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18 July 2008

The demise of the Scottish entrepreneur

Two days ago I posted that Scotland's answer to Dragons Den had ceased trading.

I came across this note I posted to the First Tuesday Scotland network on 9th June 2003, over 5 years ago.

It seems not much has changed in that time to support the Scottish Entrepreneur, indeed with this week's announcement things are only getting worse. Sorry to sound so pessimistic but I tell it as it is.

In message <BPEDJNPNLJEFMFCOBAMOIEDDDOAA.gordon@firsttuesday>, Gordon MacIntyre-Kemp <>wrote:
>For about 6 years I have disagreed with the direction of Scottish Enterprise
>as a whole and that is why I left the organisation to set up this network.
>Economies are driven by confidence and positivity, demand and the
>availability of disposable income. Regardless of the expertise of the man at
>the top and the people throughout the organisation SE can only do the
>bidding of the Scottish Parliament and this is where it goes wrong - it suffers
>from public sector thinking - good people hamstrung by red tape and politics.
I replied:

The public sector mentality is about as far removed as you can get from the
rapidly moving and flexible environment of being an entrepreneur.

Scottish Enterprise may be headed by a competent individual, but this is little
better than having a competent train driver. If the network operator can't work
the points, you end up permanently on a slow line or a dead end siding.

There needs to be a total change of mindset in the executive and at UK level
before anything serious begins to change.

How about assessing businesses on the quality of the idea, the opportunity it
addresses and the likelihood of success rather than engaging in little more
than a box ticking exercise, or claiming to provide a service for info which can
be easily obtained on line, or assessing businesses based on the number of
birthdays the founder has had?

Scotland is famous for its inventors - people who have changed the world and
been huge successes. What support is there for these people from Scottish
Enterprise? What help in filing for a patent would there be for today's John
Logie Bairds or Alexander Graham Bells or more widely James Dyson or
Trevor Bayliss both of whom had huge obstacles in getting products to

What help would there be in helping the lone entrepreneur with a brilliant idea
if they have little or no resources of their own to do it? Such people would of
course be precluded from the "Proof of concept" funding because this is tied
to working in a research establishment.

Furthermore there is a huge contradiction when it comes down to help for the
entrepreneur. Businesses are supposed to be flexible, geared up for parents
with flexible working needs, geared up for people wanting to work part time,
geared up for distance working etc with all these directives and laws being
passed. So you tick all the boxes for things the executive is saying they want
to promote: "I'm wanting to start up, what help is there for time-poor, cash-
poor parents wanting to work part time in the business while they get going
and keep down a day job and I want to work from home to save money". What
help is there specifically for parents or anyone in these categories? None. The
"Who wants to be an entrepreneur" competition has become "Who wonders
where it went" and The John Logie Baird awards have vanished like the dot in
the middle of the inventor's TV screen. Meantime in the real world where
businesses in 2006 will be prosecuted for ageism in recruitment, we have the
exact opposite going on in the world of the entrepreneur where you can't get
certain awards (e.g. PSYBT) based on whether your partner has had more
than 30 birthdays (even though the main applicant qualifies). Are these to be
made illegal post 2006?

Why does the very nature of how SE lends its funding and help and what help
there is, go almost 100% against what businesses themselves are expected
to do when they employ people? Does no-one do joined up thinking anymore?


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