We want to build a diversified and knowledge economy in Libya. For this to take place new knowledge based, innovative businesses need to be created. Currently in Libya most people aspire for public sector job. Those who start a business work on consumer-side businesses such as import and export and traditional ‘brick-and-mortar’ stores. The legislation and access to capital in Libya is obstructive to new sector enterprises.
So we decided to do something about it.
Most new startup ideas fail. That is true anywhere in the world. In Libya, the challenges are even higher. If we support for example 10 businesses there is a high chance that 9 of them could fail. The solution is to increase the amount of new startup ideas being created – at the beginning of a ‘funnel’.
The funnel, has a large number of potential startup ideas that enter, then as they progress some start to drop out, as time continues, more and more drop out until just a few that started actually ending up succeeding.
Thus the more business ideas at the beginning of the funnel, the largest possible number of successful businesses. The businesses that start at the beginning of the funnel should not be evaluated too hardly. Those who wish to start a business should be encouraged and provided with education, inspiration and knowledge to ensure their best chance of success. Furthermore, and most importantly, the startup founders need to be well informed that it is fine to fail. That we expect some failures. A project failure does not mean actual failure for the entrepreneur. They are instead encouraged to consider the lessons learnt and think about new business ideas; the failed ideas that entered the funnel are highly encouraged to come back in.
The funnel, is nationwide, but as much as possible the startup ideas should have as much contact and networking with each other. The talking and discussing means the entrepreneurs start talking about best practice, reduces the chance of similar mistakes being repeated and the golden opportunity… once a business idea fails, there is a chance that the entrepreneurs will get to know new people and enter together with a new idea. People that previously did not know each other, come together to discuss business, technology and solutions. They come together to create new business ideas… and increase the size of the funnel.
We have done a few things to increase the number of startups in the Libyan ecosystem. Prominently, we created a nationwide startup competition (enjazi.ly) which added 20 businesses into the funnel. Critically the competition also inspired more people to start their own startups due to the marketing that took place and the documentary, Startup Libya, which was shown on BBC World. We created TEC Camps, formerly called Operation Pour, which aimed to encourage young people with programming skills to create an app and website based on an actual project that solves a solution within 6-8 weeks. After this period, some great startup ideas are formed. We do not strongly evaluate the business/project idea before the attendee starts the course, but we do assess each attendee’s personality and technical skills. We need to increase the size of the funnel. The more quality in, the more quality out. At idea stage it is hard to assess, from our point of view, which business/project idea can succeed, but by throwing them into a 6-8 week boot-camp, they are encouraged to complete a project. The best ideas are then encouraged to join our business incubator, TEC Incubator. Furthermore, for those who do not succeed with a business idea, two incredible things happen: firstly, this group of programmers get to know each other and some choose to join the successful startup idea. Secondly, we create a group of people who are inspired to improve their programming skills and think of startup ideas….turn it into a business… which ultimately further increases the size of the funnel.