JLA: Is the priority to batten down the hatches, or invest in growth?
DR: It has never been a more crucial time to invest in growth. In 2011, it’s the role of entrepreneurs and young businesses, as wealth and job creators, to spearhead the UK’s economic recovery. And with sectors like technology moving as fast as they are, it has never been a more exciting time to go it alone. But entrepreneurs need the help of the government and banks; unless we have faith in investing in start-ups, we have little chance of sparking economic growth.
JLA: How do you encourage innovation?
DR: The only way to encourage innovation is to create the right conditions. I believe that entrepreneurship can be learned and, therefore, anyone can run their own business. We have to provide aspiring entrepreneurs with the tools to achieve success, and ongoing support to take them through the start-up phase and into growth. We need to empower people to feel that they can launch a business.
JLA: How can a business remains entrepreneurial as it matures?
DR: Businesses can remain entrepreneurial by continuing to look at their industry – considering disruptive ideas to better meet customers’ needs and reduce their costs. They must constantly ask how they can take advantage of new solutions to compete. This takes passion and drive, but it means a business can continue to innovate – it’s all about the mindset.
JLA: What should government do to aid an enterprise-led recovery?
DR: Recovery depends on the creation of new companies and the growth of those whose innovations increase productivity. It will be the young businesses, not the small ones, who will lead this country out of recession. It is vital we nurture them. Government must increase economic freedom for new businesses, cut the time it takes to start one and radically streamline regulation. In my view it should also encourage enterprise education and insist that a specific percentage of state procurement goes through small and medium-size businesses.
JLA: How do you decide in which businesses to invest?
DR: I look for web-based businesses that can quickly grow to a large size with a small amount of capital. My latest is a location-based micro-blogging service that allows users to post flirty messages to ‘hot’ people they’ve seen in their area - creating ‘hotspots’ of good-looking people. The student behind the idea ran into trouble with his university, who shut the site down – but not before he’d delivered something special and incredibly uncommon: proof of market demand.