Nurturing new entrepreneurs and entrepreneurial companies is seen as one of the key aspects of revitalising the South African economy. Numerous programmes and initiatives developed by government and private institutions aim to achieve this. Students and youth are encouraged to start their own businesses to become entrepreneurs. These initiatives are mainly driven by development agencies and business schools at universities and other tertiary institutions.
Despite these initiatives, we do not seem able to achieve the required results in developing new entrepreneurial businesses. What are the reasons for this? It is well accepted that research forms the fundamental base for innovation and subsequent commercialisation. However, in South Africa we are often unable to turn research into commercially viable entrepreneurial businesses.
In the USA, it is common to learn of businesses that started in a "garage" and have subsequently grown into mega-businesses. In most cases, research and innovation are the recipe for success. These companies' sustainable competitive advantage is therefore encapsulated in new technology-based products or services that challenge the status quo and provide new value streams or opportunities. Some examples are Uber, Airbnb, Tesla and SpaceX, to name but a few. One could argue that Tesla and SpaceX did not start in a garage. Fact is, Elon Musk started his first businesses, which he eventually sold to become PayPal, in a garage. He then used the same principles to develop Tesla and SpaceX.