By David Shamah, TOI, January 19, 2014,
The developing world is a natural market for tech solutions, and the Pears Challenge is preparing entrepreneurs to succeed there.
David Shamah January 19, 2014, The developing world is a natural market for tech solutions, and the Pears Challenge is preparing entrepreneurs to succeed there,
If you still think of Africa as a backwater where people live in squalor, you’re behind the times, according to Dr. Aliza Belman Inbal. “Africa today is a lot different from it was even a decade ago,” said Inbal, director of the Pears Program for Innovation and International Development at Tel Aviv University. “Technology has reached even the most remote villages, with solar energy systems providing electricity in many places where the electrical grid hasn’t been installed, and cellphones being used for everything from Internet surfing to banking.”
This technology development means big opportunities for entrepreneurs willing to brave a foray into Africa. Traditionally, Israeli entrepreneurs have looked to the U.S. or Europe for funding and for customers, but it’s time to upend that tradition, said Inbal. “Six of the ten fastest-growing markets in the last decade were in Africa, and there is a great need there for the kind of things Israeli entrepreneurs do best, like mobile apps, environmental technology, agricultural technology, and more.”
Building business relationships with Africa is a win-win, both for Israeli start-ups and for the Africans who will benefit from technology. The Pears Challenge, which is sponsored by the TAU program headed by Inbal, will encourage Israeli start-ups to connect with the needs of Africans, developing solutions in areas like agriculture, health, water, ICT, education, and renewable energy.
The Challenge will take applications from start-ups, with selected companies enrolled in an accelerator boot camp program where they will develop their technologies and learn about “marketing to the base of the pyramid” — that base being the majority of the world’s population that is poor and in need of solutions to basic problems. “We are looking for solutions that can bring value to the lives of people,” said Inbal.
Besides doing good for the needy residents of the developing world, the Challenge hopes to encourage the concept of Africa as a potential market for Israeli start-ups. “The government in Israel realizes that in order to ensure growth, Israeli companies need to diversify, and the Chief Scientist’s Office is planning to offer grants to companies who develop innovative solutions for problems in developing countries.”
Dr. Aliza Belman Inbal
Doing business in Africa isn’t the same as doing business in Silicon Valley, said Inbal, and during the program, entrepreneurs will work with mentors who have had experience working in developing countries, giving them pointers on how things work there. “The biggest difficulty Israeli companies find working in Africa is a lack of information,” said Inbal. “There are no reliable electronic connections to draw on, so you have to be on the ground to see what is going on.” The expenses and logistics …read more