DAI’s Zaki Raheem on Global Entrepreneurship Ecosystem Leadership in a Post-Crisis Economy

November 05, 2020

At the Global Accelerator Network (GAN) November Roundtable, GAN CEO Patrick Riley hosted a timely discussion on “How to Become a Global Ecosystem Leader to Accelerators in a Post-Crisis Economy” with panelists JF Gauthier, Founder & CEO of Startup Genome, and DAI’s Zaki Raheem, Senior Specialist for Enterprise Development and Entrepreneurship.

GAN is a curated community of independent accelerators, partners, and investors focused on creating opportunities for startups to access human and financial capital. DAI has been a member of GAN since 2016 when it launched the DAI Innovation To Action Challenge. As a GAN member, DAI is collaborating with accelerators around the world to bring global best practices to entrepreneurship programs in emerging and frontier markets.

Since the pandemic began, DAI continues to engage closely with GAN to explore how to support startups and small- and medium-sized enterprises as acceleration services move virtual, global investor funding drops, and governments and corporates seek to build new partnerships with entrepreneurs and innovators in a time of crisis. Public and private sector investment in local infrastructure, health, communication, education, and other sectors have the potential to stimulate both innovation and employment in the “new normal.”

Participants included the managing directors of 30 startup accelerators from a dozen countries spanning four continents. The panel addressed questions as to what can accelerators do to encourage policymakers to support startups as part of the economic recovery, covering key areas such as funding, preserving talent, preserving sub-sector strengths, and supporting government-led innovation procurement programs. The roundtable also highlighted examples of what startups are doing to position themselves to be ready to take on the pandemic and improve their local economies—and how ecosystem builders can support those efforts.

“While governments may be cautious to support early-stage entrepreneurs during the crisis, it is important for accelerators and other entrepreneurship ecosystem builders to advocate for startups as engines for creating good jobs and the innovators that will ensure key sectors of the economy will be able to recover quickly,” said Raheem. “We have seen governments around the world—from Manila to Muscat to Montgomery County, Maryland—running ‘COVID innovation challenges’ to source health and hygiene solutions from startups during the pandemic. In the post-COVID low-touch economy, these government-startup partnerships can be expanded through public procurement reforms and public sector ‘reverse pitches’ to bring innovation to other sectors including education, water, sustainable transport, and clean energy.”

Gauthier, author of the Global Startup Ecosystem Report, stressed that being able to have comparative data on the gaps in entrepreneurship ecosystems around the world can help accelerators seek new partnerships and funding opportunities with key ministries that often want to support entrepreneurs but don’t have a strategy.

Reflecting on what proved to be a timely discussion at a turning point in the global economy, Raheem said DAI’s experience designing and implementing entrepreneurship, innovation, and ecosystem development projects for donor and corporate clients in markets such as West Africa, Southeast Asia, the Middle East, Latin America, and Central Asia offered key lessons and insights on how to move this conversation forward

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