In Silicon Valley, tiny businesses with big ambitions get a surprising piece of advice: start things that don’t scale. The journey to grow a disruptive giant such as AirBnB begins in a small market, doing things that baffle the outside world, winning customers with strategies that could never work across a whole country. The trick is then to change to a scalable model as you grow.
Today, barring an extraordinary reversal, Ukip will gain its first elected MP. Ukip may not look promising to the political and media establishment, but they see only strategies that don’t yet scale and miss a passionate following that can. And Douglas Carswell, its candidate in Clacton, could yet prove the vanguard of an adaptable, more scalable Ukip. A party once seen as a redoubt of populist economics and angry nativism has in Carswell a defender of the benefits of immigration, a respected policy thinker and a committed economic liberal. His rise comes alongside a manifesto far more credible than that offered in 2010.
Carswell has compared Ukip’s political model to the digital disruption of cab app Uber. If he’s right, the party won’t care if commentators continue to sneer so long as it keeps gaining more votes. In the Valley, the smart venture capital goes to good ideas that look like bad ideas – right until they get too big to stop. The test for this challenger party is not good press for how it looks now, but whether it is nimble enough to become something even bigger.
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