Are entrepreneurs the same all over the world?

Alison Coleman, whose work can be found on Forbes.com and in The Times, Sunday Times, economia, The Guardian, Employee Benefits and Hays Journal, has written a piece for us on global entrepreneurship.

Entrepreneurs are said to be cut from the same cloth, driven by the same DNA; a breed on their own. Yet, while entrepreneurship, that capacity to create, launch and run a new business, exists in every corner of the world, from one country to the next, it can look very different. So what are the factors that shape and influence innate entrepreneurial traits, qualities and behaviours within different global markets?

People are motivated to start their own business for different reasons. Someone starting a business in Nigeria, for example, may be doing so out of need, because jobs are scarce and they have a family to feed. On the other hand, a graduate in the US writing code for a tech start-up might be driven by ambitions of becoming the next Airbnb or Snapchat. Sometimes it is the market itself. Entrepreneurs in India or many African countries, will find it easier to spot and act on business opportunities than those in developed western countries, simply because there are so many things that need to be fixed.

Attitudes to risk

However, the differences often come down to the native culture and whether it encourages risk-taking and innovation or advocates caution. If a startup fails in the US or in Australia, the first question that the founder is likely to be asked is what they learned from the experience and how they can use it in their next business venture. Compare that to a similar situation in parts of Europe where the founder of an unsuccessful startup is more likely to be seen as a failure.

Attitudes to risk have a major impact on entrepreneurial drive. In Germany, less than half of people surveyed for the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) saw starting a business as an attractive idea. In a more liberal and less inhibited Holland the figure was 79%, and in Poland, free from Soviet influence and now one of Europe’s most exciting tech hubs, it was 68%.

Some entrepreneurial hotspots are emerging in the unlikeliest of places. Romania, for example, has left a troubled history behind to embrace the digital age. Rich in high quality engineering skills, Romania’s tech talent pool is full of entrepreneurs motivated to be self sufficient, self fulfilling, and confident about their place on the global start-up stage.

Germany’s take on entrepreneurship is an interesting one. A lack of angel and VC funding has undoubtedly slowed progress, but as a nation, they are innately cautious and risk averse. Their fear of failure is responsible for 42% of Germans being deterred from starting their own business, according to GEM, which is much higher than the 32% in the United States, where startup failure is seen as a badge of honour.

A nation built by innovators

America’s enthusiastic embrace of entrepreneurship is no real surprise in a country founded, explored and finally settled by risk-takers hungry for fresh opportunities. The likes of Henry Ford and Thomas Edison are the stuff of legends, however the status of entrepreneurialism in the US has undoubtedly been elevated further by the global success of role models such as Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg.

Across the Pacific, a recent surge in Chinese entrepreneurship can be linked to the country’s rapidly expanding middle class, which has grown by more than half since 2000, to a total of 109 million, according to Credit Suisse’s 2015 Global Wealth Report. The new age middle class wealth is fertile ground for the country’s entrepreneurs who have risen to the challenge of innovating and creating to meet the demands of this fast growing consumer economy.

UK entrepreneurship on the rise

However, few countries have taken entrepreneurship to heart as much as the UK. A total of 608,110 businesses were started in the UK in 2015, according to Startup Britain, up from 581,173 start-ups in 2014 and 526,447 in 2013.

This upward trend has continued in spite of a strong economic recovery driven by net job creation and earnings growth; clearly people in the UK feel confident about striking out on their own, and so they should. Access to finance has been boosted by a raft of government start-up support schemes, including Start Up Loans, a favourable tax regime and a regulatory and policy environment that is particularly hospitable towards entrepreneurs have all helped to encourage British entrepreneurship.

This start-up friendly environment has played a key role in what appears to be a sustained cultural shift towards entrepreneurialism rather than the typical kneejerk response to recession and a sluggish jobs market. And this has also been instrumental in making the UK such an attractive place to start and run a business for entrepreneurs from all over the world.

It seems that what defines entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship in a global sense is not just the fundamental individual requisite qualities of passion, commitment and resilience, but rather how those same qualities manifest themselves, whether by economic, social or cultural means, in any given country.

About the author

Alison Coleman is a freelance editor and writer working with the national and international press and leading periodicals, with a special interest in entrepreneurs, start-ups, exports, finance, and executive education. See www.alisoncoleman.co.uk and www.forbes.com/sites/alisoncoleman

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