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#StartupBritain – My thoughts

I have been asked by so many people today what my thoughts are on Startup Britain and the way it has been launched. I have purposely taken a step back and watched rather than just wade in with an opinion.

For those of you not aware of what it is, StartUp Britain is a Government endorsed initiative led by 8 entrepreneurs intending to encourage and support new business and business growth in the UK.

The initial launch has caused a massive response from the business community because their perception is that it appears self serving to the founders and that it is signposting international companies rather than supporting UK business. The most comprehensive response can be found here and has been re-tweeted over 800 times at the time of writing.

I must declare my interests here. I know several of the entrepreneurs behind this initiative fairly well and believe in my heart of hearts that their intentions are good and ultimate vision is excellent. The question is will it ever be realised with so much negativity directed at them from day one?

There is no getting away from the fact that mistakes have been made and I think their biggest failing is not explaining that there is much more to come. This is only the starting phase.

Does Britain need this? I believe so. We live in a country where you need a licence to fish, yet you can start a business, employ staff without any idea what your obligations are as an employer. Failure to get this right, in extreme circumstances can lead to a custodial sentence. Is it important for new business owners to make informed, educated decisions? Of course it is.

I believe many people who start a new business are leveraging skills from past careers and have decided to go it alone. They may be knowledgeable in their fields but don’t necessarily understand how to market or sell these services. Having somewhere to find information & resources to support growth is essential.

I know this initiative has been put together at incredibly short notice, less than a month in fact. What you can see so far really is just like a holding page. Do I think they have made mistakes? Absolutely. Personally I think they should have taken more time to consider the impact of this on all parties involved, from the entrepreneurs to the politicians. But isn’t that typical behaviour from an entrepreneur? They just want to get on with it!

I have watched the twitter stream from one or two of the interested parties and they do seem to be listening & acknowledging the cock ups. A friend of mine tweeted the question “If they hold their hands up and put it all right will people move on and support? I hope so.

Credit where credit is due. To get so many companies involved and committed at such short notice is no small task. There is clearly the will from the private sector to support UK enterprise. It was rightly pointed out by many of the early detractors, many of these offers are also readily available elsewhere on the web if you search. But isn’t the point of this early website to signpost deals & discounts business owners can take advantage of so they don’t have to search? Many wont have been aware of them in the first place!

Another criticism is the linking to American logo sites. I am not even going to attempt to defend this mistake. Many of my members are in the creative industries and actually have special offers for small businesses. This is a blunder and one I hope gets corrected soon.

As I mentioned above I believe this is just the first phase and there is more to come. I hope they are given the chance to repair the initial damage.

I also hope they acknowledge the existing organisations that are out there supporting small business every day. The networking organisations, Chambers of Commerce, Forum for Private Business, Federation of Small Businesses (Said reluctantly in the interests of being balanced), existing coaching and mentoring programmes etc etc. Other online resources and not just those owned by the founders of which there are many in the UK providing bags of useful content.

There is a big opportunity here to SERIOUSLY ADD VALUE! I not only think they are capable of delivering but I believe it is needed. What are you doing to help? I know how I can.

I am watching with a very keen interest and hope this is considered balanced!

Several more blogs if you are interested. See how opinion is divided…

Duane Jackson – StartUp Britain and the concept enlightened self interest

Knowledgeblog – StartUp Britain, who benefits?

Blokes on the Blog – StartUp Britain OMFG

Create – StartUp Britain, What are you doing?

 

 

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About Warren

Warren Cass is the social media strategist who helps businesses find their feet with tools such as Twitter, You Tube, Facebook etc and co- author of Zero to Social Media Subscribe to my email newsletter for a free social media checklist.

Comments

  1. I’ve counted 4 laws broken.

    1) Business Names Act, no declaration of entity
    2) Data Protection – no privacy policy, declaration
    3) ASA – voucher advertising is flawed

    The issue taken here is that their practices are some of the wost to be seen.

    I am taking part in a #30DayBlog challenge by @nikkipilkington. Tomorrow I will offer up 5 tips on how they can rectify this. Great blog Warren.

    If you want to read my blog, find it here:
    http://www.blokesontheblog.co.uk/startupbritain-omfg/
    TweetsBySkeet recently posted..TweetsBySkeet- RT @CustomerIdeas- Dont have a social media strategy- have a marketing strategy and make it social – Facebook smwfMy Profile

  2. Very well put Warren, but be careful with the phrase ‘Government backed’ Start up Britain is only Government supported. They aren’t backing financially this scheme cameron made it very clear yesterday that small business & entrepreneurs need to help themselves and their peers.

