Defeating the vicarage syndrome
The badge of 'serial entrepreneur' is one that more of the UK's top business talent aspire to and this is to be celebrated. Thankfully there is an upturn in second or third time entrepreneurs starting new ventures as David discovers in his article for The FT.
As published in The Financial Times on July 20th 2012
In the past, successful British entrepreneurs who reached their goal of selling or listing their business would all too often hang up their business boots following years of toiling against red tape, unsupportive capital markets and other obstacles. They would buy an old vicarage in the Cotswolds, or similar country retreat, and devote their time to collecting antiques, perhaps restore a classic car and occasionally dabble in local politics.
In contrast, the received wisdom is that entrepreneurs from San Francisco, Tel Aviv or Shanghai would take the weekend off, before diving into their next venture. Fortunately for Britain, this “vicarage syndrome” appears to be on the wane and a new pattern is emerging.
In the past five years Oxford Capital has seen a dramatic rise in the number of investment opportunities that are led by second or third time entrepreneurs. Second-time entrepreneurs have already made the most common start-up mistakes and usually they have learnt some valuable lessons. This means that the probability of success second time round is increased.
Much has been discussed about Mike Lynch, entrepreneur and founder of Autonomy, one of the UK’s most successful IT companies, and his exit from Hewlett-Packard less than a year after his business was acquired by the US-based computer company. Those close to him note that success has not dimmed his continued entrepreneurial ambitions. The badge of “serial entrepreneur” is one that more of Britain’s top business talent aspire to and this is to be celebrated.
Many successful entrepreneurs dream of selling their business to a major acquirer. All too often though, big company processes stifle their entrepreneurial spirit. There are more conference calls, new managers, more stringent governance and dramatically slower decision making – the very reasons why the entrepreneur may have left the corporate world in the first place.
Is it any wonder that over a quarter of Autonomy’s 2,700 staff have joined Mike Lynch and left the company since its acquisition?
Since its creation in 1996, Autonomy has created many millionaires and nurtured an extraordinary pool of talent. The HP deal will have infused many programmers and managers with the confidence and opportunity to take their own entrepreneurial steps and create new companies.
They are not alone, as there is a growing entrepreneurial talent pool in the UK as the workforce becomes more attuned with entrepreneurship. Companies such as Powderject, ARM Holdings, CSR, British Biotech, Bookham Technology, Oxford Instruments and Betfair have each spawned new generations of entrepreneurs and angel investors who have brought incredible energy to the UK’s technology sector.
Today, the UK ranks closer than ever to its entrepreneurial peers in the US, Israel or China. Entrepreneurs who have succeeded are now much more likely to get stuck into a new business. The web has transformed the business landscape and pulled down barriers to entrepreneurship. The thrill of creating a business again is driving more British founders to become serial entrepreneurs.
In 2011, entrepreneurs saw the lifetime allowance for entrepreneurs relief, within which they pay capital gains tax of just 10 per cent, double to £10m. In 2012, the government’s flagship Enterprise Investment Scheme, familiar to most of our investors, was expanded to include tax breaks for investment into companies employing up to 250 staff rather than the overly restrictive limit of 50 staff. These moves are welcome and can go further by removing barriers to entrepreneurial activity and targeting support at serial entrepreneurs. But we can and need to do more to foster a spirit of entrepreneurialism and support the talent pool of serial entrepreneurs.
The UK is home to much entrepreneurial talent. We already have a reputation as a country for creating great ideas and it’s our successful entrepreneurs that can help turn them into world-class businesses. Let’s help to get more of them out of the vicarage and back into business.
The much anticipated freezer training session took place on Saturday 30 June in the glamorous surrounds of an Eddie Stobart refrigerated truck at Magna Park industrial estate near Northampton. Thanks again to Matt at Coca Cola for making this possible. Thanks also to Alistair for joining me. I was struck by the number of my friends who were washing their hair that day!
We got the trailer interior down to around -12C. Inside a 40 ft cavity was ours for the morning and we quickly got into our cold running gear. I was looking forward to testing my kit and working out the number of layers I would need for the race.
Some snags... there were no lights in the trailer - pitch black, but we eventually found the switch. Of greater concern was that quickly realised that the doors did not open from the inside and our minds thought through various scenarios of how long we could last inside before freezing to death. The walls were insulated and thick, the noise of the chiller unit and fans was deafening. No chance of getting rescued if the door was locked accidentally or otherwise...
Panic over, we wedged the door ajar and got on with the run. As you can imagine, 40 ft is covered quite quickly in just a few steps and we ran hundreds of laps. The fans added some wind chill factor mimicking polar conditions, but the rumble of the chillers did not.
The gap in the door was letting in warm air, so after half an hour, we stepped out, shut the doors to cool down the space again. After a few minutes we jumped back in and did two 30 minute circuit sessions - steps (to mimmic hills), squats, press ups, skipping, cleans, lunges, etc
In the end, a great work out. Got a good feel for my kit. Two layers on my legs will be more than enough. The buff i was wearing around my neck was useful to keep my face warm but also stopped heat getting out of my jacket. Need to fine tune this.
Check out the gallery page for some more pictures. If you are nuts enough and want to join the next session on 8th September, get in touch!
Finally - many thanks to my early sponsors
Co-founder of Oxford Capital Partners. Husband, father, adventurer and polar marathon runner. Represent Great Britain at master level in Modern Pentathlon.