Our journey started about three years ago when we started asking ourselves what we can do to build the startup community. Few of the enthusiastic people from the community gathered and started a conversation about startups. The community came up with an idea to host a 6 day startup event called StartupBash in 2013 which was followed by a documentary called Startup Dhaka.
Now few years later, we feel that collectively we should have a roadmap to build for the longer term. General public tend to critique the government, but in last few years we have seen that they actually have gotten heavily involved now in promoting tech entrepreneurship. It has laid down few ambitious goals and took major initiatives to drive digital eco-system in Bangladesh.
Building a thriving ecosystem requires close collaboration between the public and private sectors. As we move along this path, we predict that we will develop a closer working relationship between the public and private sector. While we both have common interest in developing the startup community, perhaps the best way forward would be to establish a common goal. We are proposing a vision statement of “by 2020, we want to produce 200 startups with 10 companies having 20 million U.S dollar valuation.” It is not enough to just announce ambition statement, we must have proper action behind it. We are proposing few suggestions that can help translate this ambition to a meaningful engagement.
We propose Tax incentives to encourage investors to risk their money in startups. Since access to startup funding is an issue, tax incentive to encourage people with considerable risk appetite can be a good alternative for the local market.
Matching Govt Grant For Fund Raised by Startups
Singapore government has launched initiative like Business Angels Scheme (BAS), which matches any investment up to SG$2 million (US$1.32 million) that a startup raises from a business angel investor through its investment arm SPRING SEEDS Capital Pte Ltd. Bangladesh government has similar grant for technology companies called Innovation Fund, which is really not promoted among the community. This fund could be easily be used to match with fund raised by local startups to provide financial backing that the startups require so desperately.
India, Singapore, Vietnam, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia and Philippines have a growing startup community. Privately a lot of local startups are connecting regionally, but from government level we need to connect as well. These markets have policy frameworks that we can use and best practices that we can implement. We need to bridge the stakeholders from the regional startup community for idea sharing to better support the eco-system. The government can also provide subsidies to participate in the regional tech events to the startups.
Bridge The Academia With Entrepreneurship
The mindset of young founders needs to change when they are learning at schools and universities. Government education policy needs to align with their vision of digital ecosystem so that there is a pipeline for talents in the private sector. It’s a long term process but in the short term there has to be a way to make the education system more relevant for the ICT sector. One way the government can encourage students to get more relevant job experience in early stages is by subsidising paid internship programs in Tech companies. This way both students and tech companies benefit from developing talent that is more prepared for the future.
Contribution From Most Important Stakeholders
The Telcos, Payment providers, logistics, Service companies and Government (ICT Ministry) should support the common goal of helping to build 200 startups in next 5 years with total valuation of 20 million U.S. dollars. The 5 parties are integral parts in the making the machine move in the right direction. The telcos need to make the data service cheaper, payment providers need to make online payment secured and seamless, logistics services need to be reliable and designed to support cash on delivery system, which is a dominant payment solution in South East Asia, service companies need to start solving real problems that is affecting the bottom of the pyramid, and ICT ministry needs to work with all the parties so that real change can happen.