Why founders are the lifeblood of global technology ecosystems

It has been exhilarating to have spent the past few months with my colleagues across several different time zones researching in detail about the candidates for RoW100, our inaugural list of global technological changemakers.

Our list includes policymakers, activists, venture capitalists, and investors, all of whom play a vital role in the technology ecosystems where they operate. But above all, it is made up of two founders: the real driving force in technology.

More than half of the nominees on our list are founders or co-founders. In fact, it’s probably closer to two-thirds, because we chose to distinguish between founders and operators, for example, co-founders of venture capital firms who invest in these businesses or founders of influential think tanks who help shape policies. We see these globally turbulent business founders, such as Indonesia’s Xendit, Nigeria’s Paystack, or Brazil’s Nubank, as some of the world’s most daring entrepreneurs, some of whom had to build their businesses in tough economic conditions and unfriendly regulatory terrain.

The stories of these founders have many common themes, from Venezuela to Vietnam, and from South Africa to South Korea. Demonstrate resilience in the face of challenges and the ability to adapt to seize opportunities as they arise. They have often had to defy the odds, to build businesses and products that solve real problems for real people.

“As an investor, I want to understand if founders have sociocultural intelligence and passion. I often ask, ‘How important is shame to you?’

Sango Delle, CEO of Golden Palm Investments in Accra, who has supported startups including mPharma in Ghana and Kenya’s Wapi Pay, said it asks founders many of the same basic questions about total market and revenue models that they can approach as investors elsewhere. . But due to the unique and specific difficulties of business development in emerging markets, in the African context, more of them have been demanded. “I want to understand if they have sociocultural intelligence, passion,” he said, “and they often ask, ‘How important is shame to you?’ ” Rest of the world. He asks these personal questions because of the uncertainty and, at times, instability of certain markets where a combination of regulatory overreach or economic surprises asks your Western startup founder more than managing your cash-burn rate.

Many of the most successful founders on our list are in their second or third round of starting a new disruptive business. In India, Sachin Bansal is best known for building e-commerce company Flipkart into a $16 billion business, before selling it to Walmart in 2018. Now he’s building Navi Technologies, a fintech startup that simplifies loan processing and disbursement for small and medium-sized businesses. big size. In Uruguay, Sergio Vogel built the country’s first unicorn, dLocal, a fintech player operating across the region. Since then, he has co-founded another fintech startup, from Montevideo, called Datanomik, an open banking platform that connects financial institutions.

And as we’ve noted before, many founders end up supporting other founders because they understand market conditions and business challenges better than anyone else. In young tech ecosystems, such as Lagos and Nairobi, this need for more knowledgeable and informed local investors has prompted two very successful founders to turn this into a full-time role. Nigeria-based Iyinoluwa “E” Aboyeji helped co-found developer training platform Andela and fintech giant Flutterwave, both of which are unicorns today. By his own admission, he is obsessed with developing and supporting African talent on a large scale and is now doing so through his venture company Future Africa. In Nairobi, Ken Ngorog founded the leading fintech startup Cellulant in 2004, but has set up a small investment company called Pani to train and invest in exceptional African founders.

A similar phenomenon occurred in Pakistan after Uber bought out its local rival, Careem. “Many people who have worked on Careem have started their own businesses, and they already have a network to access,” said Kalthoum Lakhani, co-founder of i2i Ventures. Rest of the world Last month. These new founders, she said, have been a huge boon to a local ecosystem that has long lived in the technological shadow of its larger neighbors in India. “There is a huge network of ex-Careem people who are now angel investors. These young people have a lot of experience working in highly operationally intensive businesses and exposure that others have not had before,” she said.

Endeavor, a community of “high-impact entrepreneurs” outside of Silicon Valley, has supported nearly 2,500 founders in 40 markets including 64 rhinos over the past 25 years. The company’s co-founder/CEO, Linda Rothenberg, is a firm believer in the founders’ role in building local ecosystems. “These entrepreneurs need to show they are willing to take it forward,” she said. Rest of the world. “As I like to say: rhinos that don’t even give birth to more unicorns are just an endangered species.”

In general, investors who support founders in these areas are looking for some of the same properties wherever they are. Not every startup plan has to be a ‘first ever’ in the world, but there certainly has to be a vision of how that venture works in its local context, regardless of how a similar venture might work in other markets.

“We are looking for founders who have unique living experiences as Indonesians – and as such, we build companies that engage with the Indonesian context in a new and exciting way that only an Indonesian can imagine,” said Eddy Chan, co-founder of Intudo Ventures. “For the founders we ultimately choose to support, the transmission of global ideas is enhanced by a deep understanding of the Indonesian way of life. We believe this is the case for early generations in many emerging markets, and Indonesia is no exception.”

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