Big business could be more engaged

Philip Salter
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BARCLAYS and Vodafone have recently announced investments in London’s Tech City. No doubt some good will come out of this, but if collaborations between big businesses and start-ups are going to make a real difference, leaders of companies should look across the pond to Silicon Valley for best practice.

In the Valley, the culture of entrepreneurship is so strong that leaders of established companies regularly mix freely with young start-up entrepreneurs. Although established companies are fighting tooth and nail with their competition, senior executives give their time to help young entrepreneurs get started. And many invest their personal fortunes into bringing on the next generation of companies. Tech City is robust and self-sustaining, but there is no harm in trying to learn something from the finest entrepreneurial hub in the world.

Silicon Valley also offers a model of how businesses can inspire people. A YouGov study commissioned by Sage, the business software and services provider, reveals that one in four people (23 per cent) want to start a business. And if this research is sign of things to come, London won’t be cultivating all of tomorrow’s entrepreneurs. Newcastle, Sunderland, Sheffield and Leeds have more people wanting to build a business. This isn’t being driven by a lack of job opportunities – quite the opposite – areas with fewer opportunities were less entrepreneurial. In Scotland and Northern Ireland, both hotspots for high public sector employment, just one in 20 people plan to starting their own business.

But as Nathalie Dauriac-Stoebe argues (article right), not everyone is cut out to be an entrepreneur. Sage’s survey also found that the most popular businesses people want to set up are vintage clothing specialists and cake decorating shops. Although it’s impossible to know exactly how many cakes this country will need decorating, it’s hard to believe we will suffer from a massive dearth in this area. It’s tougher at the bottom than the top.

Twitter: @Philip_Salter