Startup Accelerators Have Become More Popular in Emerging Markets — and They’re Working
For decades, we have heard that emerging markets are poised for huge growth that will yield even greater prosperity. But a long list of obstacles always seems to be getting in the way of realizing this potential. Startup accelerator programs have been touted as one path to faster progress. Much like their famed Silicon Valley counterparts, emerging market accelerators aim to boost startups’ potential for raising growth capital. We wanted to examine whether the boost that accelerators give in emerging market contexts is different from similar programs in North America or Europe. Our research shows that the effects of acceleration are remarkably similar for entrepreneurs across countries and even continents. Unfortunately, mismatched goals between investors and entrepreneurs as well as a potential cultural bias may both prove to limit the positive effect that accelerators have in emerging market contexts. Regardless, accelerators still have an important role to play that can help position entrepreneurs for success.
When we began collecting data in 2013 to explore differences between startup acceleration in emerging markets and in high-income countries, we expected stark differences. Business environments in most emerging markets are complex and can be difficult for even the most experienced entrepreneur to navigate. So while running any startup is tough, we assumed that launching a new business in Mombasa would be much more difficult than running one in Menlo Park. However, we were surprised to find far fewer differences in the effects of acceleration than we had expected.
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