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.