    • Sure Richard, I meant backed as in endorsed. Thanks for making it clear!

    • Richard,

      these people involved are entrepreneurs. I do not see them helping ‘small businesses’, only themselves. It seems to be that the Government is helping Entrepreneurs help themselves to consumers who are not yet ‘SmallBusinesses’.

      Is this where the mix up is happening?
      TweetsBySkeet recently posted..TweetsBySkeet- RT @CustomerIdeas- Dont have a social media strategy- have a marketing strategy and make it social – Facebook smwfMy Profile

      • Is it possible for people to help others whilst helping themselves at the same time? As long as interests are declared I don’t have an issue with that.

      • TweetBySkeet: I am afraid that I am going to have to disagree with you on that fact that these guys have only been helping themselves. There may well be an income stream generated by the affiliate style campaigns here, but there are still costs associated with the running of this and there is a huge time cost and if some of that time expended in helping others is remunerated then that is no crime.

  3. I have just had a conversation with one of the founders and can confirm they are listening to every criticism and have already taken action on some of the points.

    They are really keen to make things right I am assured and lets watch this space!

    • It’s interesting that these ‘experts’ feel there is room to ‘make things right’. I’m all for positivity amongst startups and it will be interesting to read what changes they will make. I’m all for immediate change, I’m impartial to it, but I really can’t see some of the people they’ve truly upset even giving them the time of day.

      Unfortunately, in this #AttentionEconomy, they struggle to get peoples attentions again.

      The rest of us are all busy delivering services to traders.

      In essence, the problem with hardened entrepreneurs, is they’re constantly thinking of the profit angle for themselves. There is nothing “good” that has been done here. Whose fault is it? The founders? The PR Company? The Website Designer? Who???

      There’s no need to answer this.

      Their priority should have been in creating a SAFE environment unconnected with any commercial interests.

      Shame.

      Generally, you only get one stab; I hope they’ve not wasted it.

  4. Nice well rounded piece there. I think on the whole I totally align with what you’re saying. I too saw the potential of and overall motivation behind of Start Up Britain but also speaking as someone from the creative industries was outraged that they were endorsing a US company.

    When questioning one of the proponents the answer that came back was ‘Well shouldn’t’ we have a 99Designs in the UK?’ I’m not really sure that for a startup that needs sound advice that sending them off to a crowd-sourcing solution is going to be of any use whether it’s here or on the other side of the world simply because it’s ‘cheap’ – get what you pay for.

    As you say ‘blunder’ and one that hopefully is quickly rectified. Anyone running a book on how long it will take to rectify?

    • Thanks for commenting Gary, I know you and I share several opinions having read your blog several times.

      I totally agree you get what you pay for and this was a mistake. If I were in there shoes this would be at the top of my priority list.

      Mistakes are made all the time, its how we deal with them and put things right that counts.

  5. This is a very kind view, in your blog, Warren.

    Here, we have the “best” alleged minds, throwing up a website in short order, true. However, in their meetings they must have all agreed “yeah, whack your glasses on there, mate, flog a few”, and “slap Cameron’s head on the top, any old way will do”, and “get 100 Googled links up, doesn’t matter how good they are or if the links resolve, just put them in approximate categories” and the worst of all “THAT’LL DO”.

    They MUST have discussed all this stuff, they can’t have proof read it and seen all the typos, no one can have checked the links for quality (or country of target) or if they even work, in some cases.

    Someone must have said “I can get better offers than those in my junk mail”, but no one did anything about it.

    The best that can be said is: “it shipped”, but the reactions (almost 90%) of existing entrepreneurs, businesses and bloggers (away from the paid PR stuff) is very critical.

    You say it will be fixed in short order, but why not immediately. if there is something wrong on my website, I do it immediately – and my website must be the most complicated of anyone here, or commenting. Do the changes have to go back to committee? The same committee that said “THAT’LL DO”?

    It is just poor, poor content, poor offers, poor links, poor copy checking, poor images, poor advice, and poor communication of the intent. And it is the creation of a PR company representing the clients, the board members… let’s not forget that.

    The consumers reading the site (ie the people about to get started in business” are consumers but little attention has been paid to claims that breach ASA code, and statutory information and privacy policy etc is all missing. Very basic stuff. Very basic. The site does not pass the legals, even. The time frame is no excuse for this non-compliance.

    The celebrities clamoured for the association with Cameron et al, none of them (obviously) checked the site beforehand or felt they should remark on issues, if they did check it.

    Astonishingly poor execution and it is embarrassing for British business.

