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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Knowledge economy and budding entrepreneurs

The role of electronic tools (e-tools) in spurring budding entrepreneurs at this era of knowledge economy cannot be over-emphasised but tapped by small and medium entreprises, writes REMMY NWEKE.

The 21st century, entrepreneurs:
T this 21st century, entrepreneurs have gained various nomenclatures that qualify them to earn such an appellation. It has been said that so many young or emerging entrepreneurs have to begin with the appellation of startups or startupers. Yet, startups are found where there are thriving potentials for Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) to excel, just as experts agreed that such enclave could be investors’ delight due to their potentials for attracting other investments and eventually making the bottom-line glowing with a reduced risk profile.

The open source-based online encyclopedia, Wikipedia, defined a startup company or startup as “a company with a limited operating history. These companies, generally are newly created, thus in a phase of development and research for markets remain a constant feature for such companies.

This term evolved into a universal phrase during the dot-com fountain when a great number of supposed dot-com companies were founded. Therefore, a high technology (hi-tech) startup company could be comfortably defined as a startup company with specialty in the high tech industry.

Successful startups:
However, successful startups are typically more disposed to rapid growth than an established businesses in terms of potentials and investment limitations as well as attraction to capital, labour and land.

Although startups could be traced to the software industry in the bid to illustrate certain people’s involvement in the creating wealth from a humble beginning, thus qualifying ‘startupers’ as entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, software engineers, web developers, and others involved in the ground level of a new high tech venture, pending when they would escalate into companies capable of exchanging cash for an equity stake.

Precisely, startups or emerging entrepreneurs are primarily financed by the founders themselves through life saving without age limits, more so in the informal sectors of any economy. Thus bringing the point home that entrepreneurship must not be all about being techies, hence it usually grow overtime to include what is universally described as social entrepreneurs due to their impact to social lives at this era.

Spirit of the True Nigerian Entrepreneurs:
Obviously in the spirit of discovering more of these startups the Computerize Nigeria Project (CNP) in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Labour and Productivity staged a one-day conference tagged ‘Spirit of the True Nigerian Entrepreneurs (SoTNE)’ penultimate Tuesday in Abuja with over 500 youthful participants in attendance.

The event which exposed the entrepreneurship skills of the chairman of Zinox Computers, Dr. Leo-Stan Ekeh and the chief executive officer of World e-Books Library, Mr. Walter Kny received overwhelming commendation from participants who lauded the initiative, especially young people who saw it as a mentoring inspired from the facilitators and targeted at 1000 startups.

Collaborating SoTNE on1,000 entrepreneurs
The Federal Government through the Federal Minister of Labour and Productivity, Chief Emeka Wogu, promised at the forum to collaborate on SoTNE’s dream of empowering 1,000 entrepreneurs through wealth creation with integrity among Nigerians within the shortest possible time.

This development came as FG also said its National Action Plan on Employment Creation (NAPEC) recently adopted by the Federal Executive Council (FEC) was targeted at creating about 5 million jobs beginning from the next two years, that is, 2012. Wogu told participants at the seminar with the theme ‘Creating Wealth with Integrity in 21st Century Nigeria’ that all contracts under consideration by the Federal Executive Council must henceforth indicate its local employment content under a new contract policy adopted by the government.

He reiterated the willingness of the government through his office to ensure that the objective of the conference is actualized, declaring; “We are ready to collaborate with the SoTNE team to achieve this laudable objective of creating wealth with integrity.”

National Action Plan and role of private sector:
Wogu noted that under the latest National Action Plan on Employment Creation (NAPEC), it has become mandatory for all contracts or programmes by Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) to indicate their local employment content.

“Overall, the NAPEC will ensure that Nigeria meets her employment challenges by creating 4 to 5 million new jobs in its first two years of implementation,” Wogu insisted, assuring that the President, Dr. Goodluck Ebele Azikiwe Jonathan’s administration is committed to ensuring gainful employment for every Nigerian in the labour market and is ready to collaborate with SoTNE.

He noted that government’s recognition of the strategic role of the private sector in employment generation cannot be over-emphasised, stressing that government is mindful of its responsibilities under the various Public-Private-Partnership arrangements.

Chairman of the occasion and former Minister for Commerce, Chief Charles Ugwu, lauded the conveners led by chairman of Zinox, Dr. Leo Stan Ekeh, whom he said, despite his success was very willing to show the way to other Nigerians. Therefore, he tasked participants to make good use of the opportunity by remaining attentive throughout the SoTNE conference.

