Why the government should stay the fuck away from entrepreneurial programs

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Why the government should stay the fuck away from entrepreneurial programs

Everyone that either has a startup or works in this space knows that entrepreneurs are now trendy. So trendy that most governments have made it their own personal crusade to swing the entrepreneur flag and show the world they’re doing something about it. While I’m always a trusting fellow, truth been told, most of these “helps” are sugar coated political moves and while I wouldn’t mind if done right, most of them are extremely dangerous.

My experience tells me that there are people that, despite the political agenda, are willing to aid in the creation of a better and healthier startup ecosystem. The main problem I see is, they have absolutely no idea how to do that. And while their intentions are good, their actions, if not properly guided, can be disastrous.

For example, take the process of incorporating a company in Spain. It takes a big deal of paperwork and time to incorporate a company in Spain. Not as much as some publications have said, but it definitely is time consuming and can easily take up to 2 weeks. Now, some time ago, they tried to speed up the process with what they called, the single window process. That is, instead of having to go around the city moving papers from one side to the other, now you could do all the required paperwork on a single place. Of course, what they don’t tell you is, that if you haven’t requested some of if before hand, you’ll need to do more than 1 trip to the damn window. I can’t help but wonder, who the fuck designed this process in the first place? It surely isn’t an entrepreneur and it surely isn’t someone that has tried to incorporate a company. While it’s great to speedup the process, the problem isn’t there, it’s in the process itself. Once again, while the intention is good, the aim is poor to say the least.

Lets take a more harmful example. Some months ago I read this piece (in Spanish) on the Education Ministry creating a summer camp program to foster entrepreneurship for young students. When I read it I was very happy to see that finally someone was directing resources to a much needed education, but then I saw this: “One of the fundamental requirements is to have great grades”. What???!! Who the fuck decided that grades are what makes or breaks an entrepreneur?? Not only that is harmful for the ecosystem, but it’s a total waste of resources as you most probably are blocking the way to many true entrepreneurs. I can’t help but feel a lot of cargo cult going on around me.

These are just examples of a trend I’ve been seeing for quite some time. Take even more gruesome examples, civil servants doing consulting work on business plans or assessing the quality of an idea or potential market. Maybe it’s just me, being an engineer, I can’t help but be extremely meritocratic but, except for very rare cases, I won’t accept advice from someone that hasn’t gone through what I’m experiencing. Much less when it comes to assessing market potential or future trends. Come on, is the government really telling me that, even though they’ve demonstrated they have no fucking clue about economics, they know what the future trends are?

Incidentally, just some days ago, Brad Feld, founder of Techstars was commenting on this very same issue, “Entrepreneurial communities must be led by entrepreneurs“. I can’t agree more with Brad. I’ve created an entrepreneurial community myself and I realized we don’t have more because it’s one of the most dedicated environments I’ve ever seen. You need to treat them with a very special care, only true entrepreneurs get. Any attempt on hijacking it kills it, any attempt on taking advantage of it kills it, any attempt on modifying it to suit your political agenda kills it.

 

So please, please, while I know some people have good intentions, please make sure you don’t interfere with entrepreneurial communities. If you want to help, please talk with the startups there, make them lead the way, be a helping hand, lending resources, listening carefully to what entrepreneurs tell you, but don’t attempt to do it yourself, because you won’t succeed. This is not a short term effort, but a long term one. To sustain a long term project, you need something more than a team of people that change every 4 years (or even faster) and have many other goals, being the entrepreneurial one not their main one.

 

Imageshttp://www.flickr.com/photos/chl/http://munichbeta.de/about

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jorge-Bestard/833085513 Jorge Bestard

    couldn´t agree more

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jorge-Bestard/833085513 Jorge Bestard

    couldn´t agree more

  • Mark Villacampa

    All for the Entrepreneurs, but without the entrepreneurs. Enlightened Despot.. Entreprenurialism.

    The solution is as easy as letting entrepreneurs take part in the decision process.

  • Mark Villacampa

    All for the Entrepreneurs, but without the entrepreneurs. Enlightened Despot.. Entreprenurialism.

    The solution is as easy as letting entrepreneurs take part in the decision process.

