Startup Catalyst

New entrepreneurship centers will promote business training.
Startup Catalyst
THREE ORGANIZATIONS HAVE JOINED FORCES to give a boost to entrepreneurial activity in Eastern Europe. They include the Global Business School Network (GBSN), an alliance of business schools that promotes business education in emerging countries; IPM Business School in Minsk, Belarus; and Pyxera Global, a nonprofit in Washington, D.C., that matches MBAs with pro bono assignments around the world. The three partners will collaborate to implement the Delivering Regional Instruction Vital to Entrepreneurial Success Belarus (DRIVES), a program designed to provide entrepreneurship training to the Belarusian private sector.

Funded by USAID, DRIVES will establish six Centers of Excellence in Entrepreneurship (CEEs) in the cities of Minsk, Brest, Grodno, Vitebsk, Mogilev, and Gomel. Each center will provide the country’s entrepreneurs with access to technology, trained staff, and courses taught by business school faculty.

Faculty from the University of Maryland in College Park and Babson College in Babson Park, Massachusetts, will participate in the effort, and pro bono advisors from MBAs Without Borders will be available to offer guidance. Program coordinators plan to create new courses such as IT Entrepreneurship and Effective Partnering.

Startup activity is on the rise in Belarus, thanks largely to a series of governmental reforms put into place since 2006, explains Guy Pfeffermann, CEO of GBSN. For instance, the government eliminated a practice called the “Golden Share,” which authorized state intervention in private business, and it established a process that made it possible for people to register new businesses in a single day. Officials also created tax incentives for business investment. One such incentive involves the Belarus High Technologies Park. Tech companies that are park residents will have their taxes waived until the year 2020; the individual income tax for their employees is fixed at 9 percent until 2020 as well. In a surprising twist, businesses do not have to be physically located in the park itself to be “residents”; eligible firms can reap the benefits from anywhere in Belarus.

Such measures have helped Belarus move from 106th place to 57th place on the World Bank’s “Doing Business” ranking, which measures the ease of starting, growing, and managing businesses in different countries. But even so, “Belarusian entrepreneurs suffer from a shortage of qualitative business education,” says Pavel Daneyko, IPM’s general director. DRIVES and the six CEEs will help “make business education more affordable [and] contribute to the growth of competitiveness in Belarusian enterprises.”