12 March, 2007
Lack of Entrepreneurship in UK - stop whining
Why Britain needs to change its view of entrepreneurs
I find the point of view that UK lacks a culture of entrepreneurship short-sighted - get over it - innovation is a second class career in the UK. This is from a Brit that has bounced between both sides of the Atlantic, who has founded an internet company in the UK, but now lives in the US tech community.
As Napoleon described UK as a nation of shopkeepers 200 years ago, the same is true today. The UK is blessed with historical existence of the City of London, a financial trading power house that generates billions of dollars of value. It's an center of excellence whose contribution to the UK FAR exceeds that of other trading centers of similar size. As a result, the UK (and the Scottish even more so) are supremely skilled in dissecting risk and reapportioning it and trading it. This contribution is something that the UK should be thankful for and, at the same time, recognizes what is disables.
So, imagine I am a bright, young thing in the UK, fresh out of school or university. The most profitable method of being successful is to be drawn to the bright lights of the metropolis and work in 'the City' - where I use other people's money to buy and sell resources and to shave off a commission out of other people's ventures. Would I even consider assuming the majority of the risk of a venture myself? You must be 'havin' a laugh'.
It is well known that immigrants are much more likely to start new businesses for the reasons that they usually lack powerful networks of local contacts and cannot bring an existing reputation in their new country. They rely on their own intuition to build a shelter for themselves and their family.
UK enviously looks over its shoulder to the US, a nation of immigrants with an immense repository of raw commodities and natural resources. It's a nation so large that it can't be dominated by the financial industry in New York (a country can only have one financial center after all). As a result, any bright, hard-working American considers entrepreneurship to be perfectly valid career choice.
Speaking from personal experience, I have found the UK venture community to be superb at quantifying the risk in a start-up business - analyzing it, slicing it and dicing it, synchronizing it perfectly with the rest of their portfolio of investments. They may (or may not!) provide the cash for the venture, but infrequently the practical expertise to assist the new business.
The venture community in the US, on the other hand, provides not only the cash, but also the understanding of the fledgling business (as frequently those with the cash have been successful entrepreneurs themselves, thereby perpetuating the cycle) and are more likely to jump into the ditch and dig or into the boat and row (you chose your metaphor!).
So my answer to British whiners is: if you don't like the golden egg, then kill the goose, otherwise recognize its limitations and be grateful!