Global Entrepreneurship Week: the fanfare may be over but that doesn't mean we should stop banging the drum for UK enterprise.
As part of Global Entrepreneurship Week, I attended a number of events that left me feeling both inspired and passionate that now, more than ever, we need to step up.
Last Monday I was at The House of Lords celebrating The Enterprising Britain 2010 Awards, hosted by Lord Ahmed, chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Entrepreneurship. Mark Prisk, minister of state for business and enterprise, was also there. We heard about the achievements of the finalists and winners, all of whom demonstrated innovation, drive and commitment.
On Thursday I attended an event at NESTA, Silicon Valley Comes to the UK. It was a fantastic opportunity for more than 100 UK entrepreneurs to meet with and learn from top business people from across the pond, including LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman, Mike Schroepfer, VP of engineering at Facebook and John Lilly, CEO of Mozilla. It was amazing to share challenges and questions, learn from each other and discuss themes such as recruitment, growth and financing.
Next up was the Future 100 Awards organised by Striding Out, a social enterprise committed to supporting the development and growth of young and ethical entrepreneurs. We were pleased to accept one of the awards and be recognised as one of the ten (out of 100) highly-commended companies.
In the past five years, with one of the most challenging times in the global economy, we’ve grown our business, studentbeans.com, from two to 25 employees, signed up more than 500,000 registered users and established a brand. No easy feat – and the fact is that if it was easy, everyone would be doing it. Entrepreneurship isn’t for the faint hearted or for people that want to set up an idea on a whim – but the possibilities really are endless.
Global Entrepreneurship Week is a phenomenal event, with more than ten million people participating in over 40,000 events, but the value and importance of entrepreneurship needs to go beyond just one week of the year.
As a regular speaker at schools and universities, I recognise the importance of standing up and being a role model for those that are considering setting up on their own. If we are to see a real change in enterprise in the UK, it needs to be brought into the fold and not seen as an extracurricular activity. There needs to be more of an acceptance that being an entrepreneur is a viable career choice.
The challenge as I see it, is that the educators and parents need to be educated first (or at least at the same time) to facilitate the right culture, environment and ecosystem for the next generation of entrepreneurs. Failure in the UK is frowned upon whereas in the US, it is far more widely accepted – for many American investors, a failure or two is a prerequisite.
I often find myself quoting David Taylor, author of The Naked Leader: "Imagine if you couldn’t fail. Who would you be? Where would you go? And what would you do?"
James Eder is the founder of studentbeans.com