Last week, on the back of his Growing Business report, UK's Lord Young was lambasted for his assertion that 'it's never been easier to set up a business'. His comments were attacked as 'appalling' by his critics, but I for one, am in agreement with him.
Think for a minute about how much easier it is today to both start and scale your startup? When I started my first business eight years ago we had to get servers, server cabinets and IT managers to set it all up, buy software licences for practically every tool I needed to run the business. In addition, I had to hire expensive agencies and consultants to get anything done from building a website or setting up my company structure. Not to mention the fees we had to pay to maintain all that and incremental costs whenever we needed something amended.
Fast forward to today and all that looks ancient. We have zero upfront software licenses, all our software is SaaS based, we are hosted on Amazon Web Services in the cloud, we use products like Mailchimp and Zendesk for all our CRM, Gmail for email, and of course we use our own platform - PeoplePerHour - to access amazing talent on demand for anything we need - from marketing support, admin, technical help and so much more - keeping our overheads lean, our office space to a minimum and the management overhead to its core. That also lets us focus on the things that matter the most and keep driving our business forward, keep innovating and finding better ways to serve our customers, rather than managing complexity.
And its not just the cloud that's driving this. Social media make it easier than ever to generate leads for your business by honing channels like Facebook, Pinterest, Linkedin and Twitter. The budding knowledge economy makes it easier than ever to tap into the wisdom of crowds on platforms like Quora and Pearl and get answers to questions that historically would have cost you huge amounts in consultancy fees. And the rocketing online education market - powered by such platform like Codecademy, Coursera, Lynda.com , Udemy, Skillshare and many more - mean that anyone can sharpen their skills in domains they are lacking to help them in their entrepreneurial endeavour. Education is now ubiquitous and free.
All the innovations that have made this possible have an add on effect to each other, such that their individual contribution is less than that of the total. I call it 'the Startup Network Effect'. All of the innovations mentioned above and the hundreds like them have a symbiotic relationship. They all make each other more valuable. The platform for doing business which was once Microsoft and all the software built on it, all sitting locally in servers you manage (expensively!), is now moving to a much more democratised, distributed model in the cloud that reaps massive economies of scale. And its only just the beginning.
The big question for me is not whether its easier and cheaper to set up a business today. I think thats a given. The question is when (and not if) will this drive deeper cultural change and mobilise all those aspiring entrepreneurs to jump on it. Mind-shift always lags behind innovation spurred by the visionaries of our world. Its only natural for there to be a latency in adoption of the products and services they make available to the rest of us.
But politicians for one should - and already are in the case of Lord Young - try to accelerate that and raise more awareness for the mainstream business world. And that's much needed in a world where there is inherent distrust and inertia to change. I believe more needs to be done on this front.
A recent poll we carried out at PeoplePerHour found that the average cost of starting a small business in the UK is just £312, significantly less than UK weekly wage of £442. So now, you can start a business and fund it yourself from your income, working as a typical 5-9er, build it up hour by hour with little or no capital expense.
Why you may ask? Because entrepreneurs and their businesses are what drive progress, create jobs and productivity gains in the economy via their innovations. The worlds best ideas are not in today's startups, offices or products. They are still in people's heads. And the faster we get them out and available to the rest of us the faster the world will progress.