“As we discuss the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) value chain remember that there are other value chains. Nigeria needs entrepreneurs and there are many opportunities begging to be explored,” Ugwu said.

In the mind of an entrepreneur:
In his presentation, Chairman, Zinox Group, Dr. Leo-Stan Ekeh, cautioned budding entrepreneurs in the country to eschew emotional investment and ensure that their businesses are budget driven with integrity. And dwelling on ‘Mind of an Entrepreneur’ he said that emotional investment could cost entrepreneurs very dearly, especially those who are start-ups to be weary of this when deciding on where to invest their small capital.

He also cautioned that they should be prudent in managing their businesses by ensuring that it’s driven by already laid down budget, so as to know when they are over spending and having undue over-heads.

In keeping with this, he said, entrepreneurship at this era does not depend on mere connection but integrity, stressing that a good entrepreneur does not need his or her father to know someone in Abuja for product from that enterprise to be a success.

Go ye and create wealth:
The new century, he said, is one designed by God to ward off poverty in the world because it is a century based on knowledge economy, which is first and foremost, the intellectual capacity of every human being on earth to create and recreate wealth.

“No man or woman has a right to be poor,” he declared, predicting that the second half of this century that barbers and gatemen would earn more than graduates, attributing this to several overheads incurred by graduates who are trying to prove that they have arrived in the social life.

“Money Is no property but your intellectual property is money,” he said, noting that in wealth creation, what is important is the sustainability.

Ekeh also warned Nigerians, mostly budding entrepreneurs not to allow anybody to intimidate them, suggesting that inferiority complex is what destroys an entrepreneur. He stressed that knowledge economy is a perfect setting for everyone who knows his or her onion to scale the huddle of poverty and listed core values of entrepreneurs to include having foresight, resilient, unique, innovative and creative, tenacious, style, courageous, optimism and magnanimous.

Computerize Nigeria’s role:
Equally speaking, the chairman of CNP, Prof. Oye Ibidapo-Obe noted that Nigerians, by a mixture of socio-economic and sometimes cultural factors have been severely challenged in the area of entrepreneurial development.

He pointed out that a significant number attempts to start businesses are made annually, less than a fraction have actually succeeded in building viable, structured, productive and sustainable organist ions. Adding that as Nigeria celebrates its 50th anniversary, the need to encourage a fresh drive towards harnessing indigenous entrepreneurial skills as a foundation for the next level of national development, which has become imperative.

Prof. Obe said that based on this premise, CNP decided on SoTNE, which is designed to groom 1,000 budding entrepreneurs as part of its contribution to the celebration of Nigeria at 50.

Entrepreneurship 101 according to Kny:
While maintaining that entrepreneurship at this era is knowledge and is perfect for 21st century’ the chief executive officer , World e-Books Library, Mr. Walter Kny, tasked Nigerians to dream dreams, noting that the likes of Facebook could have been created by a Nigerian.

“Dreaming is for free, so dream,” he declared, stressing that the possibility of potential entrepreneurs starts with the engagement of the mind by thinking.

Mr. Kny, who dwelt on ‘Entrepreneurship 101 and opportunities for Nigerians in the knowledge economy,’ said that ideas must be simple, noting that any idea that cannot be written down in a sentence may not be feasible.

He cited an instance with Facebook, saying that it could have been created by a Nigerian, even as Facebook was not just an innovation but a social entrepreneurial intervention.

“Facebook was not a technological breakthrough and the same are Twitter, Yahoo, Funband, among others,” he said, warning that these social enterprise are not locally driven but global, noting that all the aforementioned social entrepreneurial interventions were within the top 15 most visited websites in Nigeria.

Self-discipline, key to successful entrepreneurship:
Pointing out that for a budding entrepreneur to be different, he or she must be strategic in nurturing the enterprise, underscoring the fact that self discipline is a pre-requisite in business.
“Discipline helps you to move and there is no silly idea,” he said, persisting that those born into the 21st century are very fortunate and are all born equally based on the nomenclature of the Internet, saying that all the people of this century requires is their brain to make successful entreprise.

He described intellectual capital as a sea of possibilities, beginning with the information available to an individual, especially the intellectual capabilities that one can turn into money.

“Everybody has intellectual capital,” he asserted, stressing that the top 20 knowledge countries made up 60 per cent of the world’s wealth with high-tech industries representing 50 per cent of their wealth.

