Opinion

After Growth Accelerator: Time for the disruptors to design the future of real business?

4 min read

08 December 2015

It's been clear for some time that entrepreneur support and education have just not kept up in a world where new jobs are badly needed and created almost exclusively by entrepreneurs in the startup and SME sector. Now it's time to come together in this time of disruption. It's time for a re-think...and a little lemonade.

Having spent the last three years travelling the country and he world talking to entrepreneurs, we’ve given a lot of thought to this. That has included meeting with ministers including business secretary Sajid Javid and predecessor Vince Cable, as well as a long running conversation with BIS and The Treasury on a range of entrepreneur-related subjects – but especially disruption and crowdfunding.

Over many months we have discovered, designed and proven new ways to harness alternative funding to fund entrepreneurs and the support they need to get off the ground and fly. Not just the disruptors, gazelles and potential unicorns (although them too) but the many thousands of people who are going to need to create their own job and a livelihood for their families as AI, automation, robots and IT decimate the big-jobs base in corporate big business. Businesses that can serve, and serve to rebuild, local communities.

We have studied what works (precious little) and what doesn’t – plenty. It’s also included time in the spiritual home of the tech entrepreneur, Silicon Valley. What works invariably involves entrepreneurs supporting entrepreneurs.

A new ecosystem built on the “sharing economy”

The 3,000 advisors just shown the door by George Osborne and Sajid Javid have skills and need clients. There are no shortage of entrepreneurs who need those skills. Those who say things like “if the advice is good enough, small businesses will pay their way” either don’t know, or have forgotten, what it’s like in a startup or a business struggling to grow, and already stretched.

Lending used to be the Swiss Army Knife for this – it no longer is. Nor will it be in the future. The nature of banks have changed (and they’re not going back) and so has the nature of business. It’s mostly based on creativity, ideas and know-how not assets which can provide collateral.

What lending used to do was bring forward a small portion of the fruits of the harvest (whether that’s corn or manufactured goods) and use that to buy the seed corn or other raw materials needed to get there. The government’s Growth Accelerator scheme was better than nothing but ill-suited to solve this, the conundrum of our modern economy. What it did do was displace other sources of funding and possible solutions.

Coming together to make lemonade

While this is an unnecessary crisis, especially for some of the 3,000, let’s seize the opportunity for change. As Saras Sarasvathy has famously pointed out this is one of the characteristics of the entrepreneur – it’s what we do.

Who killed the UK's Business Growth Service?

The other thing that entrepreneurs know how to do, given the right environment, is collaborate – where necessary while competing. This is what makes Silicon Valley the Northern (Californian) Powerhouse it is – and every successful entrepreneurial ecosystem I’ve seen. It’s why with no open launch and no budget eFundingHubs have accelerated from zero to more than 80 hubs across the UK and around the world in a matter of months.

Business as usual is not the answer.

Town hall meeting

So what is the answer? Let’s come together (online here) to find out and crowdsource the answer.

Collectively we have up to 3,000 experts in every field of business. Let’s put that together with the latest in fintech and alternative finance and collaborate together to create something from which we can all benefit. Entrepreneurs, the experts who support them and the world, who’s economy we are rebuilding. But not “business as usual”. This time entrepreneurs first.

Anger at culling of Business Growth Service “only just finding its feet”