    I have made my own offer to display, better than all the rest (£100 of free fuel for anyone taking a new car or van, not time limited, not specific to any model or make), but will it be displayed? It’s more useful than 20% a pair of reading glasses! …but I doubt it. Meanwhile people like Duane at Kashflow are going all out to praise the site, desperate to get a link up. Blatantly. Let’s see whose link gets up first, mine or Dwayne’s.

    The website is a milk cow link-farm for the favoured few. At the moment. Will it improve? Either 1) I hope so, or 2) I hope it dies. Because it offers very little at the moment, verging on nothing.

    Disappointed. The mega-bad-response on Twitter from normally sane people, says it all.

    Ling
    Ling Valentine recently posted..Sniffing the news- Clooney ‘witness for Berlusconi’My Profile

    • Thanks for commenting Ling, I have been reading your contributions on blogs and forums for a long time and whilst I don’t always agree with you, I can’t fault the intelligence behind your thinking.

      As you say above this is first and foremost an embarrassing start to the initiative but I am a great believer in giving people a chance to put things right. Lord knows I make mistakes or errors in judgement all the time.

      I suppose because I know several of the founders personally and trust there are no sinister motives here I remain supportive. There is no getting away from the fact that changes need to be made and you make a good point about the reaction from normally sane people. A nerve has definitely been struck it would seem.

      It will be interesting to see what happens next.

  6. There is nothing else on offer for entrepreneurs today from government funding, entrepreneurlism needs to be supported in some way for creating our future, so lets wait and see…..

    Nobody will be more critical than themselves right now and being an entrepreneur myself i guarantee they will pull this around very quickly because thats what we do. We are human after all, mistakes were bound to be made at such short notice, lets hope they recover quickly and reach beyond everyones expectations.

    They say there is no agenda so we should be supporting them surely

    • Sharon

      That’s very true ..

      Strange that there seem to be far more detractors that appear not to have achieved anything. It seems a British disease that so many can find reasons why we shouldn’t try things. As you say we’re not perfect but surely the real failure is not to learn from your mistakes & move forward … though perhaps even worse is simply to do nothing & knock those who are …

    • I totally agree Sharon. If they are anything like me they will be feeling sick right now and keen to come back stronger!

    • Totally agree with your comment Sharon…

      Warren, great blog..well done..

      In essence StartUp Britain can only be a positive project.. In my experience I have always felt that everything introduced in the UK is met with scepticism and negativity.

      Clearly whether these 8 entrepreneurs have other motives or not is not the issue.. the fact is that there is another initiave started to support enterprise in the UK..

      What will be interesting to see is how they embrace and support Youth Enterprise. As a national school speaker and Careers Academy Board Member at Lambeth College I engage with youngesters who are clearly concerned with their futures. 16-24 year olds have the highest unemployment rate, further education is increasingly expensive and spaces are at a premium.

      I would like to see StartUp Britain really tackle this issue and support more younger entrepreneurs coming forward.

    • Well said Sharon

      Why whenever people try to help they get always get such a negative response? Startups need as much help as they can get and to dismiss Startup Britian before it’s even had a chance to do anything is wrong. Lets give them a chance to prove themselves first and then judge the success of it.

  7. Yes there are issues but at least Government is starting to see the importance of theSME’s in trading uk plc out of the mess we are all in, what we need is for all in the UK to get behind British Business, for too long the focus is the Uk has been at the public sector and not the private sector.

    I did this blog several months ago about my view point about business. Please take a look at Back British Business http://www.graphicresults.blogspot.com/2011/01/back-british-products-and-business.html

  8. Steve McNulty says:

    Well said Sharon…

    I agree…either support them or get out of their way. Of course those who are perfect will have cause for complaint but we need doers and not talkers. We need risk takers and not performance critics. We need players and not an audience. We need people who will create jobs not put barriers in the way. We need anyone who is prepared to support this. It should be everyone. It wont be perfect but it will be something to work on.

    Steve

    • Steve McNulty says:

      Sorry…I forgot…and if feedback is given with a positive intent to help, it should be accepted. They will make errors and mistakes because they are human. No problems with anyone who is showing them how they could improve in a caring & positive manner.

    • Thanks for commenting Boss. Love it!

  9. Warren, first of all congratulations on a well balanced and eloquent blog..

    Since 2009 I have been supporting entrepreneurs and new business startups through my agency SMARK-IT, this was predominently started up to support the Business Link model and ensure that those considering starting up or just started up have the right mentoring, coaching, strategies and network.

