Monday, 3 September 2018


I’m writing a new book about start-ups and before you ask two inevitable questions – why another book and what’s new to say anyway -  let me tell you how the research I’m doing has transformed my mood. I’ve talked to over 30 start-up people so far and only a few over sixty have displayed occasional discontent with the geopolitical disarray we are currently encountering. Nearly everyone is cheerful, optimistic and full of ideas. No one mentions Brexit.

There is a spirit of adventure in the air. The so called “snowflake generation” is conspicuously absent. The word on the entrepreneurial block is young people today are marvellously industrious. It occurs to me that this is because they’ve been largely selected from outside the dinosaur corporations that have historically demanded loyalty, punctuality and putting in the hours as the young people’s expected contribution to the employment contract.

We live in a new world where respect, freedom and inspiration are bywords.  A world where employer and employee alike want to make a difference, want to be relevant and want to grow themselves as well as the business. And yes it’s very tempting and easy to generalise and stereotype. The start up world of today is not romantic, nor is it cushy.  However the start-up engineers to whom I’ve talked show a wonderful talent to analyse, learn and pivot.

Theirs is a world of collaboration – sharing ideas and office space – and of caring about each other’s feelings (not ‘snowflake’ stuff before anyone snorts but empathising and recognising being human as opposed to being an alpha-male manager is the best way to increase productivity and creativity).

It’s also a world of change and disruption. On Sunday I visited Parham House in Sussex, a wonderful Elizabethan house with spectacular gardens and a great history. I stared at Elizabeth1’s motto – “semper eadem” = always the same. Even 500 years ago people wanted stability, even then they wanted to keep England great. But stability and 2018 don’t synchronise. We live in turbulent times and it’s only those who can surf the waves of change and shape our world who’ll thrive. “Always the same” served Heinz, Persil, Mars, Ford and IBM well for a long time. They used to say “no one got fired for choosing IBM”;  now they say “no one survives who isn’t choosing a better, cheaper, faster way.”

When Ferran Adrià closed elBulli his 3 Michelin star restaurant it was because he couldn’t do it any better. Similarly the glorious Anthony Bourdain went a step further in taking his own life having been everywhere and seen and done everything he’d dreamt of. They’d both run dry.

But a lot of people today are determined to find a better way

Beware you fat, old, lazy sectors rich in margin and low in innovation – yes stand up lawyers, accountants, estate agents, supermarkets, builders and so on. Beware because the start-ups are out to get you. Beware because this is a new age of enterprise.

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