Aruba) New Opportunities through Business Incubation

Aruba as a business incubator island will be the difference for new start-ups and starting companies to become solid innovative companies and revolutionize the way we do business in Aruba.

One dream of the Chamber of Commerce is to see the creation of a business incubator to become a reality: a platform where the local entrepreneur, investor, tourist, student, and researcher can take part in as a community. This entrepreneurial ecosystem will be the core of all the possibilities within each field and expertise to connect, co-create, collaborate, and innovate. Once Aruba becomes a business incubator island, it would create infinite possibilities for the business community in Aruba to prosper and use innovation as a driver to stimulate economic growth. Aruba has a tourism-driven economy and the need to diversify has been strongly encouraged by the government. 

Through business incubators it is possible to stimulate innovations and to diversify. Hereby developing new sectors where startups and SME’s can get the support they need to grow in an economic revolution. The entrepreneurs have always been confronted with obstacles mainly due to permits and funding. In the last years, many stakeholders in entrepreneurship have resorted to joining forces to try and mitigate some of the obstacles they face. In this structure some early adopters who made agreements in sharing office spaces have paved what is to become an incubator. These include BEAM in downtown Oranjestad that focuses on the creative industry, Co-Lab in Dakota that focuses on IT/Tech, and The Vault in downtown Oranjestad that focuses on cross-sector startups and starting companies. Other trendsetters include Cas di Cultura, the University of Aruba and a shared office space in San Nicolas. There are digital platforms supporting entrepreneurship in our region like caribconnect.net powered by COSME. The platform offers the opportunity for starters to meet potential investors looking for collaboration.

COSME conducted a feasibility study at the end of April this year and the preliminary results were very positive. The stakeholders expressed their enthusiasm in setting up an ecosystem with the involvement of the shared office spaces that have already been established for incubation. Interestingly, all of them represent a particular sector or niche and they all share the same challenges: limited resources such as time, collaboration between places and a solid strategy. The main advice coming from this study was the need to create a driving force through the triple helix model. This model is composed by bringing the government, the private sector and the knowledge centers together. 

By means of collaboration all parties and activities involved flow out from one collective plan of action.One of the first points on their agenda is to establish a Community and Marketing & PR Manager. The main focuses for these managers are:

1) Create an ecosystem on the island by connecting all existing parties. Promote and create awareness of business incubation and how to participate as a start-up.
2) Continue building on the existing physical and digital infrastructure of the ecosystem. A responsibility of the Marketing & PR manager is to create a marketing layer to connect the   existing and new members in the ecosystem based on both local and international actors.
3) Bring to life a Business Incubator Agency within the triple helix model. The main duty of the agency should be to expose and position Aruba as the island for business incubation.

“This model is composed by bringing the government, the private sector and the knowledge centers together”

The idea is that Aruba is to be seen as the island with all the opportunities, space facilities and tools which come together in proper entrepreneurship. It should trigger the appetite of the local but also the international business community to see the benefits through cross-pollination for all sorts of entrepreneurs. Aruba positioned as a business incubator island will immediately stimulate diversification of the economy, expanding the knowledge economy and stimulate brain gain back to the island. For Aruba, a knowledge based economy offers the opportunity for diversification in terms of focusing and continue to develop its strong sectors. As a pioneer in business incubator, Aruba could bring over the concept to a regional level.

What’s next …
The force behind the idea for a business incubator for Aruba has to continue moving forward to formalize the rough draft in collaboration with the stakeholders. With the information from the feasibility study it is possible to continue and create a business plan. The business plan will present the roadmap towards a self-sustainable business incubator embracing all the locations and actors. Some business incubator activities or services which are being considered are membership fees, events, grants and so on.

How do incubators work?

Finance: Incubators help SME’s and start-ups save on operating costs. Participants in an incubator can share the same facilities and overhead expenses, such as utilities, office equipment rentals, and receptionist services. 

Management: SME’s and start-ups also need guidance on how to compete successfully with established industry players. There are benefits of having respected individuals on their boards of directors and scientific advisory panels because they bring in important connections and experience.

Synergy: SME’s and start-up entrepreneurs can provide encouragement to one another, and employees may share ideas on new approaches to old problems and hereby speeding growth, personally and collectively.

Networking: Incubators, accelerators and even co-working spaces are potential prowling grounds for venture capitalists (investors) looking for new, compelling startups and SME’s. Those venues are also proving to be rich in networking opportunities for lawyers, accountants and business advisors.

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