By: Charge d’Affaires of US Embassy to B&H Nicholas M. Hill
Earlier this week, the U.S. Embassy organized the Sarajevo film premiere of “Jobs,” which tells the story of Steve Jobs: American entrepreneur, inventor, and founder of Apple Inc. Apple’s notable success, both through its technical innovations and its business model, has inspired entrepreneurs across the world. While Mr. Jobs’ personal story and ambition are inspirational, his success prompts a vital question for both businesspeople and government policy makers around the world — how did the California region now famously known as Silicon Valley provide the foundation and social fabric for the success of Apple and so many other technology companies?
In 1976 in a suburb south of San Francisco, Mr. Jobs and his partners launched Apple Computers literally from his parents’ garage. Out of that garage, they built the Apple of today, which directly employs 80,000 people around the world; indirectly supports 300,000 jobs for its suppliers and partners in the United States alone; and provides many more employment opportunities overseas.
The success of Silicon Valley is often touted as a model for creating a successful business environment. Even in the United States, there is an ongoing debate for how to replicate Silicon Valley’s success. Like Steve Jobs’ efforts to build Apple, most entrepreneurs suffer some major setbacks along the way. There is no magic pill. More startups in Silicon Valley fail than become the next Google, Apple, or Cisco; but people keep trying because they feel inspired to do so.
Undeniably, living, studying and working near other entrepreneurs and start-ups excited Jobs’ imagination. The unique environment that encouraged so many technology entrepreneurs has a few distinct and unmistakable ingredients:
- An investment climate that attracts financial capital;
- Skilled and motivated workers;
- Flexible labor laws; and
- Universities with a focus on emerging fields in science, engineering, and technology.
History shows that companies like Apple do not generally emerge in countries where the business climate is suffocating, where labor markets are rigid, and where political control over companies and corruption are endemic. This is Bosnia and Herzegovina’s challenge. Creating a welcoming and supportive business climate is the answer. It requires investment in the next generation of engineers, innovators, and business leaders. It also demands the creation of a business climate that encourages private sector growth and flexibility. And finally, it necessitates government investments for the future, including high-quality physical and social infrastructure.
Despite its numerous business challenges, Bosnia and Herzegovina has people seeking to transform the country’s economy and create jobs and new opportunities. These entrepreneurs and business leaders are striving to expand their businesses in the face of barriers erected by their very own political leaders – political leaders who often brazenly stir up ethnic tensions to mask their own venality. New and expanded businesses not only create employment, they also contribute to Bosnia and Herzegovina through their innovative ideas; quality service; and the taxes they pay, which support health and pension benefits and desperately-needed infrastructure upgrades.
At the film premiere I urged business leaders to make their voices heard and to tell their political leaders to fix the legal and regulatory shackles that obstruct private sector growth. Politicians must listen. In Bosnia and Herzegovina, changes are needed to make it easier to attract more foreign investment, start more companies, and hire more people. There are inspirational stories of innovation and entrepreneurship here in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the people of this country – from Banja Luka to Mostar, from Sarajevo to Trebinje — certainly have the ability to do great things. The goal is clear: with an improved business climate and reduced corruption, Bosnia and Herzegovina’s own visionaries like Steve Jobs will be one step closer to turning their dreams into reality.
(Source: US Embassy Blog)