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Dragon takes to the barricades

Kathleen Brooks
CONTESTANTS on the BBC’s Dragon’s Den dream of getting one of the show’s successful entrepreneurs on board to support their business. They could be in luck. Earlier this week, former Dragon Doug Richard launched the rather grandly titled The Entrepreneurs’ Manifesto and Declaration of Rights.

“A spectre is haunting the United Kingdom – the spectre of capitalism,” it begins, and goes on to criticise an economic system which bails out large banks even when they fail and an ever-increasing state. Instead of rewarding large, “amoral corporations”, he says that as a country we ought to encourage “wealth creators”, those who take a chance and try to start up new businesses.

The manifesto’s launch is timed to coincide with the general election campaign, and the aim is to persuade the next government to cut the “unparalleled levels of regulatory red tape” that Richard says is strangling UK entrepreneurs and small businesses.

One of the manifesto “demands” is that the government opens up its procurement chain to small businesses. Richard also wants the government to scrap what he calls its “ineffective” business support activities and instead to provide more financial incentives for angel and family investment in entrepreneurial enterprises.

He certainly knows the world of the entrepreneur. He was president and CEO of Micrografx, a US publicly-quoted software company, between 1996 and 2000, and before that founded and sold two other software firms: Visual Software and ITAL Computers.

The manifesto is the result of the Californian’s New Year’s resolution, which he says is “not to be silent”. Richard wants to make the UK an “entrepreneur nation”. And although he is spearheading this movement, he wants entrepreneurs to speak up and stop being so apolitical: “The irony here is that we almost need an entrepreneurs union, we need a mechanism for people to rally around and get their voices heard,” he says.

Entrepreneurs of the world, you have nothing to lose but your chains.