Over the past couple of years, I’ve noticed a welcome trend among friends, peers, and people I meet. More and more of them are becoming entrepreneurs, or “founders”, as an attractive alternative to business life from 9 to 5.
When I left college six years ago, the idea of starting my own business just didn’t occur to me. I didn’t have the skills, knowledge, role models, access, or understanding of what it would take to start a business from scratch. Not many people around me seemed to think about it either. I barely knew the founders of small businesses (especially tech ones) and had never heard of Silicon Roundabout, the now established nickname of Old Street in Shoreditch, the zero point of London’s tech scene.
I graduated the same year as Entrepreneur first launched, a program that has had a huge positive impact on the attitudes of friends and peers about being an entrepreneur. This is now something the brightest graduates can tell their traditional-minded parents that they are doing it without sheepishness, a perfectly acceptable alternative to joining the city’s graduate training programs. Two college friends, now in their twenties, have now graduated from Entrepreneur First programs. Three others have started companies and several more are senior executives of technology companies, and this trend only seems to be on the increase.
Workspace and tools for entrepreneurs
On a practical level, the UK now has the infrastructure in place to make it easier for people to start a business than ever before and, in turn, these workspaces become communities and clearinghouses for business. ideas and collaboration. In London, the Google Campus at Old Street, which opened in 2012, is now a thriving event center, coworking space and home for Seedcamp, investors in Unicorns such as TransferWise. Hundreds of start-ups have come through Bonhill Street. It’s not just London either, as well as several branches of its coworking space in the capital, East track, recently opened in Bristol, and Huckletree expanded to open offices in Dublin. When I told him about the boom in entrepreneurial energy in the UK, Natasha Guerra, co-founder of Runway East, described the “uplifting” effect on small businesses joining spaces where they can find tailored services and an instant network of other founders.
Solidarity communities flourish
Nowhere is this growing desire to be founders more apparent than in the community groups that bring together passionate and committed young aspirants, which are popping up all over the UK. These groups are mostly volunteer-run organizations, using a WhatsApp, Slack, or Telegram group to communicate, supplemented by informal gatherings. The invitations addressed to them go through networks of trust and multiply through word of mouth. Fortunately, they also transcend the networks of old boys of yore. In many cases, they are looking for people from diverse backgrounds, who may not have access to the social capital or established networks that they would have needed to start a business in the past.
Conversation topics on one of the ones I opened recently called YSYS (Your Start-up Your Story), from finding feedback on a prototype app, to asking for help hiring a UX designer, to advice on getting a startup investment for a new brand of snacks. The energy and enthusiasm of the founding communities of these groups is astounding. Every time I reopen any of the groups, the threads were newly inundated with messages about new developments in their businesses and offers or requests for help. Many founders are “multiple traits”, as a writer and broadcaster of the millennium Emma Gannon would have them, holding multiple roles with seemingly endless enthusiasm.
Deborah Okenla, the founder of YSYS told me that in a recent survey, 82% of members of her community had developed their network since joining and 71% gained new opportunities as part of their membership. These opportunities ranged from new clients to job interviews or coworkers on entrepreneurial ‘side activities’, but the main focus for most members seems to be how to start a business or grow a business they already have. started.
Everything that can’t be learned about being a founder of communities like these can be picked up by listening to high-quality (and often completely free) podcasts filled with content on how to get started, grow and to manage a start-up. Forget about expensive MBA programs; information on starting a business is now more accessible than ever.
My favorites are eye-catching venture capitalist interviews from 21-year-old Harry Stebbings. Twenty Minute VC; Abadesi Osunsade and that of Michel Berhane, Techish a tech and pop culture show and that of Otegha Uwagba In good company which delves deeply into the personal stories of a founder’s journey.
With more training and entrepreneurial resources than ever before at their disposal, “founder” is a job title that is no longer branded as a vague name for an unemployed dreamer, but celebrated. The future looks very bright for future business owners who plan to start businesses in 2019.