The biggest issue facing entrepreneurs is not access to finance but access to customers, according to Amit Pau, the director of corporate finance at Ariadne Capital and Entrepreneur Country.
Entrepreneur Country launched a chapter of its network which provides entrepreneurs with access to clients in new markets including mentorship and finance, in Cape Town on Wednesday.
“The response has been really positive,” Pau said this week. Entrepreneur Country met entrepreneurs, more than 30 venture capitalists and ultra high-net-worth individuals and institutional financiers, he said. The network would not establish an office in South Africa but work through a partner. The intention was to ensure that entrepreneurs would gain access to the world stage without having to leave their country of origin, according to Pau.
“Instead of building our teams in every country we hook up the best networks in every country. We are connecting the national networks and putting them into a global ecosystem,” Pau added.
South African entrepreneurs are in demand overseas. In November, a delegation visited the country on behalf of the Canadian government to recruit local entrepreneurs to that country.
“South Africa has a reputation for technological innovation, some of the brightest professional engineers and generally backed up with a commonly held ethos of entrepreneurial spirit and hard work, all of which are sought after in the technology space,” South African Gary Boddington, who now lives in Canada and accompanied the Canadian delegation, said at the time.
Entrepreneur Country, founded by American born entrepreneur Julie Meyer in 2008, is a broker between large corporates and smaller digital services providers.
Monetise Group, an e-commerce and e-marketing company, is one of the digital firms that have benefited and met its first customer HSBC and its first investor Visa, through the Entrepreneur Country network, according to Pau.
“Everyone talks of the prevalence of Silicon Valley. Our view is that the next game changer will come from the frontier markets.”
South Africa and Nigeria are the only two African countries who feature on the network of 16 affiliates. The group had considered expansion into other countries on the continent, but Pau said: “We want to make sure we find an affiliate connected to the community and who has access to capital.”
South Africa, Brazil and Russia are the only three Brics (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) bloc countries represented on the network.
Pau said India’s complex structure of 29 states did not make it easy to establish a network on the sub-continent. But it was also a market thriving with entrepreneurship, the majority of which was focused on services and not product information technology. There was also a significant entrance of venture capitalists into India recently, he said. China, was not a market of interest yet.