Mr. Kny said that most knowledge countries are making good use of their population, maintaining that more knowledge equals to more money.

“Why most of the entrepreneurship succeeds is because they took actions,” he said,

Entrepreneurs, extra-ordinary people:
Defining entrepreneurs as the extra-ordinary people who do extra-ordinary things, Kny also advised anybody who has a dream and the courage to go for it.

As said by him, entrepreneurs must be change agents, pointing out that the first 100 per cent of the top 100 richest persons in the United States are self-starter entrepreneurs.

On the startup success rates, Mr. Kny said, “18 per cent first time startup are successful, 30 per cent second times startups are successful,” outlining some of the factors why most entrepreneurs fail. He attributed this to lack of character, indiscipline, inability to separate self from business, not knowing what they want, non-resilience, extravagant and bad management.

Further, Kny advised that when a startup begins to grow, it is important for the owner cum entrepreneur to bring-in a management team to sustain that dream. “You must hire management team before you need them,” he counseled, stressing that it takes between two and three years for any startup to make money in terms of profit, noting that for a budding entrepreneur, everything is an opportunity.

Additionally, he said that why most entrepreneurs fail is because of poor fundamentals, leadership gap, lack of capital, planning, vision gap as well as lack of flexibility, which makes such enterprise obsessed with their dreams.

Don’t under-estimate competition:
He maintained that entrepreneurs must diverse within their area of strength in order to make their economic power stronger.

“Once a while stop to ask if you are to start anew your business, would you take the same route,” he counseled, adding that entrepreneurs should not under-estimate their competitors, even as God always find a way to talk to man on earth.

Mr. Kny drew-up five keys to success which comprised of the fact that entrepreneurs must learn how to handle frustration, reject incoherent ideas, learn how to handle financial pressures, complacency and eventually ensure that they give back more than they expect to receive to the society where they operate.

Above all, the event which witnessed the Vice-President Namadi Sambo as a special guest and represented by his aide Dr. Babajubril Adam, alongside Director General of the National Information Technology Development Agency (NTIDA) Prof. Cleopas Angaye, Director General of National Productivity Centre (NPC), Dr. Paul Bdliya as well as the Managing Director, Technology Distribution West Africa, Mrs. Chioma Ekeh, Director of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) at National Defense College, Air Commodore T.A. Ajoku, to name a few, came to a close with the disclosure that CNP is dangling about N30 million for some groups of budding entrepreneurs who are to emerge before December this year.

Repositioning education:
As noted by Zinox chairman, Ekeh, there is a great link between knowledge economy and education, hence he advocated for the restructuring of the nation’s education system and enjoined students, especially those who have the opportunity to be trained by their parents or guardians, saying those are lucky, even as those who have failed behind need to catch up.

Though Ekeh, recognized the fact that most supposed entrepreneurs, especially in ICT sector seem to be largely ‘drop outs’, which does not make them less human or enterprising probably because they needed to follow their vision. This, he insisted does not tend to encourage drop outs, because even the social setting and kind of education is usually different between those in developing nation and western countries, saying the importance of education cannot be over-emphasised.

Cost of starting a business in Nigeria:
Based on the World Bank recent statistics, the challenges of starting a business in Nigeria have become five per cent over-all less hectic as at 2010. The indexes challenging the launch of a business in Nigeria, World Bank stated in its ranking to include the number of steps entrepreneurs could expect to go through to launch, the time it takes on average, and the cost and minimum capital required as a percentage of gross national income (GNI) per capita.

Starting business in Nigeria, the World Bank said, has improved by at least 13 per cent from the ranking of 2009, which scored 95 per cent, against 108 per cent this year.

Equally, the World bank indicator, showed that the total number of procedures required to register a firm is just eight per cent against 9.4 in Sub-Saharan Africa and over 32-member Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) 5.7 per cent. These include a procedure defined as any interaction of the company founders with external parties such as government agencies, lawyers, auditors or notaries to get things done.

While the total number of days for Nigeria is 31, Sub-Saharan records 45.6 and OECD which include Finland and United Kingdom among others to be at 13 per cent.

Conclusion:
Now, the ball seems to be in the court of budding entrepreneurs, if you are ready, join the entrepreneurship.

An adage says “A path way shown is an indication that the path is passable,” so, why not try something today, especially the etools of Information and Communication Technologies, by tapping into the over N500million vote being dangled by CNP for potential entrepreneurs’ capacity building for those who prove their worthiness via projects, which could actually be individually motivated or group.

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