Fostering Entrepreneurship and Innovation in the Tech Ecosystem

Fostering entrepreneurship and innovation has become paramount for driving growth in the tech sector. At London Tech Week, panellists Dan Burgar, Co-Founder and CEO of The Frontier Collective, Nina Albert, Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development, Government of the District of Columbia, and Peter Pernot-Day, Head of Strategic and Corporate Affairs for North America and Europe SHEIN Group, discussed the importance of fostering entrepreneurship and innovation, and how this can be done.

Throughout the panel, creating a sense of community amongst founders and creating a space for them to meet with likeminded people is a huge driver in fostering entrepreneurship and innovation. Burgar explained: “Every vibrant ecosystem, especially within the venture tech field, needs an entrepreneurial ecosystem that is really supportive… What I've seen around the world is that placemaking is really at the heart of it. Innovation comes from physical space. In US corporates and government, people are together and everyone's really getting the serendipity that you get when you're in one space. I'm finding that is the next wave of innovation, where bringing people together, being able to rub shoulders, and getting that serendipity that you get when you were in the space together.”

Speaking from a Governmental angle, Nina discussed the ways the Government can aid in fostering this sense of community: “The government can really be supportive in one thing which is innovation hubs, and physical space. From the government's perspective around initiatives like innovation hubs or accelerators, all of that is about reducing the cost of capital to the entrepreneur…

“Our goal is to make it easier for the entrepreneur to get started, and so that they have the opportunity to explore, innovate, and fail without putting the entrepreneur in a position of financial distress.

“I would say from the government perspective, we have the power to do three things that complements the startup communities and briefings. One is reduced cost of capital for the individual, and innovation hubs or accelerator programmes are part of that ecosystem. The second thing that we can do is provide access to capital. So many governments have programmes with funds and grants. We tend to partner with other funding fund managers so that we're not managing the fund ourselves. And then that way, they can leverage that funding and seek entrepreneurs who need their type of funding. The third is convening power. What can we do as a government is bring people together. We can bring not only startups and entrepreneurs together, but we can also bring academic institutions to the table who have access to different types of research, we can bring the investor community that we have relationships with to the table, we can go across the border. So that's a way to power the system and scale it in a way that doesn't put all that burden on that entrepreneur to find, figure out, and navigate all of those spaces.”

It is important for governments to get involved in the tech sector and encourage innovation through different programmes and initiatives. Whilst startup founders are seen as scrappy and can pivot easily, it is of utmost importance that government initiatives continue to remain accessible to entrepreneurs and allow them to succeed.

From this governmental angle, Nina mentioned the sectors that are currently getting the most attention and funding from governments. She said: “Regardless of what government you’re from, there’s a lot of money in funding, procurement, and investment in R&D.

“Educationtech is a major area of investment, defence too, so anything having to do with defence tech like cybersecurity and AI, healthtech, and now climatetech.”

A final word of warning towards corporates and government, Burgar said: “if you’re not investing into these new technologies, you’re going to be left behind.”