Startup Britain – a useful web resource?

The machinery of social business developmentThe ‘Startup Britain’ web site has the support of the Prime Minister – but is it, as some commentators have cynically described a government backed web link-farm – offering already available resources to a jaded audience?

If you have been working in the Third Sector for some time, the notion of volunteering, enterprise generation at a community level and the support of young people and the economically disenfranchised will not have the same bright patina as the media and government might suggest. You will have been doing all of it for some time.

However, any portal which brings together diverse information and advice, as well as providing access to enterprise offers, will by its very nature offer knowledge to startups and new enterprises, whether social or not, which might remain undiscovered if not aggregated in the way that the Startup Britain site does, we would argue.

There is a lengthy article debating the negative aspects of Startup Britain on the PostDesk site.

Yes, the site does contain offers from commercial sources which are available elsewhere. Just as the Startup Britain web site is itself not by government, but a private sector organisation driven by a group of existing entrepreneurs.

However, starting a community or social enterprise, or even supporting the emergence of any small local business is a complex and resource intensive process. When you are completely enveloped in your own organisation it is easy to assume knowledge, to assume that ‘everyone must know this’.

They do not and the positive contribution that an aggregator site like Startup Britain can deliver is large, we think. The site does allow you to sign up for so-called offers, and yes they are available elsewhere, but there is also a wealth of information and advice on business planning, insurance, finance, funding and getting your basic business idea right in the first place.

The point being that you can review all of it in one place and leaven it all through the ethical and philosophical filter of our sector. Whether your business idea is for mainstream commerce or the community sector, you still need to grapple with the beasts of cash flow, risk, operational delivery, marketing and business planning.

We think Startup Britain is a creditable source of inspiration and ideas, for entrepreneurs in any sector. Some of the sources from the site we liked were Smarta – broad advice and resources for businesses of all types, the Brightideastrust – very innovational support for inner city young entrepreneurs and Springwise – a terrific source of business ideas to get your creativity going.

In the social business sector how you make your money is vital, but when made it’s what you do with it for your community of interest that really counts. Start a social enterprise today…and see the real change you can make. That’s the big idea for the big society.

Authorities – give away your space?
Become an ideas enterprise…

ideasPic55We were reading an interesting web article about the internet giant AOL and how they had made available, at no charge, the 225,00 square feet of office space they own in Palo Alto – aimed at cultivating entrepreneurs, business start ups and technical ideas.

It started us thinking as to why the model is not more prevalent in the UK.

We hear much about the surge in social enterprise and the third sector taking up contracts to deliver innovative new services. The author of this article has recently been working with a company in the North of England to generate a new business, the aim of which is to train and employ as many young people as possible as the business rolls out.

The experience with the local authority in driving forward the enterprise has not been free wheeling or innovative, to say the least.

After people, the cost of premises and space to think, deliver and store everything from servers to the coffee machine occupies a huge part of the budgetary planning.

Getting the premises, and securing access and delivery in them would have no doubt crippled the nascent business had the young people involved been ‘going it alone’.

Our solution was to find an innovative proprosal, driven by our ethical business model, but supplied by the private sector too. (An idea with currency, but not necessarily the right one?)

We would argue for enterprise start ups the cost of premises from local authority landlords should bear no cost.

Why? How can this be sustainable? Well, encouraging ideas and energy into a community, as in the AOL model, serves to reinvigorate a local economy. It provides cash flow to local, already established businesses.

For the local authority it could see an enabling of redundant public assets, which could be empty at present, to encourage the economic base dramatically – making living, energetic buildings and spaces out of often moribund brick edifices.

In my home town there are a number of empty civic buildings which shadow their access roads, offering echoing corridors, but which do not directly invest in the next generation of rate payers, tax contributors and future employers.

Come on elected members, break out of cost restraint mindsets, ease up a little on portfolio risk in the estates department – and truly create an innovation led, enterprise driven local economic framework.

Don’t be an owner of capital, be the owner of an ideas development factory. The young people in your area would love you for it.

You can see the original article by Douglas MacMillan on the Bloomberg Business website here.

Article: Tim Smith – Partner at SmithMartin LLP