HOW STARTUP ECOSYSTEMS IN MOROCCO AND TUNISIA CAN IMPROVE THEIR PERFORMANCE

The DIA was asked to look into the possibilities of helping the business incubation sector in Morocco and Tunisia to improve their overall operations. In response to this request, DIA organised a Fact-Finding Mission in September 2013 to get acquainted with the start-up ecosystems in both these countries. DIA organised two industry experts to contribute to this mission; Hein van der Pasch (Incubation Manager of Mercator Incubator at the University of Nijmegen) and Pim de Bokx (Chairman of DIA, developer of several incubators). The Fact-Finding Mission included, among others, meetings with entrepreneurs, enablers of start-ups, government officials, visits to incubators and, most importantly, a seminar to exchange best practices and formulate measures to advance the business incubation sector in these countries. The Mission was  extremely useful in developing a viewpoint on how incubation practices in both countries may be advanced.

Start-up Ecosystems in Morocco and Tunisia

Start-up ecosystems is a reference to biological ecosystems interdependent relations between all the involved actors. The reason to coin this term for start-up development is that many actors with start-up relationships are not aware of the interdependencies with other start-up promoters. For instance for an investor it is beneficial to invest in a start-up that is ‘incubated’ professionally, since this will reduce the risk of investment. Simultaneously, investor involvement raises the quality of the collateral for banks. All these actors benefit from awareness-raising programmes like Start-up Weekend or entrepreneurship education. We realise there is an overlap with the term Innovation System, a broader concept that addresses organised innovation. For us, addressing the ecosystem is not so much  about addressing one organisation, but about raising the awareness about  the formation of the ecosystem itself, improving information sharing and cooperation, and working together to improve the ecosystem for pioneers and start-ups. Recent studies from The Global Start-up Ecosystem Index point to upcoming ecosystems because of their coordinated strength and trendsetting image. For example, that’s the reason Berlin is moving fast, when the availability of funding or support is far lower that what is offered by the Silicon Valley. However,  stakeholders are coming together in a concerted effort to promote and offer Berlin as the friendliest place to be for the worlds’ ‘bravest and brightest’.

Recommendations

Our advice is based on the information retrieved from available reports from our sister organisations, international data, meetings with ANIMA/EU and InfoDEV/Worldbank, but mostly on our experiences and workshops in Morocco and Tunisia. Looking at what we observed, we hope to reach a broader audience that can benefit from our observations, because we realise that for  the many improvements to take place different stakeholders will have to work together effectively. Towards the end of this chapter we will focus on the fields that, we believe, should work together with the Dutch government and Dutch incubation sector to advance incubation Morocco and Tunisia.

Business Incubation Recommendations

By ‘Business Incubation Organisations’ we refer to all public and/or private organisations that support company formation and start-up growth with more than one service (i.e. not only funding or only office rental). These organisations might be called Incubateur, Innovateur, Pepinieres, Technopole, Innovation Centre, Business Development Centre, Technopark s… They offer multi-dimensional development support to pioneers, entrepreneurs, start-ups, spin-offs and/or innovation projects.

Business Incubation sector: Morocco

Our main advice is to develop a strong network or association with all public and private enablers of start-ups. This new organisation will have a key role in modernising the Moroccan economy, developing a high-performing supportive ecosystem for initiators of new ventures. Certainly, we must find ways to improve the effectiveness in the network through alignment in value chains. RMIE could take a first step by making a division between its funding role (that could stay with CNRST) and its coordination role; alternatively a new organisation could be set up. This broader organisation would be able to foster an increased development of incubation in Morocco taking it to international levels,  and could be connected to international networks and markets, thereby offering routes to start-ups for international success. It would be able to improve and resolve many things:

  1. Convince universities and large corporations to get more involved in breeding the next generation of innovative entrepreneurs and a new wave of high-impact companies.
  2. Organise a national competition to improve the image of ‘high-impact start-ups and incubation’, improve talent sourcing, and introduce online (pre-)incubation and pre-start coaching.
  3. Reduce bureaucracy and strengthen business orientation in incubation programmes to improve the business creation output.
  4. Work together on creating transparency and reporting on the great performance of incubation to stakeholders and start-ups to show the relevance of the sector. For this, one must introduce a performance evaluation and measuring framework (with indicators on bureaucracy, service effectiveness and service appreciation), organise a yearly event to identify best practices, current needs and future challenges that will be addressed.
  5. Work on developing a capacity building mechanism that is available for all people involved in this sector that can support the development of entrepreneurial management, business skills, market access knowledge, funding knowledge and evaluation skills.
  6. Set up a taskforce, together with a university, that will report on barriers to start-ups that prevent the set up and growth of high-impact business initiatives. Identify what needs to be done to reduce resistance and ‘red tape’ to enhance start-up success.
  7. Look into the possibility of developing an international accelerator programme that will strengthen the opportunities for high-growth potentials to succeed internationally.
  8. Reach out to government, banks and investors to introduce and facilitate start-up credit.

Business Incubation sector: Tunisia

Our main advice is to develop a strong network or association with all public and private enablers of start-ups. This new organisation will have a key role in modernising the Tunisian economy, developing a high-performing supportive ecosystem for initiators of new ventures. Find ways to improve the effectiveness in the network through alignment in value chains. API could take this first step by making a division between its funding role and it’s network management role, or a new organisation could be set up. This broader organisation would be able to foster an increased development of incubation in Tunisia, taking it to international levels,  and could be connected to international networks and markets, offering routes to start-ups for international success. It would be able to improve and resolve many things:

  1. With support of the Ministries of Industry, Education, Employment and Telecom, it is crucial to bridge the gap between universities and industry. This can be achieved by adding innovation services to the portfolio, for SMEs to have low-cost opportunities to innovate and by cooperating with universities to stimulate and offer innovation and entrepreneurship education (that is also available to the management/staff of SMEs). It is vital to work within and outside the network to develop clusters with industries that enable easy transit of knowledge between industry and academics.
  2. Work on developing a capacity building mechanism that is available for all people involved in this sector that will improve the productivity of business incubation and can support the development of entrepreneurial management, innovation and cross-fertilisation, business skills, market access knowledge, funding knowledge and evaluation skills.
  3. Work together on creating transparency and reporting on the performance/excellence of incubation to stakeholders and start-ups to show the relevance of the sector. For this it is necessary to introduce a performance evaluation and measuring framework (with indicators on bureaucracy, service effectiveness and service appreciation), organise a yearly event to identify best practices, current needs and address future challenges.
  4. Look into the possibility of developing an international accelerator programme that will strengthen the opportunities for high-growth potentials to succeed internationally.
  5. Reach out to the government, banks and investors to improve the availability of innovation grants and start-up capital.
  6. Set up a taskforce, together with a university, that will report on barriers to start-ups that prevent the set up and growth of high-impact business initiatives. Identify what needs to be done to reduce resistance and ‘red tape’ to improve start-up success. Identify the barriers and potential solutions to improve technology transfer.
  7. Work with others in the ecosystem to reach out to more talented entrepreneurs. For instance working with Start-up Weekend organisers.

DOWNLOAD Full Report: REPORT Start-up Ecosystems Morocco and Tunisia

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