Last week Team Namibia and FABlab launched a fresh concept in Namibia called ADDVENTURE business matchmaking events, which is a local adaptation of the internationally acclaimed “Dragon’s Den” concept. Dragons’ Den is a series of reality television programmes featuring entrepreneurs pitching their business ideas in order to secure investment finance from a panel of venture capitalists.
The ADDVENTURE platform was created in response to a business need expressed by local entrepreneurs, who require and request for facilitated access to business support facilities and consumer markets.
“The ultimate outcome of this initiative is to facilitate growth and develop industry, through the vehicle that is our Small-To-Medium Enterprises. It is our desire at the NCCI and Team Namibia, to witness the eventual graduation of business, from Small, To Medium To Large enterprises,” noted President of the Namibia Chamber of Commerce and Industry (NCCI), Sven Thieme. He added that promoting the SME sector through increased local sourcing is one method to narrow the income inequality gap, as this sector is capable of creating significant employment opportunities.
FABlab or digital fabrication laboratories were set up to inspire people and entrepreneurs to turn their ideas into tangible products and prototypes by giving them access to a range of advanced digital manufacturing technology. The idea was conceived by Professor Neil Gershenfeld at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). His idea was to provide the environment, skills, advanced materials and technology to make things cheaply and quickly anywhere in the world, and to make this available on a local basis to entrepreneurs, students, artists, small businesses and, in fact, anyone who wants to create something.
FABlab Namibia is the first advanced manufacturing, prototyping and design lab in Namibia and the largest FABlab currently within Africa. The lab was established in partnership with the Ministry of Trade and Industry to enhance local product competitiveness, bridge the technological divide through access to Information Communication Technology, new machinery, tools, knowledge, skills and equipment – ultimately to give rise to a technologically and creatively advanced local economy.
The Ministry of Industrialisation, Trade and SME Development has introduced the Intensive Product Development (IPD) Programme, under the Directorate of Industrial Development and implemented by the FABlab. This IPD programme is a three-month mentorship and immersion programme, at the end of which mentees will graduate with a full business financial plan, marketing plan and a product prototype.
“To be an innovator, to be an entrepreneur is no easy feat. We need to enable our innovators and let them experiment, create, ultimately starting new businesses and growing small businesses into bigger companies,” said Prof Tjama Tjivikua, Rector of the Polytechnic of Namibia, which is soon expected to be renamed the University of Science and Technology. During the launch event last week Wednesday, Prof Tjivikua also remarked that the culmination of the pilot phase of the IPD programme’s work was highlighted as the first eight graduates pitched for support to start their businesses, armed with prototypes and new local brands! Each participant delivered a five-minute pitch explaining their business idea for growth, which was followed by a 10-minute question and answer session. The pitches were directed to local hard-hitting representatives ranging from venture capitalists to governmental support agents otherwise known as ADDVENTURERS.
The selected innovators and SMEs were selected according to priority sectors for economic development, as outlined by the National Development Plan (NDP4). Participants represented the agro-processing, agriculture, cosmetic and garment manufacturing, jewellery, interior décor, green industry/waste management and community development industries ad sectors.