A wake-up call for entrepreneurship in the United Kingdom

Philip Salter
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A SIMPLE formula exists for writing about entrepreneurs: humble beginnings + fighting against the odds + eventual success = inspiring story. The fairytale profile certainly has its place, but entrepreneurship is a subject that deserves a bit more rigour. After all, it’s entrepreneurs that help create the future for the rest of us.

The significance of the subject doesn’t escape Eric Ries, the co-founder of IMVU – an online social entertainment website, in which users have literally created their own virtual world, including an economy. He is driven to improve the process of starting a business by getting under the bonnet – or hood, as the San Franciscan would say – of the process, as my interview with him (right) makes clear.

The Lean Startup, his widely acclaimed book on the subject, is a forceful and immediate call for constant innovation – he rigorously, and convincingly, argues that a lot of startups are wasting time, money and resources. Lean Startup meet-ups have sprung up across the world based on his message – testament to its originality. He blogs at www.startuplessons.com.

But take a step back from the engines of growth and it is the environment in which entrepreneurs operate, or don’t, that matters. Although there are always entrepreneurs – even under communism, some plucky individuals find ways of extracting added value from the little the system allows – this doesn’t mean we should take their existence for granted.

Numbers matter, and the UK risks scaring off established entrepreneurs, as new research from the Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO) reveals (below). Their findings bring to mind the insights of the French economist Frédéric Bastiat, when considering the unseen impact of government policy. The EO reveal a glimpse of the future intentions of established entrepreneurs planning – or not planning – to set up businesses in the UK. The results aren’t encouraging. The take-away statistic is that UK entrepreneurs are half as likely to be planning to set up new businesses as the global average.