Web 2.0 for business

1 05 2008

British entrepreneurial talent has recently been on tour in Silicon Valley as part of a government-backed project to provide a window into the UK’s start up scene.  Twenty companies were chosen from over a hundred for the first Web Mission 08 to showcase the high level of technology emerging beyond the Valley.  In addition, the Telegraph noted that Web 2.0 is producing a new wave of entrepreneurs with London acting as the epicentre for many of the developments. 

However, two surveys indicate that not all SMEs are able to take advantage of developments in technology:

  • Although Web 2.0 tools have the potential to transform business, many companies are still reluctant to implement them because of security fears, a survey by KPMG International and The Economist Intelligence Unit revealed in January. Nearly 70% of business executives believe Web 2.0 tools would help employees work more efficiently, a further 75% said the tools would foster innovation within their businesses, and 86% said Web 2.0 would improve knowledge sharing. 
  • A national survey conducted by researchers from Royal Holloway, University of London, found that the government is failing to act as a helpful source of advice for SMEs during their adoption and use of information and communication technology (ICT).  As a result, these businesses are not using ICT to its full potential.  The survey found that ecommerce isn’t really making much of an impact (in the sectors surveyed) and SMEs don’t find government helpful as a source of advice in this area.

[See also: The 101 most useful websites for business from The Telegraph]


Meeting the green challenge

29 04 2008

The following news items from last week indicate different ways in which the UK higher education, business, and voluntary sectors are meeting the “green challenge”:

  • The University of Strathclyde announced the establishment of Europe’s first post-graduate course to teach budding entrepreneurs how to turn environmental ideas into business ventures. The MSc in environmental entrepreneurship will be taught for the first time in September.
  • “Green policies” are already embedded in the practices of the twelve companies who received a 2008 Queen’s Award for Enterprise in recognition of their outstanding achievements in Sustainable Development.
  • NESTA announced the shortlist of UK groups competing for its million-pound Big Green Challenge prize fund, by coming up with innovative ideas to tackle climate change in their communities.

Despite this activity, greening the UK remains a challenge, as a recent survey of the UK’s SMEs by the Tenon Forum indicated that the UK’s entrepreneurs are baulking against implementing environmental measures (it cost an estimated £3.1bn to “go green” in past year).

[See also The greening of entrepreneurship]

Fear of failure

20 02 2008

Fear of failure means that a third of would-be entrepreneurs may never get round to turning their idea into an actual business, according to a poll commissioned by Business Link, which found that more than 10 million people in the UK dream of packing in their jobs and starting their own business.  The survey found that the average worker spends three days a year day-dreaming about their future business from their desk, and one in five of those intending to start up a company plan to do so within 12 months.  The poll noted that motivations for starting a business include being unhappy at work (15%), to turn a hobby into a paid venture (25%), wanting to earn more money (37%) and wanting more freedom (40%) – it is interesting to compare that list with the results of the NCGE survey on motivations for would-be female entrepreneurs.

Some researchers would argue that failure can be a learning experience.  For example, Scott Shane urges readers of his blog to read Bounce by Barry Moltz.  He says that because people don’t like to talk about failure, there are far more stories about start-up success than start-up failure.  He days that the book “isn’t one of those feel-good-about-yourself-comeback-from-failure books that romanticize the notion of failure” but is about “accepting failure as a normal part of the process….. Given that entrepreneurs are more likely to fail than to succeed, and even those that succeed have some failures along the way, it’s really important for people to figure out how to deal with failure. To me, his points about one-hit-wonders, the timing of failure, the random walk in business, decision making, and the rarity of the redemption-from-failure stereotype, are particularly important and worth the cost of the book.  But I also suspect that many people will be comforted reading about Barry’s failures, which he courageously talks about”.

In addition, The Sunday Times has recently published two articles on business failure, looking at how to survive the emotional fallout of your firm going under and the practical steps that entrepreneurs can take to recover.

Survey of enterprise and entrepreneurship in UK

16 10 2007

The NCGE will shortly be releasing the results of its 2007 survey work mapping Enterprise and Entrepreneurship across higher education.  The project provides the nine Regional Development Agencies (RDAs) with a a live searchable database for enterprise and entrepreneurship provision in higher education institutions in England. Both in curricula and extra curricula provision is detailed, and key institutional characteristics are noted, providing an indicative landscape of student enterprise and entrepreneurship support.

The results of the 2007 survey will be published on the NCGE website when available.  Meanwhile, the results of the 2006 National Mapping Exercise are online.

Growth of entrepreneurship education in US

16 10 2007

Entrepreneur magazine and The Princeton Review have released Top Fifty Entrepreneurial Colleges, the fifth  annual ranking of entrepreneurship programs in the US which lists both graduate and undergraduate programs.  There was an increase of almost 30% in participating universities, which underscores the growing number of entrepreneurial courses nationwide.  900 institutions were surveyed and evaluated on key criteria in the areas of academics and requirements, students and faculty, and outside-the-classroom support and experiences. The survey questions are refined and the results validated with the help of an advisory board comprised of professionals in the area of entrepreneurship education.

Two months ago, Fortune Small Business (FSB) compiled a selection of the best colleges for entrepreneurs, although FSB stress that their guide, America’s Best Colleges for Entrepreneurs, does not provide a ranking or league tables.  This guide also noted that the study of entrepreneurship is on the rise, and includes anecdotes from students on how the classes they took affected their businesses.

Does fear of red tape stifle entrepreneurship?

4 10 2007

Spotted a story from Monday’s Times which indicated concerns that Britain’s entrepreneurial culture is at risk of being stifled by the fear of red tape and failure.  The article was based on research carried out by YouGov for the law firm Dickinson Dees, and which revealed that 45 per cent of people who have thought about setting up their own business are put off by the legal requirements involved.   Some 29 per cent of 25 to 34 year olds are concerned about a venture failing, which indicates a worrying trend for the future of Britain’s entrepreneurial economy according to Dickinson Dees.  Unfortunately there’s no further information on either the Yougov or Dickinson Dees websites.  However, the Better Regulations website offers small businesses the opportunity to tell Government what regulations are causing problems, with a commitment by Government to respond back to business within 90 days as to what they (Government) will do about it