We should embrace and foster success – not disincentivise it

Philip Salter
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IT IS good news that Sir Richard Branson, still the UK’s most famous self-made businessman, will be speaking at this year’s Global Entrepreneurship Congress (GEC) in Liverpool – the first ever to be held in Europe. Taking place from 9 to 16 March, this is the world’s largest gathering of “startup champions”.

Branson says: “A strong economy needs to encourage entrepreneurs to create and grow their businesses”, adding, “it’s great to see the Kauffman Foundation backing Britain by bringing the GEC, a showcase of entrepreneurial talent, to Liverpool this March.” Branson’s praise of the Kauffman Foundation is spot on. It’s an invaluable resource for entrepreneurs, the largest such organisation in the world.

However, as good as Kauffman is – and it really is outstanding – it focuses on the US. It would be great to see a similar organisation for the UK. A centre for entrepreneurship, not tied to any particular political ideology, could be transformative.

This week’s page features a profile of Will Dean (right), the co-founder of Tough Mudder, which runs events designed by the Special Forces to test participants’ strength, stamina, mental grit, and camaraderie. This Englishman in New York is now expanding his business into the UK.

The topic of Branson came up in discussion with Dean. He thinks his treatment in the UK has a lot to say about our cultural reaction to entrepreneurs. Dean said that when he tries to explain that a lot of people in the UK think Branson a little gauche and a show-off, some Americans are genuinely offended. We in the UK could learn a lot from Americans’ broad reaction to success.

Dean epitomises the vision and values of the model modern entrepreneur. It’s inspiring, but as Claire Madden argues (below), entrepreneurs are many and varied and at present the tax system penalises those that deviate from the standard model. These technical details are not going to make front page news, but if schemes are going to be designed to try to incentivise entrepreneurs, then we shouldn’t let any slip through the cracks.