Democratizing Incubation: Creating a Virtual Startup Ecosystem

Q&A with Stefanie Bauer

Stefanie Bauer leads the Africa work of Intellecap's Business Consulting and Research team. She discusses her vision to build a virtual ecosystem that provides startups from across the world with capital, advice and networks.

Why did you submit your proposal for the Symposium?

We have been working on Startup Wave for the last one and a half years [...] We really wanted to discuss it with a larger audience, with other practitioners that have similarly great ideas [...] but also make it known and also potentially scale it up to other regions. We have been doing it in India; we now want to do it in Africa. We want to bring Startup Wave as a solution to other regions in the world, so getting feedback from a larger audience and other innovators who have similarly developed something great was really the objective.

What are you trying to achieve?

At Intellecap we have been working with entrepreneurs [...] providing different kinds of support: advisory, capital, networks. But we also saw that we are reaching our own limits to scale. [...] We found that using technology and leveraging technology could be one solution to help more entrepreneurs, more start-ups, in India and outside India. We have created this idea of a virtual ecosystem for entrepreneurs, working closely with mentors, venture capitalists, investors, and helping entrepreneurs in a virtual world to bring their ideas into scalable businesses. So Startup Wave is our approach to incubate businesses online, to provide them with the best support with mentors from our network and helping really them turn their ideas into viable businesses.

What challenges and obstacles have you faced?

Typical questions that people are asking: so how can an entrepreneur in a place outside the capital cities access a virtual entrepreneur ecosystem? Maybe we don’t have the Internet all over India, maybe we don’t have access to such a platform all over. But what we have found is actually in a lot of smaller towns, around 90 percent of the businesses are using Internet. [...] On the other hand, we also realize only virtual support might limit our success so we are combining it now with a smart way of having physical events and having face-to-face interactions with entrepreneurs because we realize building that face-to-face trust is one element of actually helping entrepreneurs. 

What takeaways do you have from the Symposium?

It’s always great to meet other entrepreneurs, other innovators, who are coming up with interesting and innovative solutions in their organizations. So having met 11 other innovators that have great ideas was definitely something that I take away. But also a lot of the academic feedback, which we normally maybe don’t get once we are in our practical world, working on the ground, was also very, very helpful, to have discussion on a little bit of a larger, and a macro level, and see how our solution, which we are developing in a small context, contributes to a much larger agenda and a much larger conversation that is happening globally.