I have being following this ‘hashtag’ on twitter since the Xavier Damman first post and subsequence mainstream newspaper articles where different stakeholders jousted for limelight or attempt to ride on this wave at regional, national and European level (ie. #singledigitalmarket). This is a good thing, if we can ‘bottled’ this enthusiasm and forged it into real action locally.
I would like to start mine with a paragraph of disclosures and disclaimers.
Firstly, my input are based on my observations, opinions and limited experience as a startup founder. Though, for the last 15 years I have been consciously and unconsciously learning to take this path, for the next 10 years. Secondly, founders and startups are often ‘outliers’ in their own surrounding. As a ‘group’ (when we managed) we often represents a ‘minority’ in numbers, though we can be a very persistent and vocal crowd (if it serve our purpose). Hence to the politician, please don’t make us “beat a dead horse” and waste the ‘little’ resources we have. Thirdly, please do not confuse Startups with SMEs (Small and Middle sized Enterprises) which are inherently two animals that exist during two different phases of company life. Finally, if you resolve to take up this cause and recognise startup founders as innovators and early adopters that will help you pioneer your policy making, and as a by-product stimulate local economy, creating values and job. Then Amen – to policy making as ‘leader’ to develop social-economic trends and not merely confirming it as a laggard.
Having read the different #BEStartupManisfesto post, worked in SMEs and doing it myself. I would like to present my views by ‘pimping’ a framework that was coined by Richard Florida‘s work in the area of creative economy and regions. He simplified the key success factor of a cities or region into three Ts which are Talent, Tolerance and Technology.
Talent: Talent like money is mobile.
However given a choice, founders is often 'home bias*'.
Like moths and insects drawn to light at night – talent, in this case founders is ready to do all it can within their power to increase their success (ie. *-home could be being near to talent, resources or markets). For #BEStartupManifesto, this is about giving founders a choice or an economically and competitive option to startup in Belgium. Multiple ideas on simplifying and lightened fiscal, social and taxes charges had being shared earlier. Hence, I will not elaborate.
Likewise, for the money, more specifically to incentivise investors to consider investing in Startups in Belgium either via the notional interest tax clause that Belgium championed for large corporation but adapt it for startups or other relevant tools.
Tolerance: Open, inclusion and a learning culture.
Longterm policy making that create social environment that encourage Startups.
This by far is probably the hardest and important factor that indirectly or directly undermined “startups mindset” in Belgium and making it “a possible viable career path” as a way of life or profession. While accepting failure as a direct or indirect path to success. For startups to become “mainstream” students, fresh graduates or entrepreneurs should be encouraged and rewarded for taking risk. Failure being transformed into lesson learnt and contributes to social wealth.
Some structural support could include extending the status of student-entrepreneur (adding fiscal aspect to it); similarly the status of artists; or considering having a startups status for founders in academic institution or company structures.
Not to be neglected is also a realistic immigration policy that encourages targeted immigration that is accessible for startups and not limited to large corporations.
Technology: Infrastructure and competitiveness.
I believe this can not be the focus of the #BEStartupManisfesto.
Concerning technology, such as Internet access, mobile telecommunication, transportation infrastructures, logistics, travel, etc. I believe this is a “non issues” and needs to be in the heart of all policy maker, “like water to a fish”. Belgium cannot be a laggard on this.
I would like to end by summarising my input to the #BEStartupManifesto that should have elements that speak about:
1). Fiscal, tax break and simplification for Startups.
2). Tax bonus for investor whom decided to invest in Startups.
3). Explore the advantage of creating a status or ‘adapted’ business vehicle for Startups.
4). Provide positive social label to citizen whom dare to venture into a Startups. Make it into a norm and not an outlier.
5). Reinforce the academic link by encouraging entrepreneurship at grass-root level in secondary school and university. Trained the talent for startups skills (closer to real life) and not only for corporate life (remanent of industrialisation).
After all said, we fellow founders will continue to march forward regardless if we are incorporated in X geographically, as the digital world is blurring the physical boundaries and globalising. It is up to the nation state and local community to encourage Startups founders to include them in their plan to make the world a better place.
Finally, please do not squander this opportunity to create a long-term and structural policy for Startups and not election seeking sensational attention grabbing headlines.
The ball is in your camp.