StartUp Britain and the entrepreneurial community in the UK

A campaign called StartUp Britain started today; it was launched by several entrepreneurs and is endorsed by the British Government. Seeing the Prime Minister, Chancellor, Business representative of the government promoting an initiative to help entrepreneurs is a start. Combined with the recent changes to the budget – in particular the tweaks to the Enterprise Investment Scheme (EIS), R&D tax credits –and the recent changes to start up visas here in the UK, it’s actually a great start. In fact in the last month the UK today has become a much better place to start a company.

Unfortunately, the reaction by the entrepreneurial community has been quite negative. Lots of negative comments on the website that’s apparently at the centre of the campaign. Issues about links to US companies and the execution of the site miss the point.

The point is that entrepreneurship is seen by the government as important and there is an opportunity to harness support, change policies and build networks to help support and give entrepreneurs a better chance at succeeding.

Which is why the cynicism directed at the campaign and the calls for heads for partnering with a US company really annoyed me. I cheekily tweeted that:

“#startupbritain cynicism shows the difference between US/UK! In the US, the response would be cool, let’s get to work.”

To be fair, I don’t think that would be the exact reaction, I just think the US is better at celebrating success and at not paying much attention to failure. As well Americans seem to treat programs that they don’t believe would work with indifference. When the government fails the start up community in the US there’s a powerful movement to solve it. From VCs meeting with heads of state to blog posts that end up turned into op-ed pieces in powerful media outposts. When an entrepreneur does something for the community in the US it seems like the community either helps him make it better or moves on quickly to making their own company a success.

This may be naïve, but I have seen a lot of mud slinging and not a lot of productive feedback. Don’t get me wrong there are some pockets it the UK that are supporting this and are encouraging the movement and there are some really snarky responses to government initiatives in the US as well, I just think the ratio of support : snark / cynicism is reversed and we’re holding our own community here in the UK back as a result of it.

So put aside the cynicism for a second, if you don’t like #startupBritain just move on. If you have a way to improve it give the feedback to the team, and if you’re supportive of the movement carry on. Building great companies in the UK is difficult, we’re going to need all the help we can get and knocking down