Is the tech start-up eco-system creating dependent entrepreneurs?

General | July 31, 2013

As I sit for my nightly shift over a somewhat mediocre shisha and go through a handful of presentations, a plethora of emails and a couple of 7agars, I remember an intriguing question directed towards a panel I was on recently.

“Are all these incubators and accelerators creating dependent entrepreneurs?”

This question has crossed my mind several times especially since we are currently launching an accelerator of our own.

Drawing on my personal experience I remember when I was a clueless 17 year-old trying to start my first business (that was 14 years ago!). Back then there was (to my knowledge) no such thing as mentorship, no “networks” to tap into, no funds to acquire and going online required the entire household to refrain from using the home-phone and be subjected to listening to some god-awful high pitched beeps…

What if accelerators, incubators and so forth are indeed making young, aspiring entrepreneurs too dependent on them? What if their inevitable influence spreads a misconception that you’re nothing without them? What if they end up making entrepreneurs less motivated?

Before this tech entrepreneurship eco-system that we find ourselves inevitably embracing, those without a businessman in their family or wads of cash to throw at every problem they encountered had to take a lot of lumps along the way. Years of mistakes was a prerequisite if your journey were to bare fruit. Now these lessons can be truncated into weeks or months at most – granted you’re lucky enough to be handed such an opportunity.

Which raises another question – I need wel3a – isn’t there more value in taking the time to learn the lessons on your own rather than any spoon-feeding in the name of saving time?

The conclusion I have come to is that it definitely depends on the person. My failures make me proud. At 17 I had no idea of how tough it was to start my own business. And even though I was lucky enough to boast an uncle who’s a successful entrepreneur in his own right, I was certain I knew everything and wasn’t ready to listen and I don’t think the eco-system could’ve helped me. It wasn’t until my uncle pretty much kicked me out of his office and told me to get my ‘act’ together and that “I may not be cut out to be an Entrepreneur” that I really began to listen and develop myself into the person I am today.

Looking back, it was the greatest lesson my uncle could’ve ever given me and no eco-system could’ve ever recreated that experience. So maybe you are wiser than I was at that stage and don’t necessarily need to take the long, bumpy road alone, but at the same time, the eco-system doesn’t make you, you make yourself with the help of your surroundings.

The only danger I see in the eco-system is that some of the players are putting a bit too much emphasis on business plan competitions and buzz-word terminology. When really, it comes down to you and your work, and you’ll learn everything you need along the way.

As I wrap up my third 7agar of the night, and under threat of being kicked out of the café – what’s wrong with 2:30am shisha? – I don’t think all these accelerators, incubators and tech-makers are a detriment to aspiring entrepreneurs at all. In general, especially when used correctly, they can save a lot of time and allow you to move ahead at a much quicker and more efficient pace than you would’ve been able to on your own accord, you just need to be ready to listen, embrace the opportunity, take in the good and filter out the bad and understand that ultimately your success or failure hinges on you and your teams’ effort, commitment and dedication.