Optimism has all but evaporated.
For the last few months, we’ve woken up to endless stories of businesses going bust or lurching from one crisis to the next. Even with extensive government funding thrown at the problem, experts are predicting that one in seven people in the UK will end the year unemployed. Our challenge – as a country – is to work out how to inject a much-needed dose of optimism into the system.
This injection, in my view, will come from entrepreneurs.
Entrepreneurs are optimists on warp drive. They are the people whose glass is always half full (it’s what allows them to overcome the obstacles and rejection that inevitably comes their way). Occasionally, against all the odds, these people succeed, creating hundreds of jobs for others along the way.
So here’s an idea. Let’s create a UK Springboard with the potential to create thousands of new entrepreneurs.
We think the UK Springboard scheme could look like this: Take £1 billion of government funding (equivalent to less than 24 hours of the Covid-19 budget) and use it to kickstart a new group of 100,000 entrepreneurs. Each entrepreneur could receive a grant of £10,000, to give them the financial help they need to keep paying the bills while they get their business up and running.
Here’s the logic behind the thinking:
1.The furlough scheme is a smart short-term fix, but it’s more of a temporary sticking plaster than a solution to the problem. The reality for so many of those who have been furloughed is that their roles simply won’t exist when the scheme comes to an end. We need to do something to help these people and our economy, long-term.
2. We need more entrepreneurs and more risk takers if we want to remain competitive as a country. Entrepreneurs are the agents of change in today’s world. They are the people who wake up believing that tomorrow will be better than today, and they are the people who fight to make it happen. By doing this, they create opportunities for others.
3. Entrepreneurship isn’t something you can teach in a classroom. You learn by doing (and by failing). While the failure rate will be high among Springboard participants, those who fail will be infinitely more knowledgeable having tried than if they hadn’t given it a go. The skills they’ll learn and the mindset they’ll develop will make them more employable and will mean they’re more likely to succeed if they try again in the future.
4. Now is a brilliant time to set up a business. Covid-19 has delivered a shock of such scale that consumer habits are changing. That creates opportunity. There’s also a renewed sense of community and responsibility which will translate into increased demand for local, small businesses over multi-nationals.
I’ll finish by confessing that I feel like one of the luckiest men alive most days. Not because of what Octopus has achieved but because I spend my time doing something I truly love. That, to me, is the ultimate gift of entrepreneurship. It’s the ability to follow your passion and to dedicate yourself so totally to something you love. If the government can bottle this feeling and inject it into another 100,000 people, we’ll reap the rewards for generations to come.