There is a shortage of experienced entrepreneurs, project managers & CEOs to lead tech start-ups on the path to commercialization in emerging market countries. In my 1st post on this subject, I summarized the issues of attracting senior staff to start-ups in the emerging markets.
Perhaps the path forward for emerging markets is to replicate the job bank solution that some American university technology transfer offices implemented to solve the problem they experience; how attract and retain talent when one is not located in an ecosystem like Silicon Valley with its invisible networks that enable employment demand and supply of labor to meet so fluidly?
The tech transfer office of the University of Michigan (U-M) recruited a CEO from California to lead a start-up created around U-M technology. He moved his family from Silicon Valley and took-up his new position in Michigan. One year later the start-up failed.
Because the CEO was in Michigan, far away from the center of startup creation in the USA, it took him nine months to find a new job, not in Michigan, but in Boston. This lack of local employment opportunities in tech is a disincentive for senior managers to take the risk of moving to Michigan and this risk is what Michigan must overcome if it is to attract more senior managers to Michigan-based startups; such problems exist for publicy policy makers attempting to create innovation centers in other states of the USA and foreign countries too, cities, regions and countries that need experienced managers from Silicon Valley and Boston.
The Universities of Michigan, Utah and others are attacking this problem by pooling job opportunities in their start-ups and SMEs into a centralized job bank to create career options for smart talent. This set of employment possibilities gives innovators, CEOs and entrepreneurs the confidence that if their start-up should fail, options exist for them in the local market to maintain their income, security and family well-being. Such a solution reduces the friction of smart talent moving from Silicon Valley or Boston to another state or another country for that matter, and helps these regions and countries get competitive.
Chile and Russia for example, might consider duplicating this idea, create a ‘safety net’ of future employment opportunities in their family of investment funds & their start-ups; to reduce the risk for an expat moving to their country and make them more attractive for long-term employment. Such a solution will have a broad and strategic impact beyond just investment funds & start-ups; learning curve lessons can be applied to the task to attracting foreign tech developers, scientists, CEOs and senior managers to Russia’s Skolkovo hi-tech city project for example.
Countries of BRIC and others can implement other initiatives to build the cadre of innovators, CEOs and senior management for start-ups:
- Network with international investors and local venture funds to solicit suggestions for C-level candidates for start-ups. If the candidate accepts the position, there’s an excellent chance that the investor will finance the start-up since investors frequently invest in past entrepreneurs they’ve worked with. Provide dating or bait money (consulting contracts) to several candidates for CEO positions, to have them perform work and learn which ones get excited about the project and its merit.
- Establish Entrepreneurial-in-Residence (EIR) programs in local venture funds, to build a talent pool of candidates for start-ups. EIRs are experienced entrepreneurs, employed by the fund and embedded within the start-up team as part-time employees. EIRs expand the capabilities of a young management team by providing technology and marketing assessments, and function as extensions to mentor young entrepreneurs and develop venture possibilities into reality.
- Create a Catalyst Resource Network that consists of alumni of local universities in the regions of tech action, e.g., in Russia this includes Tomsk/Novosibirsk for Siberia; Zelenograd for Moscow region and Kazan for the Tatarstan region. In Croatia its Osijek for the eastern region of the country, Rijeka for the west and Zagreb for its center. In Chile it’s the Biobio region with the city of Concepción as the hotspot and Tarapacá in the north as examples.
- Implement an outreach program to communicate with alumni from your universities, share news about new start-ups, technologies under development and their value to industry. Over time this database of resources will span the globe of advisors, volunteers, consultants, managers and student interns for the talent needs for start-up ventures.
- Build a community of student interns for volunteer and/or part-time employment in start-ups deploying local technology. Organize a summer intern program for engineering & graduate business school students to provide them an educational experience and cheap labor for start-ups. Who know, maybe some of these internships will develop into full-time positions after graduation.