Of all the entrepreneurs currently doing their thing out there, were you looking to identify the one most likely to inspire and bring forth a nation of new budding entrepreneurs then, unquestionably, you’d be pointing your finger at Sir Richard Branson.
To me, personally, Sir Richard is without doubt one of the best entrepreneurs of our time. And I’m well aware I’m not the only one who thinks along those lines. Both the man and his brand are revered the world over; from a paddy field in the smallest rice growing community in China to a high-level board meeting of CEOs in Wall Street.
So imagine my delight when I learned that Virgin Start-Up had finally launched and would, in turn, kick off the stratospheric careers of hundreds of talented business minds in the UK by providing access to funding and expertise to showcase their skills.
But my upbeat mood didn’t last. It plummeted quite considerably, in fact. The reason? Virgin Start-Up is for 18-30 year olds ONLY. Why??
I understand the importance of firing up young entrepreneurial minds – but don’t agree it should be at the expense of an older and more experienced generation. It just doesn’t make sense. And yet it’s something we see time and again – the Start-up Loans, for instance, had a similar type of pre-middle age cut off point.
My own entrepreneurial success only really began once I’d passed the ‘discarded’ age of 30. This means that were I in the same start-up position today and needed the help of Sir Richard and his colleagues, I could forget it. And yet, here I am, a successful self-made entrepreneur with the ability to make it.
Sure, I can understand the desire to nurture the young, and see that – on the surface – they may appear to have better long-term prospects than an older generation. But does that really mean we should forget about those who helped contribute to our economy in the first place and who have the experience and desire to do so again?
Many of the mature entrepreneurs I meet are just as able to succeed as their younger counterparts – maybe more so. The reason is that thanks to the benefit of experience they tend to be more realistic and prudent in their choice of business venture. After all, with a growing family and the prospect of redundancy looming they really can’t afford not to succeed. Often their determination is almost palpable. And to those who are worried about the longevity question – consider the offspring as well as the grandchildren, nieces and nephews all ready to step into their elder family member’s shoes.
Mature entrepreneurs are just as valuable to the British economy as their younger counterparts. Isn’t it about time we offered them the same support as the 18-30’s? That’s why, in my opinion, Sir Richard – your scheme is ‘good’ but it really could have been fantastic for UK Entrepreneurs.