Ex-Dragon on James Caan, Rebecca Loos and the government

We then asked him about the white paper that he’s working on (The Richard Review), which investigates government spend and how that money benefits – or doesn’t – entrepreneurs and small businesses.

Richard has calculated the "business support industry" to be worth around £12bn and, he says, "it doesn’t do much in large part. The funds are ineffective."

The government today, Richard believes, is the last place small businesses turn to for help. There are aspects of the government’s process that work, he says, but there are a plethora of "systemic issues" that hold back the development of small businesses in Britain.

He received a hearty round of applause from the entrepreneurs and small business-owners in the audience when he asserted that the government should stop spending money on "things that don’t help, and return that money to small businesses in the form of tax."

Richard entertained the audience with the tale of the genesis of his newest software venture. "My business partner had a Rebecca Loos/David Beckham moment. He found a number of messages from his wife’s lover on her mobile phone. Like a true entrepreneur, he couldn’t help thinking, as he scrolled through these messages, ‘there’s got to be a way to have more privacy on your phone’. That’s where Trutap started – it’s a global social networking application that you can do many things with – including having more privacy."

Laughing off the question of how his new start up will make money, Richard quips: "It’s a pre-revenue model. We’re before the stage where we actually make money. Cool, huh?"

When asked how the economic downturn will affect his new venture, Richard says it’s a question of future spending: "Everyone reads the same news. As the cost of money goes up, so VCs will slow down their investment."

And how good does he think entrepreneurs are at preparing for a downturn? Short answer – again: "If you’re a good entrepreneur, you’re a bad accountant."

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