SETsquared Blog

Breeding 'Antipreneurs'

A blog about education, entrepreneurship and a few pictures from life in the last few weeks and a recent weekend trip to the Orcas Islands near the Canadian border.
Waiting for the ferry to Orcas Island

Right now, perhaps more than ever in recent times, is there a calling for 'entrepreneurs'. We're billed as the saviours of a struggling economy, the building blocks of recovery and the lifeblood of growth. There is increasing government grants and support available. You can take out library books on entrepreneurship, get funding for MBA's, get quick and easy press coverage as a young entrepreneur and be given many tools or opportunities to help your new business grow. The country is practically throwing money at new businesses, and it's not just the UK, many western nations echo the same story. We're desperate to encourage entrepreneurial growth. But I think we have a fundamental problem facing us.

Our fantastic little cabin in the woods.
The biggest barrier to fostering new entrepreneurs is our education system. We're taught to study academic topics, pass exams, write CV's and find a job. The whole purpose of higher education from the graduate's perspective is to make it easier to get a job and the system encourages that train of thought. Universities compete on employment statistics, we're trained our whole life to make decisions that will lead us to a 'good career'. "Oh, don't study art/music/dance/sport etc you'll never get a job in it, they're not real degrees".
My companions for the weekend: two great people and two excitable dogs.
Nearing graduation our parents ask us, our grandparents ask us, our teachers, our friends anybody we meet ask us the same question, "what are you going to do now you're graduating?". It's not acceptable to say 'go travelling', or even worse to say, 'I don't know'. The only acceptable answer is to get a job. So we jump at the first job that is offered to us, because now we have a job, now we can say, 'oh yes Grandma, I have a great job with so and so company'.
A view to Canada.
We're actively taught NOT to start companies. Starting your own company is terrible for University ratings. And we're taught by people who have championed the system. Who have followed an academic path. Who have passed exams, written journal papers and become institutionalised.
The reason the island got its name. apparently killer whales are a common sighting.
Most graduates come out with the same skill-set, I mean, barring vocational degrees like becoming a doctor or an engineer, most graduates can do most jobs. They just learn on the job. So why do we compete on our skill-set, why are we trained to be good at exams and to build great CV's? If our skills are largely all the same, or worse, irrelevant, why does the education system continue to power on regardless?
The boys!
How can you feel supported or encouraged as an entrepreneur if the system you have known your whole life doesn't even entertain the the idea of creating your own business as a viable career? Someone said to me recently, "well you can do both, get a job first, clear your graduate debt and then build your own company". The average age for entrepreneurs is 35. 35! Deciding to throw in the 'career towl' and start your own company is often seen as a pretty risky move. Well, young people are less adverse to risk. The average graduate doesn't have a family to support, doesn't have a spouse or children, doesn't have half of the responsibilities as your average 35yr old. Your average graduate is more likely to take the 'risk' of entrepreneurship because they have comparatively less to loose. So why are we encouraging people to become entrepreneurs at 35 rather than 25?
A refreshing dip in a meltwater lake!
So this is a call for the radical reformation of our current education system. Let's stop the incessant pursuit of standardised tests and start encouraging creativity. Growing true grass root entrepreneurs by teaching graduates that there is another way! And yes Grandma, that means I could be the next Bill Gates instead of the next Microsoft tea boy.
The 'new' Startup weekend office. We moved office about 3 weeks ago to this shiny new space.