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    Inside Views
    Inside Views: Clear The Way For SMEs: Lessons From Nairobi

    Published on 30 September 2011 @ 4:19 pm

    Disclaimer: the views expressed in this column are solely those of the authors and are not associated with Intellectual Property Watch. IP-Watch expressly disclaims and refuses any responsibility or liability for the content, style or form of any posts made to this forum, which remain solely the responsibility of their authors.

    Intellectual Property Watch

    By Jonathan Zuck

    Penye nia, pana njia. A Swahili proverb for “when there’s a will, there’s a way,” this might well be the motto for innovative entrepreneurs the world over. Whether they’re based in Nairobi, Brussels or Silicon Valley, what matters the most to entrepreneurs is the success of their businesses. Of course, what’s “in the way” of that success can vary considerably.

    It is widely recognized that bottom-up entrepreneurship is one of the most sustainable drivers of socioeconomic development. It is also indisputable that internet access offers unique opportunities for aspiring entrepreneurs. However, much of the success enjoyed by innovative enterprises is a function of the environment in which they work. There are market factors such as access to capital and talent as well as regulatory factors such as policies governing intellectual property (IP) protection, privacy, data security, trade, taxation, and employment. Internet governance sits at the centre.

    The key question innovative entrepreneurs from all over the world were trying to address at the Internet Governance Forum gathering this week in Nairobi was what aspects of internet governance help an entrepreneur’s chance to succeed. It may come as a surprise to policy-makers, but SME [small and medium-sized enterprise]-specific policies isn’t one of them. What they want is a better business environment in general.

    While individual entrepreneurs may face individual challenges in the internet environment – for example, the lack of gTLDs [generic top-level internet domains] with IDN [internationalized] capability in non-Latin script; or regulatory regimes that make it virtually impossible to develop cloud solutions – they also have common challenges.

    In this context, SMEs look for two things generally: either a niche market for which they can develop a very specific business solution or, to compete with their bigger brethren, an equalizer. Equalizers include IP as well as simplified, cost effective, access to markets.

    Strong IP is necessary to justify investment in innovation and protection from bigger competitors, access to capital and an exit strategy. A large available market gives leverage to innovative entrepreneurs. To get there, they need free flow of data to take advantage of the cloud, labour mobility, a simplified tax environment and harmonised regulations to facilitate cross-border expansion.

    Indeed, market fragmentation is one of the top concerns of innovative entrepreneurs. Take the example of Europe. Despite the existence – in paper – of a single market, SMEs still need to spend a large amount of time and resources to cope with disparate regulatory regimes and requirements. In order to be able to easily set up a business and gain access to a large single market, one of our members moved to Oregon in the United States where he created a prosperous software applications business. Others, who persevered in Europe, are often faced with the need to create multiple subsidiaries to be able to do business beyond their country of origin or having to file (and protect) multiple patent applications in various European jurisdictions. These are very concrete obstacles preventing entrepreneurs from taking advantage of the possibilities that the internet offers for cross-border business development.

    Today, Kenya is a very exciting place to be an innovative entrepreneur, especially in the mobile internet space. Creativity is endless, talent is abounding and lots of applications are being built. Cost to market entry is decreasing, but more importantly, there is capital available to support entrepreneurship. Taking in the experience from the rest of the world, the best way for policy-makers in Kenya, as in other emerging countries, to help innovative entrepreneurs is to just get “out of the way”.

    [Editor's Note: the UN-led Internet Governance Forum (IGF) took place in Nairobi from 27-30 September.]

    Jonathan Zuck is President of the Association for Competitive Technology (ACT) and a software developer with more than 15 years experience. Prior to ACT, he was director at Spectrum Technology Group, Washington DC, specialising in client/server development and data warehousing. In 1988, Jonathan founded IT consulting company User Friendly, followed by the setting up of U.S. operations for a French software firm, building it into an $11 million business. In 1996, Jonathan joined Financial Dynamics, focused on innovation in technical architecture, career management and employee empowerment.

     


    Leave a Reply

    We welcome your participation in article and blog comment threads, and other discussion forums, where we encourage you to analyse and react to the content available on the Intellectual Property Watch website. By participating in discussions or reader forums, or by submitting opinion pieces or comments to articles, blogs, reviews or multimedia features, you are consenting to these rules.

    We welcome your participation in article and blog comment threads, and other discussion forums, where we encourage you to analyse and react to the content available on the Intellectual Property Watch website.

    By participating in discussions or reader forums, or by submitting opinion pieces or comments to articles, blogs, reviews or multimedia features, you are consenting to these rules.

    1. You agree that you are fully responsible for the content that you post. You will not knowingly post content that violates the copyright, trademark, patent or other intellectual property right of any third party or which you know is under a confidentiality obligation preventing its publication and that you will request removal of the same should you discover that you have violated this provision. Likewise, you may not post content that is libelous, defamatory, obscene, abusive, that violates a third party's right to privacy, that otherwise violates any applicable local, state, national or international law, that amounts to spamming or that is otherwise inappropriate. You may not post content that degrades others on the basis of gender, race, class, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sexual preference, disability or other classification. Epithets and other language intended to intimidate or to incite violence are also prohibited. Furthermore, you may not impersonate others.

    2. You understand and agree that Intellectual Property Watch is not responsible for any content posted by you or third parties. You further understand that IP Watch does not monitor the content posted. Nevertheless, IP Watch may monitor the any user-generated content as it chooses and reserves the right to remove, edit or otherwise alter content that it deems inappropriate for any reason whatever without consent nor notice. We further reserve the right, in our sole discretion, to remove a user's privilege to post content on our site. IP Watch is not in any manner endorsing the content of the discussion forums and cannot and will not vouch for its reliability or otherwise accept liability for it.

    3. By submitting any contribution to IP Watch, you warrant that your contribution is your own original work and that you have the right to make it available to IP Watch for all purposes and you agree to indemnify IP Watch, its directors, employees and agents against all damages, legal fees and others expenses that may be incurred by IP Watch as a result of your breach of warranty or of these terms.

    4. You further agree not to publish any personal information about yourself or anyone else (for example telephone number or home address). If you add a comment to a blog, be aware that your email address will be apparent.

    5. IP Watch will not be liable for any loss including but not limited to the following (whether such losses are foreseen, known or otherwise): loss of data, loss of revenue or anticipated profit, loss of business, loss of opportunity, loss of goodwill or injury to reputation, losses suffered by third parties, any indirect, consequential or exemplary damages.

    6. You understand and agree that the discussion forums are to be used only for non-commercial purposes. You may not solicit funds, promote commercial entities or otherwise engage in commercial activity in our discussion forums.

    7. You acknowledge and agree that you use and/or rely on any information obtained through the discussion forums at your own risk.

    8. For any content that you post, you hereby grant to IP Watch the royalty-free, irrevocable, perpetual, exclusive and fully sub-licensable license to use, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, translate, create derivative works from, distribute, perform and display such content in whole or in part, world-wide and to incorporate it in other works, in any form, media or technology now known or later developed.

    9. These terms and your posts and contributions shall be governed and interpreted in accordance with the laws of Switzerland (without giving effect to conflict of laws principles thereof) and any dispute exclusively settled by the Courts of the Canton of Geneva.

     

     
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