hinder opportunities and constrain the advancement of other Entrepreneurs. Additionally, they will provide a point of contact within an agency, a visible advocate and mentor for entrepreneurs who understand their needs, concerns, and frustrations in dealing with government.
It is envisioned that EIR will serve as the proverbial bridge to other entrepreneurs and small businesses, provide recommendations on ways to streamline and improve government operations that impact small businesses, recommend ways to improve programs available to entrepreneurs, facilitate meetings and forums to educate entrepreneurs on programs and requirements and provide technical assistance and provide mentorship to entrepreneurs in navigating government programs and requirements. The ultimate goal is to make government programs simpler, easier to access, more efficient, and more responsive to the needs of entrepreneurs and small businesses.
An ecosystem culture that is rich in social capital – the networks, norms, and social trust that facilitate coordination and cooperation for mutual benefit – is like rocket fuel for entrepreneurial growth. An ecosystem will struggle without a culture of collaboration, cooperation, and trust that inspires people to move quickly, help each other, and be open to novel ideas.
A community’s culture can be cultivated, tended, and nurtured. It is by no means static. People engage in culture change naturally – through the conversations they have, the questions they ask, and the behaviors they model.
Change is not only possible it is an imperative!