By Nick James
In November during Global Entrepreneurship Week (GEW) I found myself in the same lift at Google’s London HQ as Vince Cable and Mark Prisk. We were all there for the launch of Global Entrepreneurship Week, they were speaking and I was listening.
I was tempted to use the opportunity to make an ‘elevator’ pitch — but couldn’t think of anything I might want to pitch to the Business Secretary and the Minister for Business and Enterprise.
For a few days afterwards I was still chastising myself on a lost opportunity but I can now say that I am quite pleased that I didn’t engage with either of them as less than 8 weeks after they stood on the podium telling people, ‘to make a job rather than take a job’ they pulled the funding rug from under the organisation behind the UK part of Global Entrepreneurship Week, Enterprise UK.
It’s been something of an open secret for quite some time that Enterprise UK would be losing their government funding and Chief Executive, Tom Bewick, made the announcement official on January 6th and last week nailed the lid to the coffin by announcing that the organisation would be closing.
Apparently over 500,000 people engaged with events during Global Entrepreneurship Week 2010 and the total cost of government funding Enterprise UK for a year was £3.8 million — that’s less than £7.50 a head. On top of this the events received massive amounts of media coverage and acted as a rallying point for a host of organisations and successful entrepreneurs all looking to encourage and support enterprise.
The director general of the British Chambers of Commerce was quoted in the Daily Telegraph as saying that, “Enterprise UK, like many bodies delivering public policy, had become too dependent on public funding.... and was very, very dependent on BIS.”
Well that’s as maybe but BIS actually stands for something, the Department for Business Innovation and Skills and funding organisations such as Enterprise UK is exactly what it should be doing.
I would suggest that £3.8m of funding proved a much better return on investment than most other BIS initiatives, but more than that it’s the message that this sends out and the timing behind the message.
Talking of messages Dr Cable used the platform of Global Entrepreneurship Week to announce an army of 40,000 ‘mentors’ to support enterprise, now their barking about creating 40,000 new businesses via the New Enterprise Allowance scheme.
Maybe that’s what I should have pitched in the ‘elevator’ at Google on November 15th — a sincerity test for politicians.
The suggestions we are hearing from government is that the private sector should step up and do their bit and I do hope that the UK continues to promote GEW. For our part we’re moving our showcase event Fresh Business Thinking LIVE! from September dates in 2010 to 16th November for 2011 — right in the middle of Global Entrepreneurship Week.
No politicians need attend.