    StartUp Britain is a great concept, my concerns is for how long? Entrepreneurs do not have a lot of capital and as a business model where will Start Up Britain get its funding to support and embrace new members of the enterprise community.

    In addition to this the largest sector of unemployment is the 16-24 year olds, as a National School Speaker and Careers Academy Board Member at Lambeth College I engage with students regularly who are concerned about their future.. with education becoming more expensive and spaces restricted most of this age group will consider starting a business… how could StartUp Britain support this?

    Whilst there has been errors and there is a brigade of sceptics on the 8 entrepreneurs I still feel anything of this nature can only be defined as positive.. we live in an environment of scepticism and negativity. If StartUp Britain put themselves of the proverbial pedestal then they must accept to take a few knocks.

    Well done for starting this up.. I really hope the project delivers everything it suggests and if you ever need my support drop me a line.

  10. I wasn’t aware of the launch until Warren informed me of it today. Is this ignorance on my part or simply the fact that I have come to switch off when I hear about government backed ideas? We as small businesses’ who have too much to deal with without going through the mine field on how to get through new red tape to get help! What we want from the government is real help! Not new initiatives backing old ideas. There is some method in the madness behind the saying, ‘why reinvent the wheel especially if it is not broken’. We shall see if the ideas are new or if they are reinvented soon enough and for every one person who says it cannot be done. There will be a dozen who say it can. What real small business’s want is simple answers with simple support. Deliver that and you have our support!

  11. Thanks for including us in the post Warren and for bringing your views to the table. It all makes for a balanced debate and we appreciate it.

    We thought that StartupBritain was a great concept, but the execution was poor and lacked any real ‘inspiration’ to the multitude of people thinking of starting a business. The social media response tends to be a true, if sometimes a little raw, reflection of what people think.

    There are many organisations who already provide access to similar solutions for new businesses and they have been established for many years, crying out for Government endorsement to increase awareness of their excellent advice. Try the following: -

    http://www.startupdonut.co.uk/

    http://www.startups.co.uk/

    http://www.ukbusinessforums.co.uk/forums/

    Many of these sites also have long established communities of small business people who actively help new businesses for free, during their evenings and weekends – no discount links required.

    I first came across Duane Jackson from Kashflow, who you mentioned above, through visiting various business forums and I remember him because he was always posting great advice to new businesses – for free. In fact, as I am sure Duane will admit, he might have spent more time on there helping others, than on his own business at some points. I suspect this is because he knows what it is like to start with very little and drive his business using the resources he was able to find.

    Wouldn’t it have made more sense for our Government to get behind these existing platforms, than to give free publicity to a group of very wealthy business people with a vested interest and no real understanding of what it is like to start and run a small business during a recession?

    Most of them seem to have made their money (and banked it already) during a 20 year economic boom!

    I noticed the likes of Rachel Elnaugh – a former dragon wasn’t very impressed – http://www.rachelelnaugh.com/opinions-and-rants/start-up-britain. Surely, she must have a balanced opinion as she has seen both sides of the argument from within!

    We, along with thousands and maybe hundreds of thousands of existing businesses are actively working with other small businesses and regularly offer advice for free to startup businesses, in our case, when it comes to finding new prospects for their new venture.

    I am not sure if we were to provide a set of links to existing websites and a few discounts that they could get by scanning the business forums for ten minutes or asking an existing small business owner on one of the websites above..

  12. To my mind this is fiddling with deckchairs, the real issues startups face are more structural – around regulation and company bureaucracy, high taxation relative to other entrepreneurial countries, and poor access to early stage capital compared to the US.

    Those are the issues that really need to be fixed for entrepreneurs to succeed, and they are much less tractable.
    My blog on the subject:

    http://broadstuff.com/archives/2467-How-Broadsight-could-double-the-UK-Governments-StartupBritain-offering-to-3000.html

  13. This is what I mean by their complete lack of effort and care and concern. This is so bad. This is completely thrown together:

    BBC:

    “A government-backed website, designed to champion the UK’s start-up businesses has inadvertently linked users to malware, it has emerged.

    StartUp Britain, which launched on Monday, linked to a page hosting fake anti-virus programs, according to security firm Sophos.

    It will be an embarrassment for the government, which has been widely promoting the initiative.

    The link was removed shortly after launch, according to StartUp Britain.

    It told the BBC in a statement: “There were some issues with a link on the website at the launch. This issue has been addressed and any links that were not operating as intended have been amended or removed.”
    Ling Valentine recently posted..Sniffing the news- Clooney ‘witness for Berlusconi’My Profile