Freitag, 8. November 2013

Crowdfunding's Potential For The Developing World


by Steve Case
Chairman and CEO, Revolution
Co-Founder, America Online
Chairman, The Case Foundation

Crowdfunding is an innovation in entrepreneurial finance that can fuel “the Rise of the Rest” globally

What would the world look like if there were Silicon Valleys everywhere? While I am happy for innovative entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley, I am passionately focused on helping to create “the Rise of the Rest” so that entrepreneurs globally can build successful businesses. This initiative is to create focus and action in cities and towns of all sizes, to form entrepreneurial ecosystems that can ignite innovation, create jobs and grow economies. 

In the past, because of the high cost of technology development, lack of mobile/web infrastructure and restrictive financial regulations, entrepreneurs had to travel to places like San Francisco or Boston to find the technologies and investors to build their companies. For most, this was cost prohibitive and logistically impossible. Entrepreneurs had a more challenging time executing their plans and potential investors were scarce. Today, technology development costs are plummeting and tools are available to build software more rapidly and cheaply than ever before:

• One third of the world’s population has access to the Internet and, according to the United Nations, approximately 85 percent have access to a mobile phone. 

• Based on the adoption curve of feature phones in Africa, it is possible that 40 percent of people living in Africa will have access to a smartphone within five years. 

• Innovative new broadband solutions are becoming available and smartphone penetration is growing as costs decline and demand increases. 

• With an increase in connectivity, new and larger markets for goods and services are now available and we need talented entrepreneurs to create innovative solutions to customer needs, to create jobs, and drive economic and social stability. 

Now we are ready to address the lack of capital for entrepreneurs through innovation in the financial markets that leverages these technical advances. 

I believe that equity, debt, and rewards-based crowdfunding open new possibilities for funding more entrepreneurs in more places around the world. These changes enable entrepreneurs to utilize social media and the web to offer rewards, ownership of a shared vision, or even equity stakes to potential investors. Crowdfunding websites are creating transparency and more open communication by enabling investors to engage with these companies over time to monitor their progress and continue to support their success as the company grows. This technology makes it possible for an entrepreneur in Kenya to more easily engage investors and customers anywhere; whether that be locally, the diaspora, or with others anywhere in the world. 

Now is the time for leaders in the developing world to engage in a spirited discussion and analysis regarding crowdfunding and how it should be utilized to benefit businesses and communities while providing prudent safeguards and investor protections. It may be possible for developing nations to use this new funding mechanism as a means to spur domestic innovation and create a larger number of high-growth entrepreneurs. Innovative policies, technology, education and safeguards will be important in determining if this new financial tool can deliver on its promise. I appreciate infoDev’s early participation in this conversation via this research and I hope they and leaders of countries and institutions will use this report as a starting point in creating and testing appropriate, country-specific approaches to crowdfunding across the developing world. 

I believe that crowdfunding may have the potential to help catalyze existing efforts to create entrepreneurial cultures and ecosystems in developing nations. Development organizations like the World Bank and other institutions will play an ongoing role to act as “trusted third parties” in creating these new models of funding and providing mentorship, capacity building as well as ongoing monitoring and reporting. 

This research is also demonstrating the important role that academia must play in building deeper, more robust bodies of knowledge in this arena. Major research institutions and other multilateral development banks can use this infoDev report as a platform for additional research in this exciting new nexus of finance, technology, and entrepreneurship. This report, and the research that follows it, can help to shape global best practice. I hope this report can provide new opportunities for multilateral organizations and academia to collaborate to provide appropriate measures and tools for the development of this new form of finance. 

This confluence of developments in public policy, technological innovation, academia and economic trends can alter the playing field in developing countries to enable businesses to start, scale, and succeed outside of Silicon Valley. If successful, crowdfunding can support ”the Rise of the Rest” and will play a key role in sparking economic growth, innovation, and jobs. We have seen how technology has revolutionized many sectors of the global economy, however to date, the way that entrepreneurs are funded has either remained unchanged or become even more challenging. Crowdfunding is not a panacea and there are still risks and unanswered questions remaining. 

Nevertheless, I have faith that through ingenuity and technology, appropriate regulation and investor protections can be built. I believe that crowdfunding has the potential to enable innovative developing economies to leverage the explosion of social media to leapfrog forward to build a network of vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystems.

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