A Startup Manifesto for getting more successful UK entrepreneurs like Richard Branson
Whoever ends up in Downing Street after the UK election on December 12, they will need detailed policies to make a success of their time in power – particularly in supporting startups.
In some areas they have this covered – such as the Lib Dem’s plans to replace the broken business rates system with a tax on land values – but all parties have left plenty of room for manoeuvre in their manifestos. That’s why we at The Entrepreneurs Network have launched our Startup Manifesto with Coadec, which is backed by over 250 founders of many of the UK’s fastest growing companies.
None of these policies would be anywhere near as dramatic as stopping the UK’s exit from the EU, but taken together they would be a significant upgrade to our entrepreneurial ecosystem. This isn’t a list of demands for handouts. It’s twenty-one reforms that amount to a blueprint for remaining the best place in Europe to start and grow a business.
On talent, for example, we call for the fixing of the recently introduced Startup and Innovator visas. Immigrant entrepreneurs are a driving force behind many of Britain’s fastest growing companies – 49% of the top 100 fastest-growing startups to be precise – but currently we don’t have a visa for them.
The implementation of the new visas has been botched resulting in only two successful applications in the first quarter. These can be fixed by streamlining the application process and aligning incentives by allowing endorsing bodies to charge fees to cover the effort it takes for them to run their scheme.
The Manifesto also calls for Innovate UK to pilot a lottery-based based funding system for grant applications above a certain threshold. At present, the cumulative cost of applications for grant could be a fair chunk of the grant award. For example, 10 applicants spending 2.5% each on an application – either in time or outsourcing the application to another organisation – equates to 25% of the award.
A growing number of research agencies, such as the Health Research Council of New Zealand, are assigning money by lottery. This diversifies funding, and will attract more innovative firms that are currently put off by the bureaucracy and cost of applying.
We also want to revolutionise the relationship between the government and entrepreneurs (and citizens more broadly). At the extreme, governments’ failure to properly collect, store and share data can destroy lives – just ask British citizens caught up in the Windrush scandal.
Estonia provides a textbook on how to build an e-government platform that is efficient, saving around 12 million hours of work every year, transparent and secure. The backbone of Estonia’s system is X-Road, which has been available as open source under an MIT License since 2016, which Finland, Iceland and the Faroe Islands use. The UK was considering using it back in 2013. Now is the time to take the leap.
Fixing visas for entrepreneurs, widening the pool of people getting funding, and upgrading our social contract through e-government are exactly the policies we need from the next government.