ZIMBABWEAN start-ups have bemoaned lack of support from the corporate world as a major setback to their quest for innovation at the just ended In conversation with Trevor Ideas Festival in Nyanga show that no company was willing to acquire or fund start-ups.
Start-up founders, who spoke on a panel presided by Alpha Media Holdings chairperson, Trevor Ncube, said Zimbabwe did not have an ecosystem that supported the growth of start-ups.
This has seen them getting support and recognition on international platforms instead of getting it locally.
“So either they are going to acquire me, or I’m going to outgrow them and take them out of the market entirely if they don’t grow.
“So in Zimbabwe, no company is willing to fund start-ups. No company is willing to acquire start-ups. They see us as these small businesses or maybe competitors. So instead of us partnering or working with them, let’s make the product that looks exactly like theirs,” said Ryan Katai, CEO and founder of Farmhut and Kwingy.
“I always cry about it when I see our mini-stats, because we have two that cross-pollinate into the start-ups ecosystem. We have the Information and Communications Technology and the Women Affairs, Community, Small and Medium Enterprises Development ministers and put them and together, we can bring better results. We need to be saying to ourselves, how do we get to understand this space better?
And if we, indeed, believe that this space is the future of the economy, we need to understand it and begin to enable it.There is no ecosystem.”
He added that the economy needed an ecosystem where different players contributed to the overall outcome recognising the role start-ups played in the growth of the economy.
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CEO and co-founder of Thumeza, Gugulethu Siso, said it made sense to leave the country, start something then come back later.
“The bulk of our financing came from outside of the continent. Now imagine having to borrow some money in US$ and they are paying you back in what essence could be half in a local currency. My business model was dead on the ground, so we left. It’s not something that the ecosystem could help me with.
“There is no amount of mentorship, which unfortunately is what we keep getting as startups that could help that problem. So, people keep saying that start-ups are leaving Zimbabwe, we are not being patriotic, but right now what you are looking at is the economics of the stomach and the wallet,” she said
“If I have to survive and build this business in a way that makes sense, I have to leave and then look out for opportunities that make sense later on in order to come back. So, I say the support that the ecosystem needs is that of early stage investors, people that understand that the start-ups ecosystem is a long game.”
The start-ups also blamed several statutory instruments that they said were disruptive to their businesses calling for policies that support the growth of start-ups.