A facebook for young entrepreneurs?

Richard Tyler in the Telegraph reports on a call by Make your Mark and Enterprise Coalition Campaign. Apparently:

> The Government should pay someone to set up a Facebook for entrepreneurs in order to help more young people turn their ideas into viable businesses.

This is apparently because:

> too many young people say that they are keen to act on a business idea but then do not do so.

I don't think this is a problem that is restricted to young people and I think that is only one reason why this is a really bad idea. Tyler skirts close to one of my reasons when he says:

> The idea obviously ignores the fact that anyone could use the existing Facebook (or Myspace or Bebo) sites to create their own online community.

If there is a demand for a new site that is customised to the needs of small entrepreneurs, then I'm sure someone will step up to the plate and deliver one. If not, why fund one?

The report mentions that the government should be seeking to be involved because of the extent of "youth crime and alienation in parts of the country". Now, if what we seek is a culture more like that in the US where enterprise is valued highly and where small businesses contribute a huge amount to the whole economy, then I think we need to encourage the ambitious kids, the smart kids that running your own business is a great alternative to the professions or going to work for large corporations.

I finished Rachel Bridge's book How I Made It on holiday. In it, 40 entrepreneurs tell of their experiences of starting and growing their business.

I was amazed at the number who have done it without qualifications or after being sacked from a larger company. I think it's awesome that we have an environment in which that can happen, but where are the others?

We've tried to take the alternative approach. Everyone involved in Distilled has very bright prospects elsewhere (there's a scattering of high class degrees from top universities, very talented people and any for whom it's not their first job left a great job to do this). Hopefully we'll grow into just one example to help show the next generation of talented school kids that running your own business or working for a small growing business can be hugely rewarding.

Speaking of our experiences, and tying it back to the point above, I have always wanted our business to succeed because it is a good business, not because we got a hand-out or special support. My opinion is that most Government funding for businesses is unnecessary and wasteful - good business ideas will succeed without it and funding money either goes to businesses that don't need it or it props up businesses that should fail. I would love to see the freakonomics guys look into whether that is the case...

Anyway, until I see some evidence to the contrary, my opinion is that the money would be better spent reducing the tax burden on start-up businesses.

##Government and small businesses

Just to end my little rant, I still struggle to believe that in the time since we started our business, a supposedly pro-enterprise government has:

- removed the zero-rate corporation tax band - increased the rate of corporation tax paid by small businesses - increased the rate of corporation tax paid by small businesses again - introduced ridiculous rules meaning that hiring employees is more expensive than it needs to be - something that is plenty expensive enough already

This is despite figures quoted in the report that show it is tough times for small businesses with out of a survey of 300 small business owners, an unbelievable:

> 49pc ... making less than £10,000

(I'm pleased to say we make the cut on this one....!).

Maybe we're asking the wrong question - are there any young entrepreneurs who fancy a try at running the country?

##But is the underlying idea a good one?

None of my argument above means that the idea of a facebook-style environment for young entrepreneurs is a bad idea. It might be a great idea (or it might be dreadful) but either way it would be an interesting project for one of these young entrepreneurs (who will make a killing if it is a good idea). I think there is a lot of untapped entrepreneurial potential in this country but I do think there are enough entrepreneurs around to help improve that situation.

If anyone does build a tool like this (or one exists already), do let us know - it's the kind of project we would gladly support (with a link if nothing else!).

The only reason the government needs to get involved in funding one, however, is if it's a bad idea that can't get off the ground on its own. I know I can get too free-market at times, but I don't think there is any evidence that there is a market failure here (which would be the only good reason for needing the government to step in).

##Other people's opinion

I would like to hear others' opinions on this. In particular, I'm going to ask the guys at Trovus who are experts in the uses of social media to give their opinion on:

1. Would a facebook-style resource for young entrepreneurs help? Would it be a good idea? 2. Does it need government funding, or if it's a good idea, could it support itself?

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About the author
Will Critchlow

Will Critchlow

Will founded Distilled with Duncan in 2005. Since then, he has consulted with some of the world’s largest organisations and most famous websites, spoken at most major industry events and regularly appeared in local and national press. For the...   read more