Developing Entrepreneurs At Learning Institutions

Some of the leading technology businesses were created by young people during their academic years. To operate these businesses they had to sacrifice their academic dreams to pursue their business dreams. These days some students do not have to sacrifice their academic dreams to pursue business dreams as academic institutions are building relationships with incubators and creating them within varsities.

In such institutions students learn and practice entrepreneurship whilst they are still at varsity. They don’t have to dropout as entrepreneurship is part of the institutions curriculum delivery.


The only problem is that most institutions that are implementing entrepreneurship incubators in South Africa are not getting the pass mark.

Recently Stephen Timm wrote an article for the Business Day about a disturbing trend that is currently developing with incubators that are designed to nurture young entrepreneurs in academic institutions.

These incubators are failing to take off and do what they are supposed to do.

According to this opinion piece it seems the incubators themselves are not entrepreneurial in their approach to setup and run the incubators. Reasons highlighted for their failure to operate indicates how much still needs to be done to create institutions that can develop entrepreneurs in varsities.

The following are some of the contributing factors to failure for some of these incubators:

  • Accreditation: Waiting for accreditation from SETAs
  • Human resources: Lack of adequate staff to operate incubators
  • Selection criteria: using academic selection criteria to identify potential entrepreneurs


If incubators are to take off and deliver, they need to be entrepreneurial in their own right. Instead of waiting for permission and funding from SETAs, they need to find innovative ways of delivering on their mandate.

The following are just some of the actions they need to take:

  • Accreditation: developing people without waiting for SETA accreditation
  • Human resources: involve students as part of incubator team
  • Selection criteria: use pitch as basis for selection

Overall incubators need to find innovative and alternative ways of raising funding. Failure to raise alternative funds will lead to a closure of these incubators when funding allocated comes to an end after their 5 year cycle.