There has been quite a buzz in the internet about the Hello Etsy conference in Berlin on the last weekend. The schedule was full of speeches and workshops which I found more or less inspiring and well done. The very first official speech was done by Doug Richard:
Doug Richard is a Californian entrepreneur and specialist in technology transfer, commercialisation and business incubation who is now based in the UK. Through appearances at the BBC programme Dragons’ Den he became somewhat famous. Himself he founded and sold the two companies “Visual Software” and “ITAL Computers”.
In 2008 he founded the School for Startups, which is based in the UK and wants to teach founders how to do it right – teaching entrepreneurship in cooperation with the Royal Institution and the British Library.
He started off his speech by emphasizing how important young businesses and startups are: “all new jobs in the US come from young businesses – also the innovation and changes in the world”
However being small does not only have to mean to stay local. This great opportunity for globally active small companies is only possible today in a world which has been completely changed by a few “titans of communication”. He briefly talked about the innovators of KAZAA (do you remember that file-sharing software which was then shut down?), who used this technology of connecting and sharing to found SKYPE. The third titan in this series for Doug Richard was Mark Zuckerberg: “Mark admittedly was looking for a date … and changed the whole world.”. Whether we think about Facebook, Skype or Google – which are all commercial concerns today, they all have helped to make the world smaller, communication more effortless and by tightening the world they let us float up a little bit. A small business is not any more just a small local business.
He then talked about his own biography and the challenges of being an angel investor: “You only invest in the most risky enterprises and the average return is one out of ten”. Thus, when one was investing in one startup, the whole time he wonders if this special idea is this ONE which has to cross-finance all the other nine. However this system has changed too: as other people have built up a virtual world around us, so too the costs of starting a business have been reduced and the risk has gone down.
His School of Startups does teach exactly this: a business without money, start it lightly without offices – offices are according to Doug for the ego. There are hundreds of “offices” in cafés and homes which you can use.
Doug demanded for all people to create new wealth. There supposedly is always an opportunity for massive new wealth in society – whether economical or in other virtues such as happiness.
Last but not least he made some comments about programming which were both hilarious and so (!) true: Programming is a craft and not a science … it is an art. As soon as you make that differentiation, you’ll be able to handle developpers in a much more elegant way. Because: a good programmer will produce code, a great programmer will make elegant code. Thus his conclusion: hire a great programmer and wrap them in cotton wool ;)!
What I also liked about his last remarks: he said that we all mistify the art of business. Anything you’ll learn at the schools and universities about entrepreneurship is quite academic … and thus deeply impractical. One an learn only practical things by STARTING! Thea
The whole speech as video: