South Africa has more than 350 small business incubators and accelerators of various kinds, ranging from township business hubs with “hot desks” to high-tech software development incubators focused on apps and artificial intelligence.
An incubator gives a small business a supportive environment that allows the entrepreneurs to focus on their product and customer development, while having the benefit of subsidised working facilities and space, access to expensive equipment, expert mentorship and other benefits that provide a “runway” before embarking on a full take-off into the real world.
While some organisations have compiled lists of incubators, there is no comprehensive register, let alone a detailed analysis of incubator activity that can provide information on incubation business support services, graduation success rates, incubator funding patterns and other intelligence that could be used to answer key questions, such as:
• Which types and models of incubation produces sustainable small businesses;
• Which industries need more incubators to develop entrepreneurs in that sector;
• How many people work in the incubation sector and what incubation management skills are needed?
This is all about to change, thanks to a Seda project being undertaken with technical assistance from Ecosystem Development Small Enterprise.
This year, Seda’s Enterprise Development Division, working with EDSE experts, will be developing a multi-dimensional map of the incubator ecosystem, with the ultimate goal of building an interactive digital incubator map that combines geographic location with extensive operational and performance data on each incubator.
This will allow Seda, for the first time, to analyse incubator trends, challenges and opportunities across the full spectrum of South Africa’s incubation landscape. This will in turn enable Seda to allocate funding to where it will have the most impact, identify where there are skills gaps, and identify successful incubator models and operating strategies that can be shared and replicated.
Incubators are key to creating an onramp for early stage businesses to access the competitive highway of business. Seda’s interactive national incubator database and map will help ensure more SMMEs can take that drive … and reach their destination.