  • Augustus

    Imagine that here in Brazil you need up to 6 months to legally setup a company. Sometimes came a politian talking about speed up the processs and blah blah blah but when it comes to cut costs and income to the governament they change their tone…

  • Augustus

    Imagine that here in Brazil you need up to 6 months to legally setup a company. Sometimes came a politian talking about speed up the processs and blah blah blah but when it comes to cut costs and income to the governament they change their tone…

  • http://500hats.typepad.com davemc500hats

    “First: Do No Harm.”

  • http://500hats.typepad.com davemc500hats

    “First: Do No Harm.”

  • http://pixelbits.wordpress.com/ Mona Nomura

    Uneasy chiming in as I’m unfamiliar with Spain’s government and structure.

    In the U.S., specifically NYC, I welcome government involvement as:
    1. they fund incubators (like ours) w/out demanding equity. Our incubator has <30 companies that have applied to and been accepted by Bloomberg-NYU Poly. We get subsidized rent, which is exactly what we need working towards traction. Our facilities are not as fancy-shiny as TechStars or GA but that's a price I'd rather pay than give up equity

    2. local level government involvement is a plus. For example, Jersey City (not even 10 minutes away from dt, door to door) is looking to boost their economy and can offer more funds without -again- taking equity

    3. government funding also enables founders to focus on growth vs keeping meddling VCs and angels happy. It's nice to have guidance and mentors but for seasoned entrepreneurs, we just want to build and ship vs kissing our investor's asses

    The challenges are younger founders who need guidance may not get it in government funded initiatives. Also, our companies are often times overlooked as we are not part of the 'cool kids' in tech ;)

    • http://twitter.com/abarrera Alex Barrera

      Definitely US policy towards startups is way different. I’m pretty sure you don’t get politicians at the incubator having their picture taken or demanding that the incubator does this or that. In general, the US is very hands off in most cases, which something I love about it. It’s definitely not the case in most places in Europe though.

      Thanks for sharing Mona! :*

  • http://twitter.com/mona Mona Nomura

    Uneasy chiming in as I’m unfamiliar with Spain’s government and structure.

    In the U.S., specifically NYC, I welcome government involvement as:
    1. they fund incubators (like ours) w/out demanding equity. Our incubator has <30 companies that have applied to and been accepted by Bloomberg-NYU Poly. We get subsidized rent, which is exactly what we need working towards traction. Our facilities are not as fancy-shiny as TechStars or GA but that's a price I'd rather pay than give up equity

    2. local level government involvement is a plus. For example, Jersey City (not even 10 minutes away from dt, door to door) is looking to boost their economy and can offer more funds without -again- taking equity

    3. government funding also enables founders to focus on growth vs keeping meddling VCs and angels happy. It's nice to have guidance and mentors but for seasoned entrepreneurs, we just want to build and ship vs kissing our investor's asses

    The challenges are younger founders who need guidance may not get it in government funded initiatives. Also, our companies are often times overlooked as we are not part of the 'cool kids' in tech ;)

    • http://twitter.com/abarrera Alex Barrera

      Definitely US policy towards startups is way different. I’m pretty sure you don’t get politicians at the incubator having their picture taken or demanding that the incubator does this or that. In general, the US is very hands off in most cases, which something I love about it. It’s definitely not the case in most places in Europe though.

      Thanks for sharing Mona! :*

  • J emin

    Great article. Here in the UK we have very much ‘gone our own way’ since start-up in 2009. The plus with this is that we have held onto steering our own course, not giving away equity at too early a stage before proving the project fully to ourselves. Connecting with other entrepreneurs for us is key within this approach to keep communication with people who understand and are also navigating the challenges of being entrepreneurs 24-7.

    • http://twitter.com/abarrera Alex Barrera

      I’m curious, how is NESTA treating the UK companies, are they just giving money and staying away or are politicians using it to take themselves pictures with successful startups?

  • J emin

    Great article. Here in the UK we have very much ‘gone our own way’ since start-up in 2009. The plus with this is that we have held onto steering our own course, not giving away equity at too early a stage before proving the project fully to ourselves. Connecting with other entrepreneurs for us is key within this approach to keep communication with people who understand and are also navigating the challenges of being entrepreneurs 24-7.

    • http://twitter.com/abarrera Alex Barrera

      I’m curious, how is NESTA treating the UK companies, are they just giving money and staying away or are politicians using it to take themselves pictures with successful startups?

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