Yesterday was the first day of Global Entreprenurship Week – a global initiative to promote entrepreneurship.
We’re involved in a couple of ways.
Firstly I’m a Young Ambassador (emphasis on the “young” please!) for Enterprise UK, the government-funded agency at the center of it all.
Secondly, we’ve donated £200k of accounting software to them to provide to startup businesses around the UK.
The launch event took place yesterday at the British Library with a conference on entrepreneurship. Yes, it sounds awfully dull but actually it was a very interesting morning with a great line up of speakers.
There was one point made that really grabbed my attention. There was a lot of talk about what government can do to encourage startups. There were some valid suggestions such as lowering tax for startups and payroll costs for your first few staff.
Peter Jones of Dragons’ Den fame got slightly irritated and asked what government has to do with it. The point he was making is that if you’re going to start a business, you’re going to start a business. With or without help from the government. People need to take responsibility for their own lives and not depend on the government. His comments received spontaneous applause from everyone in the audience, myself included.
You do have to take control of your own life and make things happen – no one, least of all the government – is going to do it for you.
David Wei, CEO of Alibaba.com also spoke at the event. He attributes a lot of the entrepreneurial activity coming out of China to the lack of a “safety net”. By which I’m assuming he means the welfare system we have here in the UK. So in China if you have no way of making a living you either embark on entrepreneurial activity of some sort, or you starve. Simple as that.
I didn’t miss the irony of the fact that these comments were coming from an event organised by a government funded group.
So does the government have any part to play in encouraging startups? Do they cause more problems than they solve by putting in place a safety net?
I’m not advocating that we should entirely scrap the welfare system in the UK in favour of the harsh reality of life in China. But it’s certainly food for thought.